DarkfallThe Healing Wars trilogy comes to a conclusion with Darkfall. Nya has become a hero because of her abilities, and a lot of pressure is put on her young shoulders. She learns about her own destiny, tries to protect her friends and family, and works to defeat the Duke and save Geveg. You definitely need to read the trilogy in order. I’ll assume you’re familiar with The Shifter and Blue Fire.

SPOILER ALERT: Things you might want to know before suggesting this to your kid


It really ratchets up in this book. The first death kind of took me by surprise—a friend goes over a bridge during a fight and gets eaten by a crocodile. It happened with so little fanfare and absolutely no attempt at verifying that he’s really dead. It seemed sudden and out of character for the book. This death makes Aylin really face mortality in a way that she hadn’t, despite the fact that they’ve been in deadly situations pretty much non-stop. Nya has been much more realistic.

Another friend dies, but he’s mourned in a way that feels more typical of Nya. She also remembers deaths from her childhood, when the Duke first invaded and people she loved were murdered in front of her.

There’s a lot of minor character death, named and unnamed. Nya wonders if the deaths are worth it. On the flip side, she also feels she can’t give up the fight because then the deaths would be in vain.

Nya sucks the life out of the Duke, pretty graphically. There’s no question that he would have fought her to his last breath, but she continues sucking the life out of him even after he’s incapable of fighting back. It makes everyone, including Nya, a bit uncomfortable that she’s capable of this.

Alliances and Redemption

Several former antagonists join Nya’s side. It takes a while for her to trust them—with good reason—but it also shows that people can change, or at least be more complex than they first appeared.

Others join up without really being on her side. They’re fighting for the same goal, so it makes sense to create an alliance, but everyone knows that it’s just for convenience.

Might Makes Right

Nya’s side is the underdog against the Duke, but they know how to use power to intimidate and get their way. Nya basically goes nuclear, and she demonstrates her immense power to get the enemy soldiers to retreat. She hopes she won’t have to use this weapon of mass destruction, but she also knows that having it gives her power. She intends to use that threat as a deterrent to avoid more death, but I wonder how that works out in the future. What if the other territories build their own weapons? That’s not really explored.


Family is explicitly complex. Blood matters, but it’s not the only thing. The people Nya chooses to be around become as much family to her as her sister and her uncle. Still, blood does count for something, even through generations. The ability to rule seems to run in families, for instance.

Nya finds Tali who has been broken by the Duke. No matter how hard or dangerous it is, Nya won’t abandon her sister.


Aylin is in a relationship with the boy who gets killed by the crocodile. She’s broken up for a while, but then gets over it, apparently. Nya and Danello kiss, but it’s never very graphic. They share strong bonds, but it could almost be platonic.


Nya continues to feel responsible for every death, every person who gets hurt. If she had any role in the events that led to an injury or death, she feels like it’s her fault. Her friends try to get her to see that this isn’t all on her, but with limited success.


In a world where healing is very real and pain is a weapon, war can lead to some pretty uncomfortable places—like the protagonists intentionally cutting their allies to store their pain in weapons then healing them again. So it’s all ok, right? This does make the characters uncomfortable, but it’s not addressed quite as much as I’d prefer. It does do a good job of illustrating that in war there essentially are no good guys, though.


It seems that the Baseeri also worship the Saints—I get the impression these supposedly so very different groups have a lot in common, if they’d just pay attention. Some people are starting to worship Nya, though. They think she’s either a new Saint or that the Saints are working through her. This makes her uncomfortable. However, in the end, she scares the Baseeri soldiers by convincing them that the Saints are working through her to protect Geveg.


Like many final books, this one feels like it takes a few shortcuts to get to the end—character deaths that don’t get their due, issues that aren’t adequately explored, some coincidences that seem at bit forced, etc. Overall, though, it brings the trilogy to a satisfying conclusion. Things are tied up, but not too neatly. The repercussions will be lasting, but finally people can start looking toward the future. Nothing will ever be the same, no miracles occur, Nya is most definitely not a saint (or a Saint), but finally there’s a future for all of them to work towards. It’s the most optimistic ending that would feel like it suited the series. If you liked the first two, the last book is definitely worth reading.

Darkfall by Janice Hardy
Published in 2011 by Balzar + Bray
Third and final book in The Healing Wars trilogy, after The Shifter and Blue Fire
Read a hardback copy supplied by the author

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