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.
Warnings: slavery, sexual assault (groping), mentions of drug abuse, physical violence, gun violence
Crown of Oblivion is a book with a fantasy tone but science fiction like setting, and yes, it has similarities to The Hunger Games in that there is a race that only the indentured population participates in. In Lanoria, the population is divided between the Enchanted and the Outsiders, the latter are either indentured or be full citizens, and depending on that they may or may not have the embeds that mark them as such; both cases of Outsiders, however, have been inoculated to not be allowed to use Enchanted magic. Astrid is an Outsider, whose family was indentured for her mother’s debts, and who is the Princess’ surrogate, as in her close friend and who has to take the physical punishments. With her older brother having run away from his surrogate position years ago, and her father recently dead, she enters the Race of Oblivion to gain citizenship to save her younger brother.
As the name suggests, the Race of Oblivion is a scavenger hunt race much like The Amazing Race, which has the participants ingesting a temporary memory-erasing drug before it begins, so they enter the race a blank slate with no personal memories but still having their knowledge. The race is brutal in that the clues are hard, and the other participants ruthless because there is only one winner and losers get years added to their indenture. Astrid has an advantage in that she is somehow able to use Enchanted magic, but keeping that on the down low is difficult when you have many witnesses, so has to be careful around authority during the race. She reluctantly partners with another racer, Darius, who she has a past with that she doesn’t remember until later, and encounters other people working against the rules of Lanoria.
The racing parts of the book are thrilling, of course, and plot allows for sufficient character development during the moments of action. The journey takes her through difficult terrain, and lets us meet the various kinds of people – some apathetic, some helpful, some resentful. A person like Astrid, who was indentured and basically conditioned from childhood, gets a temporary fresh perspective on her situation; her relationship with Renya was also something that is complicated and was explored towards the end of the book. The setting is a mix of fantasy and modern technology, with the people using comms, automobiles and embeds, but also have a deadly game of magic ability as their main sport, and a reliance on slave labor. It isn’t entirely explained why the Outsiders are segregated (aside from the obvious from the name) since the only way they can be distinguished on sight seems to be the presence of embeds, and I do hope future books clarify the past of Lanoria.
Received an advance reader copy in exchange for a fair review from Harper Collins, via Edelweiss.
Other books by the author
Released on November 12, 2019