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 adventure—while at times overstuffed—invites conversations about dominance, oppression, and rebellion in our own world.
Ambitious and provocative. (Dystopian fantasy. 13-18)