Review by Booklist Review
Life is harsh for indentured people in Lanoria and worse for Astrid, the whipping girl punished for Princess Reyna's many transgressions. It's rare to work off the indenture, so, instead, many folks attempt the deadly Race of Oblivion, where the winner and their family receive citizenship and a change of status. Astrid impetuously enters the competition and, like every contestant, has her memories temporarily erased but not before she witnesses the king's murder. She's racing for her life, her remaining family, and perhaps one of her hauntingly familiar fellow contestants. Eshbaugh situates this fantasy-tinged action novel in a somewhat confusing world of technology (e.g., tracking devices), medieval trappings (a castle with knights), magic, and occasional contemporary idiomatic speech. The focus is primarily on Astrid's physical experience of the race and secondarily on her growing self-awareness. There's a hint of romance and fodder for discussions about bystander responsibilities, as well as the impact of emotional ties. Try this with fans of James Dashner's Maze Runner series for the nature of the race.--Cindy Welch Copyright 2019 Booklist
From Booklist, Copyright (c) American Library Association. Used with permission.
Review by Publisher's Weekly Review
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. Agent: Josh Adams, Adams Literary. (Nov.)
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Review by School Library Journal Review
Gr 6 Up--Astrid is working as the surrogate to princess Reyna, meaning that anytime Reyna steps out of line it is Astrid who gets punished. Astrid is an Outsider; she lives to serve others with magical abilities, trying to help Reyna pay off her family's debt. As an Outsider, The Race of Oblivion--a way to gain full citizenship--is the only way to change Astrid's life. The racers' memories are erased and they are thrown into the middle of nowhere; their task is to follow a set of clues to lead them to the finish line. Astrid is written as a strong, determined female protagonist. Through the race she discovers that she has magical abilities that she never knew about. This dystopian novel is packed with action and has strong political undertones. Eshbaugh does a phenomenal job at describing the setting, making it easy to follow what is happening in the story. VERDICT Having similar tones and themes to Suzanne Collins's The Hunger Games, this book would be enjoyed by those who like dystopian-themed novels.--Gilly Yildiz, Eisenhower Public Library, Harwood Heights, IL
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Review by Kirkus Book Review
Familiar tropes have surprising outcomes in this densely plotted fantasy revolving around a cruel blond prince, a mind-altering drug, and a continent-spanning race.Astrid Jael and Princess Renya look like sisters with their wavy hair, brown eyes, and olive skin, but only Astrid has tracking devices embedded in her neck. The embeds are a constant reminder of the division between magic-less indentured Outsiders like Astrid's family and the powerful Enchanted like Renya's; when the princess misbehaves, Astrid, her surrogate, endures corporal punishment. Such violence is not unusual in Lanoria, where Enchanted supremacy is self-perpetuated by inoculating Outsiders against magic at birth, ensuring they have fewer resources and opportunities as they grow up (sound familiar?). Each year, Outsiders hoping to win citizenship for their families enter the deadly, drug-fueled Race of Oblivion: a tidy mechanism of social control presented as an honest way for Outsiders to improve their fortunes. When Astrid finds herself in the race, it takes all her strength and focus just to stay alive, but, as she confronts riddles and rough terrain, her own inexplicable magical abilities, and her feelings for Darius, a light-brown-skinned, hazel-eyed fellow racer, she ultimately comes to question the only social order she's ever known. Perfect for fans of Deltora Quest and The Hunger Games, this suspenseful, action-packed adventurewhile at times overstuffedinvites conversations about dominance, oppression, and rebellion in our own world.Ambitious and provocative. (Dystopian fantasy. 13-18) Copyright Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.
Copyright (c) Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.