Featured Review: Crown Of Oblivion (Julie Eshbaugh)
About This Book:
Astrid is the surrogate for Princess Renya, which means she bears the physical punishment if Renya steps out of line. Astrid has no choice—she and her family are Outsiders, the lower class of people without magic and without citizenship.
But there is a way out of this life—competing in the deadly Race of Oblivion. To enter the race, an Outsider is administered the drug Oblivion, which wipes their memory clear of their past as they enter a new world with nothing to help them but a slip of paper bearing their name and the first clue. It’s not as simple as solving a puzzle, however—for a majority of the contestants, the race ends in death. But winning would mean not only freedom for Astrid, but citizenship and health care for her entire family. With a dying father to think of, Astrid is desperate to prevail.
From the beginning, the race is filled with twists and turns. One of them is Darius, a fellow racer Astrid meets but isn’t sure she can trust. Though they team up in the race, as Astrid’s memories begin to resurface, she remembers just who he was to her—a scorned foe who may want revenge. Astrid also starts to notice she has powers no Outsider should—which could help her win the race, but also make her a target if anyone finds out. With stakes that couldn’t be higher, Astrid must decide what is more important: risking her life to remember the mysteries of the past, or playing a cutthroat game in order to win her—and her family’s—freedom.
*Review Contributed By Olivia Farr Staff Reviewer*
Engrossing and completely thrilling, CROWN OF OBLIVION is a fantastic new YA fantasy that I highly recommend. Dealing with themes including social injustice, health care inequality, and citizenship lotteries, this book is quite the read. In a world where people are separated by their birth into Enchanteds and Outsiders (upper and lower class respectively), Astrid is an Outsider. When her mother died, she also took on some of her indentured time, which is typically twenty years (to start, time can be added for various offenses/non-offenses) during which they are subjugated and often tortured by the Enchanted class.
Astrid's indentured time has her as a Surrogate, essentially a whipping boy for the princess. Anytime the Princess Renya does anything wrong, Astrid receives her punishment, typically of whipping. Astrid's back is covered in scars because of it.
Each year, the Race of Oblivion allows one Outsider the ability to become an Enchanted citizen through a series of challenges- all while their memories have been completely removed. If you lose, you get more indentured time. However, most of the entrants lose their lives in the race. After a series of events makes her desperate, Astrid enters the race and is exposed to unexpected challenges, new insights into her world, and many life-or-death situations.
I absolutely devoured this book. It is non-stop action from start to finish, and the many twists at the end really shocked me, which I love. In terms of the world-building, I do feel like we learned enough about the society to fully grasp it. In terms of characters, I completely fell in love with Astrid- she's fierce, brave, loyal, and clever. The side characters did not all feel fully fleshed out to me. We get to know a couple pretty well, but this book is really Astrid's, and I enjoyed her perspectives.
There's also a little bit of romance, which is icing on the cake, though I found Astrid's physical and personal journey to be the most compelling parts of the book. I also will say that I loved the inclusion of Astrid's younger brother, who seems to have autism (though not named as such). I would absolutely be on board with more books featuring these characters and this world.
Compelling, engrossing, and exhilarating, CROWN OF OBLIVION is an incredible journey in a new YA fantasy world that will leave readers quickly turning pages. Highly recommend for fans of THE HUNGER GAMES, RED QUEEN, THE SCORPIO RACES, and other highly engaging YA fantasy reads.
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