Whispers & Wonder is excited to participate to the Crown of Oblivion Blog Tour presented by The Fantastic Flying Book Club. Be sure to check out the official tour schedule linked below in order to get direct links to all the other wonderful blogs contributing. A huge thank you to FFBC for inviting me to take part in the celebration of the publication of Crown of Oblivion!
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.
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Stars are for people safe enough to enjoy them.
Crown of Oblivion is author Julie Eshbaugh’s newest publication, and is an intense and brutal tale of social injustices, and the essential fight to balance the scales. Astrid Jael is an Outsider, as well as surrogate to the Lanorian Princess Renya – when the princess misbehaves, Astrid is the one to be mercilessly punished. After the death of her father, she enlists in the Race of Oblivion to secure citizenship for herself and her brother, so they are able to receive the same benefits of those who are rightful members of this society defined by abuse and oppression. This story is one of remaining steadfast if the face of adversity, standing your ground regardless of the cost, and most notably, the importance of family and true friendship.
The world Eshbaugh builds around us is remarkably whimsical, intelligently weaving magic with technology – crowded market squares, serene sea-lined shores, deadly deserts of black sand, quaint logging towns hiding terrible secrets, fantastical forests, the places we’re delivered to are endlessly beautiful. The world itself contains a population that is divided into Enchanteds and Outsiders, and the latter is broken up into the slaves of society and various rebel groups. The Outsider Liberation Army proactively fights for the rights of their people, often viewed as domestic terrorists, while the Third Way are those that have withdrawn from society, attempting to live peacefully out of sight of their oppressors. This turmoil is the driving force for the entirety of this story, leading to pleasantly unexpected twists and turns. My only criticism would be that there are so many places visited, and not enough time is spent in all to truly discover what each has to offer.
Courage gets a few to the summit, my father is saying, but fear convinces most to choose the mud. Don’t you choose the mud, Astrid, he continues. You are far too strong for that.
The characters take center stage in this narrative, and although the tale is solely told using Astrid’s voice, a well-rounded cast, and the the precursor to the Race of Oblivion being the temporary removal of memories, we’re able to view the continent anew. I very much appreciated learning about the world and what makes it spin alongside the racers as they began to regain their memories. Tragedy spurs Astrid into entering the race in order to save what’s remaining of her family, and we witness a determined, adept, and supportive character emerge from the amnesiac fog. The consequences faced as a result of cruelty and arrogance is also highlighted brilliantly throughout. There are heroes, there are villains, there are those in between; each working towards separate goals using various means, allowing the reader to easily pick sides.
Another major aspect touched upon in this story is magic. A well-planned magic system called the Three Unities, namely Cientia, able to read emotions, Projectura, able to physically harm others without leaving visible wounds, and Pontium, able to build psychic bridges as a means of communication. At birth, Outsiders are inoculated, preventing them from ever developing these abilities since they’re only reserved for the Enchanteds. We learn Astrid is capable in these skillsets, which injects a new mysterious factor into the story that kept me guessing until the end. My only wish is that this system was further examined to convey the what and the how, as I felt it was slightly lacking.
Crown of Oblivion is a harsh and vivid account of a deadly scavenger hunt, leading us from one obscure clue to another at a breakneck pace. Simple prose made this a fun, easy read – however, there are aspects that felt overly-simplified, and would’ve benefitted from just a little more depth. The conclusion was also a bit lackluster, as I felt things tied up far too quickly, leaving me with more questions than answers, so I’m hoping this isn’t the last we see of this world. All things considered, I thoroughly enjoyed my journey through this book and would recommend it to anyone on the hunt for a YA tale of survival and pure conviction.
NOTE: A huge thank you to HarperTeen for providing me a complementary copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.
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.
Win a finished copy of Crown of Oblivion by Julie Eshbaugh (US Only)
STARTS: November 12, 2019
ENDS: November 26, 2019