Released: January 6th, 2011
Grade rating: B+/A-
Fifteen-year-old Nya is one of Geveg’s many orphans; she survives on odd jobs and optimism in a city crippled by a failed war for independence. Nya has a deadly secret. She is a Taker, someone who can extract pain and injury from others, but with unusual differences. Her sister Tali and other normal Takers become Healer’s League apprentices and put their extracted pain into enchanted metal, pynvium. But Nya can’t dump pain in this way. All she can do is shift it from person to person. When Nya’s secret is revealed to the pain merchants and the Healer’s League she is flung into danger. Then a ferry accident floods the city with injured, Takers start disappearing from the Healer’s League and Nya’s strange abilities are suddenly in demand. Her principles and endurance are tested to the limit when Nya’s deadly powers become the only thing that can save her sister's life.Review:
Dystopian fantasy isn't something I've read a lot of, but wow do I want more of it. Specifically, I want more from Janice Hardy - this woman can write! I wasn't entirely sure what to expect from The Pain Merchants, as I like fantasy but sometimes I have problems keeping track of strange names or past events that are often alluded to. I had no such trouble here, and although Hardy's story is most definitely fantasy, it isn't hard to follow or difficult to get into. I zipped through it at a pace usually reserved for my beloved paranormal romance, and within no time I had reached the final pages. I suppose 'addictive' is the word you'd use to describe this one.
Hardy weaves a story of struggle and loss within the walls of Geveg, which is still recovering from a devastating war. Money isn't easy to come into, and many of its inhabitants find themselves fighting to keep food on the table and a roof over their heads. Nya is one such person, though she has an advantage: she's a Taker, someone who can move and store pain. She's no ordinary Taker though, she's a Taker who can also shift pain into someone else. Now this kind of Taker is pretty rare around Geveg, and certain people are very keen to get their hands on Nya and her gift.
I fell in love with Nya almost instantly; as an MC, for me she's right up there with Katniss from The Hunger Games. She's determined and fierce, and has a personal resolve to match any stone-faced merchant. When she wants something, she gets it, and she'll stop at nothing to protect her friends and family, even if they're brand spanking new friends like Danello and his siblings. Not one to be pushed around by Healer's League apprentices or pain merchants, she does her own thing and does it well. Basically she just kicks ass.
When Nya is forced to use her abilities after a ferry accident, things get dangerous. Her sister is missing, she's healing people by shifting pain, and nothing feels right to her. The inner conflict she experiences when purposely shifting pain to those who don't deserve it is, at times, heartbreaking. I wanted to jump into the pages and shake some sense into her myself, though it soon becomes apparent that everything she's doing is for a good reason. Family can stretch every boundary we know, and Nya proves that with her irrational actions in The Pain Merchants.
What I loved about this book was the world building and the idea that pain is something that can be moved or switched. The idea of pynvium - the place where apprentices store their pain when they get rid of it - fascinated me. I would have liked to find out more about its origins, as well as the previous war fought over independence, but maybe that information will be offered in later books in the series. The omission of this back story didn't detract anything from the book, though I think I would have understood the pain merchants and Luminary more had I known what had transpired before we met Nya. I really can't wait to read Blue Fire, and I just hope it's as edge-of-your-seat exciting as this one. With the conclusion of The Pain Merchants being what it was, I don't think I have anything to worry about. Bring it on.