The Crown’s Game (The Crown’s Game #1) by Evelyn Skye (2016)
YA Fiction | Fantasy
“Vika Andreyeva can summon the snow and turn ash into gold. Nikolai Karimov can see through walls and conjure bridges out of thin air. They are enchanters—the only two in Russia—and with the Ottoman Empire and the Kazakhs threatening, the tsar needs a powerful enchanter by his side.
And so he initiates the Crown’s Game, an ancient duel of magical skill—the greatest test an enchanter will ever know. The victor becomes the Imperial Enchanter and the tsar’s most respected adviser. The defeated is sentenced to death.
Raised on tiny Ovchinin Island her whole life, Vika is eager for the chance to show off her talent in the grand capital of Saint Petersburg. But can she kill another enchanter—even when his magic calls to her like nothing else ever has?
For Nikolai, an orphan, the Crown’s Game is the chance of a lifetime. But his deadly opponent is a force to be reckoned with—beautiful, whip-smart, imaginative—and he can’t stop thinking about her.
And when Pasha, Nikolai’s best friend and heir to the throne, also starts to fall for the mysterious enchantress, Nikolai must defeat the girl they both love…or be killed himself.
As long-buried secrets emerge, threatening the future of the empire, it becomes dangerously clear—the Crown’s Game is not one to lose.”
pooled ink Review:
This book holds true to its Russian inspirations in that, of course, it’s set in imperial Russia, there are tangled webs of romance, and the ending is undoubtedly tragic.
I absolutely loved all of the Russian inspiration and magic that brought each page to life. The culture and history of Russia has always intrigued me so any book that combines its captivating defiance with a powerful fantasy is bound to make it onto my shelf at some point. The setting crafted for this book was simply rich and beautiful and almost overwhelming in the best of ways.
Also a plus is that while this is technically the first book in a duology you can easily read this as a standalone. In fact I’ve seen a few reviews wondering why there was a sequel at all.
The story, I felt, was certainly um well-written, filled with lots of little twists and surprises in the plot, interesting characters, obstacles aplenty, and unexpected moments of tenderness interspersed with the cruelty and looming darkness awaiting the trio.
Enchanting, dazzling, classic, dramatic, gilded, and exciting. The Crown’s Game spins a heart-twisting tale bright with gold on the surface and darkness lurking in every shadow. A game to the death, enforced by magic, royal decree, and the ferocity of competitors all.
This was a good book for many, however it simply didn’t spark for me. Which is fine, but as this is my blog where I share opinions I have to be honest and admit that. But as usual I want to remind you that just because a book didn’t work out for me doesn’t mean it won’t bowl you over if you decide to give it a try. In fact I hope it does.
As for me I think part of what kept a barrier between the story and myself were my predictions and my very tense reluctance to see them prove true.
First of all there is a love triangle and I hate those.
Second of all the ending is…tragic. Not that it pretended that it would be anything less from the start. But I have a weakness for happy endings and I just knew this wouldn’t be one and that really kept me from allowing myself to fully invest in the story.
I’M A DELICATE FLOWER, OKAY??
Thirdly the overall idea of this book has been done many times before. This isn’t strictly a criticism (as it can apply to almost every book out there) but in this case the familiarity of the plot hindered my excitement. The book felt predictable and so despite the enchanting setting I felt quite bored and almost didn’t bother finishing it.
Fourthly the characters were simply alright. I liked them but I didn’t grow attached to them so as I read their tragedies and conflicts I didn’t really care. I think I just kept reading simply to know how it all ended.
Fifthly this book simply failed to draw me in. There was no spark between us. And I am quite sure that I am partially to blame for this. As I mentioned before I had a horrible feeling that I wasn’t going to get a happy ending, plus there was a love triangle and I hate reading those, and I think subconsciously I put up a barrier to protect myself from the ending. I mean, how can a book hope to impress a reader when the reader is actively reluctant to read it?
The ending is technically quite poetic and beautifully tragic and dramatic and overflowing with love and life and death and sacrifice and heart-wrenching sobs of agony at it all. So yes, it was a good dramatic ending. But it was not the ending I wanted. It was exactly the ending that I predicted and feared (although I’m sure it will play into the sequel in some interesting way).
So this topped with the fact that I honestly felt bored and incurious throughout most of the story really puts a damper on things unfortunately. The world-building was so rich and dazzling but the plot failed to match it, falling a bit short for me (although perhaps for you it will strike a chord and sweep you off your feet!).
However overall I actually do recommend this book to YA historical fantasy fans. The romance will whisk you away dreamily while simultaneously tying knots in your heart, the magic will dazzle and horrify you, Imperial Russia will awe and the Game will excite, but prepare your heart for a tragic ending.
Purchase here: The Crown’s Game
Meet Evelyn Skye!
Evelyn was once offered a job by the C.I.A., she not-so-secretly wishes she was on “So You Think You Can Dance,” and if you challenge her to a pizza-eating contest, she guarantees she will win. When she isn’t writing, Evelyn can be found chasing her daughter on the playground or sitting on the couch, immersed in a good book and eating way too many cookies.