In this mesmerizing YA fantasy mash-up of The Road meets The Amazing Race, one girl chooses to risk her life in a cutthroat competition in order to win her freedom. In Lanoria, Outsiders, who don’t have magic, are inferior to Enchanteds, who do. That’s just a fact for Astrid, an Outsider who is indentured to pay off her family’s debts. She serves as the surrogate for the princess—if Renya steps out of line, Astrid is the one who bears the punishment for it. But there is a way out: the life-or-death Race of Oblivion. First, racers are dosed with the drug Oblivion, which wipes their memories. Then, when they awake in the middle of nowhere, only cryptic clues—and a sheer will to live—will lead them through treacherous terrain full of opponents who wouldn’t think twice about killing each other to get ahead. But what throws Astrid the most is what she never expected to encounter in this race. A familiar face she can’t place. Secret powers she shouldn’t have. And a confusing memory of the past that, if real, could mean the undoing of the entire social structure that has kept her a slave her entire life. Competing could mean death…but it could also mean freedom.
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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.