I have been DYING to get my hands on this book so I jumped at the chance to join the FFBC blog tour! Be sure to read down for my review, favourite quotes and the chance to win a copy of the book ( US only).
Julie Eshbaugh is a YA writer and former filmmaker. She made two short films andthen spent several years producing an online videoseries for teens whichreceived several honors from the Webby Awards. Her new YA fantasy standalone,CROWN OF OBLIVION, is coming from HarperTeen November 2019. IVORY ANDBONE (HarperTeen 2016) and OBSIDIAN AND STARS (HarperTeen 2017), herprehistoric fantasy duology, are out now
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.
“Me legs throb. Blood runs down my right shin from my knee. Everything hurts. But I’ve suffered before. Suffered when there was nothing to be had for it except simple survival. But there’s more at stake today than surviving until tomorrow. I will change my tomorrows with what I do today. With what I do right now.”
His gaze moves to the dress, then back to my face, but I might not suspect a thing if I didn’t have Ciientia. But I do, and it gives him away. His reaction is cool and moist, clinging to him like dewdrops on a leaf. Desire.”
“I should be unable to stand. I should be unable to fight. But I’ve had lots of practice at perservering.”
Astrid is the Princess’ surrogate, she takes the punishment whenever the Princess steps out of line. A hard life, but Astrid see’s it as better than others, especially when Renya is the one person that might be able to get Astrid’s father the medical treatment he needs. But then the unthinkable happens and Astrid’s family are taken from her, her one chance to make it right and fight for her brother is to enter the Race of Oblivion. A race for only the most desperate, to enter you must first loose your memories of you family and friends and even yourself, only the strongest can survive and many people perish along the way. The winner of the race becomes a citizen as well as their family, and the losers have a minimum 3 years added onto their indenture, something that could be a lifetime to some people dependant on their placement. Astrid is sure that she has a leg up being skilled in Cientia magic, something that she should not possess, but what she is unprepared for is the hints of familiarity some of the racers give her, and when she finds out the truth winning the race becomes so much more important.
Astrid is an unbelievably strong character and I thoroughly enjoyed following the story from her perspective. Indentured to the Royal Palace after the death of her mother, she has had to take punishments for everyone of Princess Renya’s mistakes. She isn’t one to shy away from pain and punishment, and this probably makes her one of the best suited candidates to enter the Race of Oblivion.She is incredibly resilient and knows that her placement is better than others she could have been given. She has the ability to weave a form of magic, something that she should not have access to due to only Enchanted’s having the ability and something that she takes great pains to hide. This magic could either be her saving grace or her death warrant.
The magic system in this book is intricate and intriguing. The author weaves it into the general plot seamlessly until you know it is being used before she mentions it. Astrid’s magic is Cientia, the ability to sense people emotions, to be one step ahead of them in a fight, and Astrid has spent her time with Renya honing these skills until she is able to beat the Princess. This are one of the main advantages she has over the other contestants, but she has to be sure to not make it too obvious in case she gets noticed by the wrong people. There are two other types of magic, Pontuim Bridges, which can be used to form a connection between you and another person you have a strong link to and Projectura, something Enchanted Taskmasters use to keep the Outsiders in line, it is the ability to cause great pain for short periods of time without leaving a physical mark on the body.
There is a romance arc in this book which is slow burn and contained plenty of twists and turns, so many in fact that you were unsure of the outcome. I wasn’t massively invested in the outcome of this relationship, but I think that was due to the on/off again take on it and the fact that it played a minor part in the overall plot. The main love in the book, however, is familial. It is shown throughout the book the lengths Astrid will got to to protect her family, even putting her own life in danger, and I liked how we knew if she had to choose her family would come before anything else.
One thing I enjoyed about this book was the blend of old and new. The story, the idea of Outsiders serving the Enchanted’s and how the dress style was described etc gave off a very old style Princess and Castles vibe, but the author manages to intertwine modern technology devices such as cars, motorbikes, trains, torches and the like effortlessly enough that you barely notice their presence. It doesn’t deter from the original feel of the story but adds another layer to the plot and it adds an almost dystopian feel to the book.
The plot in general was fast paced but I never felt I was rushed through it. The author manages to weave an intricate magic system, with a life or death race and some truly spectacular plot twists into a story I simply couldn’t put down. I loved the idea of your memory being taken before the race, and because of the authors writing style we were never ahead of the characters when it came to any major plot twists, we experienced everything right along side Astrid and this made for a truly immersive reading experience. Does Astrid know the other racers from her past life? Are they friend or foe? So many questions, with some not having the most straight forward of answers, but the intricacies and the decisions that Astrid has to make made for a more realistic read in my opinion.
This was an easy 4/5 read for me, perfect for fans of The Hunger Games.
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