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.
Shallow plotting and sketchy worldbuilding plague this dystopian fantasy from Eshbaugh (the Ivory and Bone duology). In Lanoria, high-born "Enchanteds" possess magic, while low-born "Outsiders" are inoculated against it and must complete lengthy indentures for citizenship. Outsider Astrid Jael, 17, is 10 years into her sentence as Princess Reyna's surrogate, suffering physical punishments for Reyna's misdeeds, when she persuades the royal family to allow her ailing Outsider father to visit the Citizen's Hospital. Regrettably, he dies before receiving treatment, leaving Astrid's 11-year-old brother Marlon without a caretaker. Determined to improve Marlon's prospects, Astrid enters the Race of Oblivion, a cutthroat contest whose prize is family-wide citizenship. Like the other participants, Astrid awakes in the countryside with amnesia and only a list of instructions and a map to the first clue. But she quickly secures an advantage thanks to a wary alliance with vexatious competitor Darius and her own mystical abilities, which no Outsider should have. Secondary characters lack complexity, but Astrid and Darius's reluctant attraction provides sufficient drama and tension to propel this derivative tale to a satisfactory conclusion. Ages 13 up.