Been on a reading roll recently, mainly thanks to nice weather and some medicine that I can't take for a few hours after getting home. As such, I managed to cruise through Challenges, the third book in Sharon Green's The Blending, in record time.
Basically, as the middle book in the quintet, we hit some of the meat of the plot here. Our heroic 5 and the Nobility 5 learn to Blend and eventually face off in the Competitions to determine the Ruling 5 of the Empire.
On the Heroic side, this five walk a tightrope figuring out how to keep the Testing Authority from breaking them up, while also facing down personal issues. Again, everyone gets a lesson in how rigged the system is, as Lorand watched his friend Hat compete for the Seated High position in Earth Magic and as a mysterious source reveals to them the key to freeing themselves from the control drug the Nobility used to prevent them from winning.
On the Nobility side, lots of murder, as Delin, the Earth Magic user, keeps seeing himself prepare to murder people he hates, only to pass out as the event happens. Not that the people he thinks he killed aren't killed, he just doesn't remember doing it. The Noble 5 are now under suspicion for a few murders plus a suicide of their former advisor. As such, they provide the keying phrase to out main 5, knowing they'd pass it on to the other 4 Common Blendings, with the idea that the Commoners can take out the other Noble Blendings, leaving them to gain the support of the Advisors.
Speaking of the Commoners, they get trained to Blend twice. The first is supposedly a Noble, the second truly is Nobility.
Most of it goes the way you'd expect, until the very end, which leaves us hanging, waiting for Book 4.
Blending, by the way, links all 5 aspects, and can then become one entity that's a nonphysical entity that's an amalgam of the 5.
Fun book, and very good at planting the hooks to get the story moving again.