Okay I’ve been seeing this girl all over the place – thank you so much to Julie Eshbaugh for taking her all over the world on Instagram and Twitter – and I finally got to meet her! And now I know her name! Thank you so much to Fantastic Flying Book Club for hosting this tour, and thank you to the amazing staff at HarperTeen for considering me for this tour as well. I hope you all enjoy what I have to offer you on this post! Let’s get to it.
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.
Julie Eshbaugh is a YA writer and former filmmaker. She made two short films and then spent several years producing an online video series for teens which received several honors from the Webby Awards. Her new YA fantasy standalone, CROWN OF OBLIVION, is coming from HarperTeen November 2019. IVORY AND BONE (HarperTeen 2016) and OBSIDIAN AND STARS (HarperTeen 2017), her prehistoric fantasy duology, are out now. You can learn more about Julie’s writing escapades by visiting www.julieeshbaugh.com.
Disclaimer: I voluntarily read and reviewed an advanced copy of this book. All thoughts and opinions are my own. Thank you to Edelweiss, HarperTeen, and Fantastic Flying Book Club for this free copy.
So. I think I should preface this by saying that I tried to read Eshbaugh’s Ivory and Bone and I just could not get into it. It could have been because I was listening to it and maybe the narrator wasn’t really my speed. Either way, I set it aside for a while and I haven’t picked it up. So I will be honest and say that I wasn’t sure how I was going to feel after reading this book because I already didn’t have a stellar experience.
But, I’m happy to say that for the most part, I liked this one a lot better than Ivory and Bone, so I feel like Eshbaugh really improved as a writer from her first series. I am always happy to support growth and improvement, and I won’t completely write off an author because I don’t connect with one of their novels. It’s very rare that I do, so I’m glad that I was able to take my feelings of my first attempt at her novel in stride, and not let it overshadow how I felt about this one.
Now on to the actual review.
I won’t lie. I was really disturbed by the idea of the royal family and magical people having “surrogates” to take their punishments. Probably because this concept was a real thing and probably still is a real thing in some places – but I didn’t research the present so don’t hold me to that – and I can’t handle people getting beaten, period. Very early on in the novel, I want to say in the first or second chapter, when Astrid and Princess Renya were looking for Astrid’s brother – who is also a surrogate to the Prince – because he ran away from one of his punishments, they come across a room that’s spattered with what can only be her brother’s blood. And Astrid knows that room well because she’s been in that same place, receiving a similar punishment for something that Princess Renya did. That just kills me, okay? I don’t even know if those that have surrogates even feel bad about their actions because they aren’t the ones that suffer the physical consequences. If they did, would they continue to keep doing bad shit?
Anyway, I couldn’t help but want a better life for Astrid, and even though she had to basically endure a race where everyone in it is already at a disadvantage put on them by those in power, I watched in anticipation as she fought her way to make this better life for her and her remaining family members. She was… just relentless in her drive, even when she wasn’t able to remember who she was. Even when she didn’t remember what she was racing for. She just had enough motivation and dedication to keep going. I don’t think I could have done it, and characters like her really make me want to step it up in life.
Bottom line: I think Eshbaugh did a great job with this novel. I am curious to see what she ends up publishing next.
Also, I wanted to express my condolences to Eshbaugh. In an interview she did for this tour, she mentioned that both her step-mother and her mother-in-law ended up passing away this year due to illnesses. Her step-mother had Alzheimer’s disease and her mother-in-law had dementia, both dealing with memory loss and ended up being a subconscious inspiration for this novel. In a way, she dedicated this novel to them and what they went through during their final moments in life, and I truly hope that Eshbaugh has some time to mourn and heal from these losses.
So clearly I forgot to do this the right way at work so you’ll have to deal with my playlists not having the cover art that I want it to have. At least for the weekend. But it’s the music that matters anyway, right?
Oh buddy I haven’t done a dream cast in a little bit! This should be fun, right? I’m also pretty sure that I said that last time too, oops. Am I getting senile or something? Probably.
Also I’m keeping this one super short because I’m lame and am clearly running out of my so-called imagination skills.
Thank you so so much fam for reading my little review and seeing my extras! There’s a giveaway going on for this tour, so click on the banner to get to the link. As always, let me know your thoughts below, or just leave a little “hey!” message for me. Those are always making me smile.
Until next time, fam!