The Healing Wars: Book I: The Shifter

The Healing Wars: Book I: The Shifter

by Janice Hardy


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The Healing Wars: Book I: The Shifter by Janice Hardy

Fifteen-year-old Nya is an orphan struggling for survival in a city crippled by war. She is also a Taker—with her touch, she can heal injuries, pulling pain from another person into her own body.

But unlike her sister Tali and the other Takers who become Healer’s League apprentices, Nya’s skill is flawed: she can’t push that pain into pynvium, the enchanted metal used to store it. All she can do is shift it from person to person, a dangerous skill that she must keep hidden from forces occupying her city. If discovered, she’d be used as a human weapon against her own people.

Rumors of another war make Nya’s life harder, forcing her to take desperate risks just to find work and food. She pushes her luck too far and exposes her secret to a pain merchant eager to use her shifting ability for his own sinister purpose. At first, Nya refuses, but when Tali and other League Healers mysteriously disappear, she’s faced with some difficult choices.

As her father used to say, principles are a bargain at any price, but how many will Nya have to sell to get Tali back alive?

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780061747083
Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
Publication date: 08/31/2010
Series: Healing Wars , #1
Pages: 370
Sales rank: 548,513
Product dimensions: 5.10(w) x 7.50(h) x 1.00(d)
Age Range: 10 - 12 Years

About the Author

Janice Hardy is also the author of The Shifter and Blue Fire, the first two books in the Healing Wars trilogy. She lives in Georgia with her husband, four cats, and one nervous freshwater eel.

Read an Excerpt

The Healing Wars, Book One: The Shifter

Chapter One

Stealing eggs is a lot harder than stealing the whole chicken. With chickens, you just grab a hen, stuff her in a sack and, make your escape. But for eggs, you have to stick your hand under a sleeping chicken. Chickens don't like this. They wake all spooked and start pecking holes in your arm, or your face, if it's close. And they squawk something terrible.

The trick is to wake the chicken first, then go for the eggs. I'm embarrassed to say how long it took me to figure this out.

"Good morning little hen," I sang softly. The chicken blinked awake and cocked her head at me. She didn't get to squawking, just flapped her wings a bit as I lifted her off the nest, and she'd settle down once I tucked her under my arm. I'd overheard that trick from a couple of boys I'd unloaded fish with last week.

A voice came from beside me. "Don't move."

Two words I didn't want to hear with someone else's chicken under my arm.

I froze. The chicken didn't. Her scaly feet flailed toward the eggs that should have been my breakfast. I looked up at a cute night guard not much older than me, perhaps sixteen. The night was more humid than usual, but a slight breeze blew his sand-pale hair. A soldier's cut, but a month or two grown out.

Stay calm, stay alert. As Grannyma used to say, if you're caught with the cake, you might as well offer them a piece. Not sure how that applied to chickens, though.

"Join me for breakfast when your shift ends?" I asked. Sunrise was two hours away. He smiled but aimed his rapier at my chest anyway. Was nice to have a handsome boy smile at me inthe moonlight, but his was a sad, sorry-only-doing-my-job smile. I'd learned to tell the difference between smiles a lot faster than I'd figured out the egg thing.

"So, Heclar," he said over his shoulder, "you do have a thief. Guess I was wrong."

Rancher Heclar strutted into view, bearing an uncanny resemblance to the chicken trying to peck me-ruffled, sharp beaked, and beady eyed. He harrumphed and set his fists against his hips. "I told you crocodiles weren't getting them."

"I'm no chicken thief," I said quickly.

"Then what's that?" The night guard flicked his rapier tip toward the chicken and smiled again. Friendlier this time, but his deep brown eyes had twitched when he bent his wrist.

"A chicken." I blew a stray feather off my chin and peered closer. His knuckles were white from too tight a grip on so light a weapon. That had to mean joint pain, maybe even knuckleburn, though he wasn't old enough for it. The painful joint infection usually hit older dockworkers. I guess that's why he had a crummy job guarding chickens instead of aristocrats. My luck hadn't been that great either.

"Look," I said, "I wasn't going to steal her. She was blocking the eggs."

The night guard nodded like he understood and turned to Heclar. "She's just hungry. Maybe you could let her go with a warning?"

"Arrest her, you idiot! She'll get fed in Dorsta."

Dorsta? I gulped. "Listen, two eggs for breakfast is hardly worth prison-"

"Thieves belong in prison!"

I jerked back and my foot squished into chicken crap. Lots of it. It dripped out from every coop in the row. There had to be at least sixty filthy coops along the lakeside half of the isle alone. "I'll work off the eggs. What about two eggs for every row of coops I clean?"

"You'll only steal three."

"Not if he watches me." I tipped my head at the night guard. I could handle the smell if I had cute company while I worked. He might even get extra pay out of it, which could earn me some goodwill if we ever bumped into each other in the early-morning moonlight again. "How about one egg per row?"

The night guard pursed his lips and nodded. "Pretty good deal there."

"Arrest her already!"

I heaved the chicken. She squawked, flapping and scratching in a panic. The night guard yelped and dropped the rapier. I ran like hell.

"Stop! Thief!"

Self-righteous ranchers I could outrun, even on their own property, but the night guard? His hands might be bad, but his feet-and reflexes-worked just fine.

I rounded a stack of broken coops an arm-swipe faster than he did. Without slowing, I dodged left, cutting up a corn-littered row of coops running parallel to Farm-Market Canal. It gained me a few paces but he had the reach on my short legs. No chance of outrunning him on a straightaway.

Swerving right, I yanked an empty market crate off one of the coops. It clattered to the ground between me and the night guard.

"Aah!" A thud and a crack, followed by impressive swearing.

I risked a glance behind. Broken crate pieces lay scattered across the row. The night guard limped a little, but it hadn't slowed him much. I'd gained only another few paces.

The row split ahead, cutting through the waist-high coops like the canals that crisscrossed Geveg. I veered left toward Farm-Market Bridge, my side throbbing hard. Forget making it off the isle. I wasn't going to make it off the ranch.

More market crates blocked the row a dozen paces from the bridge. The crates were knee high and a pace wide, with tendrils of loose, twisted wire sticking up like lakeweed. Didn't Heclar ever clean his property? I cleared the crates a step before the night guard. His fingers raked the back of my shirt and snagged the hem. I stumbled, arms flailing, reaching for anything to stop my fall.

The ground did it for me.

I sucked back the breath I'd lost and inhaled a lungful of dust and feathers. The night guard crashed over the crates a choking gasp later and hit the ground beside me. Dried corn flew out of the crate and speckled the ground.

I hacked up grime while he swore and grabbed his leg. He'd left a pretty good chunk of his shin on one of the crates, and his bent ankle looked sprained for sure, maybe broken.

He glanced at me and chuckled wryly. "Just go."

I dragged myself upright, but didn't run. He'd lose his job over me, and I'd guess he didn't have many options left if he was working for a cheap like Heclar. I knelt and grabbed his hands, my thumbs tight against his knuckles, and drew....

The Healing Wars, Book One: The Shifter. Copyright (c) by Janice Hardy . Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved. Available now wherever books are sold.\

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The Healing Wars: Book I: the Shifter 4.1 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 49 reviews.
SueBE More than 1 year ago
This middle grade fantasy is the first in The Healing Wars Trilogy. Although boys would enjoy the physical nature of this adventure it is likely to have a greater appeal to girls. Nya is feisty and determined and a great role model for girls who may be wondering if they can do all that is expected of them. A good choice for reluctant readers because the story is complicated enough to interest them, with some mature implications, but not so difficult in reading level that it will lose them. This would also be a good book for advanced readers who need a multi-faceted story to hold their interest.
SusanDavis7699 More than 1 year ago
I bought this for my 14-yo daughter. I'm happy that she's reading anything, but this book solicited discussion among us and that's a bigger plus. The characters were interesting and well written and the plot kept us (not only a 14-yo but me too) interested.
TeensReadToo More than 1 year ago
Nya and her sister have been orphaned. Though her sister has been taken in as an apprentice with the Healer's League, Nya is on her own. She has the power to take pain, but Nya isn't a Healer - she's a Taker. Instead of shifting pain into the enchanted metal known as pynvium, she can only push it into another person. This dangerous skill makes her valuable to the enemy, and she finds herself forced into working for a pain merchant. When her sister and other League Healers mysteriously disappear, Naya must make some difficult choices and decide how far she'll go to save her sister. THE SHIFTER is a brilliant beginning to THE HEALING WARS novels. Hardy has an elegant way of drawing the reader into the story with her characterization, and keeping them in the story with plot twists and the dark, war-torn setting for heightened tension. I loved reading about the darker side of healing as Nya's story unfolded, and I look forward to continuing to follow these characters in book two of the series, BLUE FIRE.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This book was so amazeing you absolutally HAVE to read it!
LetTheWordsFlow More than 1 year ago
Originally reviewed and published at Let The Words Flow. When I pick up a book, I like to find myself immersed in a culture that is richly imagined and full of great characters. And with fantasy, I love when an author is able to make magic wholly unique. In Janice Hardy¿s middle-grade novel, The Shifter, that is exactly what is done. And don¿t let ¿middle-grade¿ fool you; while the book, if written for an older audience, could perhaps have been a bit darker, the book is by no means childish. It is well-written, complex, full of deceit, and ripe with betrayal; it is littered with political intricacies and so much cultural depth. So I hope none of you dismiss this book; this is the type of middle grade novel that can easily appeal to older audiences. Hardy has imagined a world where pain can not only be drawn out of a person through touch, but where pain is a commodity. She has created a world so culturally, religiously, and historically rich; so full of colour and wonderful vocabulary. Hardy throws you right into this world; and while it might take you time to figure out the cultural slang, political situation, and how exactly magic works for Takers (those who draw pain out of others), you¿ll find yourself absorbed nonetheless. Nya is a wonderful voice; she is conflicted, and is not a moral saint by any means. She finds herself often faced with difficult decisions that aren¿t clear-cut; there are many gray areas that Hardy is able to explore in this novel. And that was one of the most enjoyable things about The Shifter. The plot moves swiftly; it is well-paced, exciting, and just wonderfully imagined. Hardy¿s premise is innovative; and it carries a lot of weight. Full of action and adventure, this story will keep the pages turning; and right from the first chapter, you¿ll be thrown into the fray. We see the world through the eyes of Nya, whose voice is very engaging and realistic; written in first-person, every difficult decision she is faced with is all the more agonizing as we see her struggle with the choices laid out before her. She is headstrong, but not overly so. The contrast between everyone¿s differing personalities was wonderful; Danello¿s little twin brothers, for exexample, just stole my heart as soon as I was introduced to them. Soek, who was quite possibly my favourite character, plays a minor role; and yet I felt that he was fleshed out perfectly ¿ not too much (being more of a minor character), but not too little either (for it seems we¿ll be seeing more of him in the next book). His lines were funny, he wasn¿t perfect, and I just found him to be incredibly interesting. Full of political intrigue and betrayals, it does get a bit confusing closer to the end; with the Pain Merchants, the Duke, the League, and the Luminary all working towards their own ends (which aren¿t always obvious), it can get a bit convoluted. Some motivations aren¿t as developed or as clear as I would¿ve hoped them to be. However, a lot of it is eventually explained; and hints are dropped along the way. So there is lead-up; the twists don¿t come out of nowhere, and yet are still exciting to figure out. It¿s also nice to not be able to predict where the story will go. And there is action! Lots of it! Plus, I love the cover; it immediately grabbed my attention when I first saw it.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
A nice YA entry. A fast read with interesting characters and the obligatory cliff hanger.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
It is a hook series.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Its amazing how the author described the character and shows her personality,while deploying an amazing plot.
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Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I raed the second one first (not on purpose) and it was so brilliant I simply had to read the this as well! Fabulous! Supurb! I am dying for more!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Magical and full of suspense!
Angela_785 More than 1 year ago
An excellent Middle Grade perfect for lovers of magic and adventure. The unique aspect of healing magic combined with a well written and authentic main character makes for a perfect combination sure to draw in both boys and girls. I was completely captured by the world Hardy creates and can't recommend this book highly enough!
Tree_wisdom More than 1 year ago
I appreciated the main character's depth and her attempts to stay true to her moral compass, even though life gave her choices that made this hard to do. It was easy to stay with Nya and root for her as she made her way.
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kidsbooksRmything More than 1 year ago
As a children's bookseller for 16 years as well as an avid reader of fantasy for kids, Janice Hardy's book THE SHIFTER struck me as a stand-out in a crowded field. The magical ability she dreamed up for her main character, Nya, is absolutely brilliant. Nya can heal people by shifting their pain, from illness or wounds, which is relatively common in the Geveg Isles where she is from. What Nya keeps secret from most everyone else is that, while she can't shift the pain into the pynvium rock like other healers, she does have the very rare ability to shift the pain into other human beings. In a time when her country has been invaded by a ruler from the North, her parents killed and her younger sister in danger, Nya has to decide how and when to use her secret skill. Hardy's book, besides being creative, suspenseful and hard to put down, brings up so many issues worth talking about with your kids, much like Lois Lowry's masterpiece, THE GIVER. From ethical to political questions and even the topic of Universal Health Care, there is so much going on in this remarkable trilogy.
Byrt More than 1 year ago
The Shifter is a lovely change of pace from standard fantasy fare - there are no knights to be found in this story, and no vampires, werewolves, or witches either. Instead I found a fascinating world where Healers are a magic resource that can be used to fuel a war, where the politics of conquest cause poverty and helplessness, and where a war-made orphan is determined to do whatever it takes to save her sister. Nya is a wonderful character - wry, flawed, stubborn and loyal. Her matter of fact acceptance of her lot is heartbreaking, especially with the reveals of what her life was like before the war, the family she used to have. Now Nya is scrambling to survive, a second class citizen in a conquered nation, and with rumors of war and refugees flooding the city, it's only going to get worse. I absolutely loved how Nya's desperate situation backed her into corner after corner, especially in terms of the morally questionable choices she has to make as a result of her growing power. Nothing is ever easy or simple for Nya, and I loved how the forces of the larger world kept acting upon her life, and how some of the things she has to do haunt her. The politics of power and the struggle to control the healers add a fascinating texture to this story, and the world building is so deftly woven into Nya's narrative that you'll hardly notice its arrival. Plenty of action propels this story forward from the first page, and the narrative will just never let you go. Janice Hardy delivers a fun, original, engrossing read that will leave you wanting more (and happily, there are two more books coming our way). If you're a fan of Kristin Cashore, definitely check this one out.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
allreb More than 1 year ago
Nya is a hungry orphan who looks after her little sister, an apprentice Healer - and Nya is also a Taker, someone who can heal other people and take their pain. But unlike proper Healers, she can't dump that pain into pynvium, only into other people, so she's always thought her power was usesless (and something to hide, since the Duke whose forces are occupying her homeland has a dark interest in unusual abilities). But when a pynvium shortage hits her city and apprentice Healers start disappearing, suddenly everyone wants to use Nya's abilities. But all Nya cares about is finding her sister before it's too late. I really liked this book! It reminded me a bit of Active Voice favorite Fly By Night, actually (in a good way, that is). The plot is similarly caught up in intrigue and the politics of Nya's world: someone is hiding the pynvium shortage, but why? Who is starting riots and why? Why are people interested in Nya's talent, and what's happening to the missing apprentices? As it happens, though, I'd also say the book's biggest weakness is that some of the intrigue gets confusing. There are three separate antagonistic forces, sometimes working together and sometimes not (and Nya doesn't always know if they are or not), some of them working for the Duke and some against him, so it was mildly difficult to keep straight who was after what and why. All this intrigue is set against some very strong worldbuilding. The magic of healing is interesting (and gets more so as the book goes on and Nya discovers other facets of her abilities), and the culture of her world is really fascinating. Nya's country is occupied by a foreign military, and has been for long enough that outsiders have moved in and made it theirs (kicking the native-born citizens out of the best houses, taking the best jobs, etc). All the main characters still remember the invasion (and most lost loved ones during it); through the whole book there are simmering undercurrents of both anger and fear. The characters want the outsiders gone, but also know they were crushed when they fought before. The dynamics are really well presented. Just a few other thoughts on this one. The book was listed as teen, but read more as middle grade to me, in terms of tone (aside from a few gruesome moments) - the writing is rich but Nya came across as pretty young. Her character development is great, though. She's not naïve at the outset, but she faces increasingly morally grey questions and is forced to find answers, and sometimes she makes choices I didn't expect as she learns how to weigh consequences. Conclusion: like I said, I very much enjoyed this. I don't have a heck of a lot to say, but definitely recommend it to people who like fantasy, and I'll pick up the next book for sure.