Series: The Crown's Game #1
Also in this series: , The Crown's Fate
Published by Balzer & Bray on 5/17/16
Genres: Young Adult, Fantasy
My content rating: YA (Nothing more than kissing)
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.
I’ve already featured this book once on the blog (check out my Bookish Backdrop filled with Russian opulence if you missed it) and told you how much I adored the book, but now that the release date is getting closer I thought it was only fair to give you a full review and expound on the reasons I loved it! After all, you can’t just trust my babbling, nonsensical words of affirmation – you need cold, hard facts! (Or, well, opinions … since that’s what they are, no matter how much I think I’m right.)
To start off, I have to tell you that I had very high expectations for this book. I fell in love with Evelyn’s writing two years ago when I read her short story in an anthology – I haven’t been able to get it out of my mind since. I’ve been anxiously awaiting something more from her ever since. But, honestly, I was nervous. What if I didn’t love this one? What if I’d set my expectations so incredibly sky high that it was impossible to live up to them? Apparently, I had nothing to worry about. Why? Read on …
What Fed My Addiction:
- The gorgeous writing. From the first few pages of this book, I was pulled in and I knew my soaring expectations were going to be met. Evelyn’s writing is everything I remembered it to be – beautiful and haunting and utterly captivating. Go. Read it and experience it for yourself!
- Russian fantasy worldbuilding. This was definitely my number one reason for flailing over this book. So often, you read a fantasy novel and it’s set in a somewhat washed out version of a past or future culture – that was not the case with this book at all. There is a TON of magic in this book, but it’s almost closer to historical fiction than it is to fantasy (I guess maybe it’s magical realism?). The setting is perfectly Russia in the semi-distant past (I’m horrible with history, so I don’t know exactly when it matches up). Evelyn says in her author notes that she studied Russia in college, and that definitely shines through in her writing. There’s an incredible amount of detail to the rich worldbuilding – right down to the foods the characters eat. Yet, the worldbuilding never feels tedious at all (something that can happen for me if it gets too detailed or verbose). Evelyn tied all those little details in so beautifully that you almost weren’t aware of them … except you were. (I know, I make no sense – just go read the book please.)
- The magic! I absolutely loved the magical scenes in this book. The very first scene shows off Vika’s spectacular magical prowess, and I adored every moment of it. Nikolai’s magic was a bit more subdued, possibly more controlled, but no less impressive. Since Nikolai and Vika had to compete with each other and impress the Tsar, there were plenty of fantastic magical scenes. And since the price of losing was death, the stakes were very high! I loved that the magic in the book didn’t necessarily play itself out in huge epic battles but it left such a strong impression on me that I can still picture each enchanter’s turn in the competition in my mind’s eye (and it’s been a couple of months since I actually read the book!).
- The characters. I was so wrapped up in Vika and Nikolai’s stories and the incredible stakes that I found myself rooting for both of them and desperately wondering how it was all going to turn out! Then there was Pasha, the future Tsar and Nikolai’s best friend. He was the type of ruler who truly seems to love his people and want what’s best for them, so I couldn’t help but love him as well! Toward the end of the book, some major things shift for these characters, making it all SO much more complicated – and therefore even more exciting!
What Left Me Wanting More:
- The romance. Honestly, I didn’t feel like the romance was the central element to this book. It was really a side plot because everyone was so concerned with staying alive (which is as it should have been), but I do have to admit that, because of this, the romance felt a bit like instalove – and there was even a bit of triangle instalove to make it harder to swallow. (Those of you who truly hate instalove or love triangles have been forewarned.) There just wasn’t enough focus on the romance to allow me to truly connect to it. Since the romance wasn’t a major focus, I was actually mostly okay with this, though. I just let myself get carried away with the rest of the story instead. Still, certain plot points might have had more of an emotional impact on me if I’d been more invested in this aspect of the story.
As you’ve probably figured out by now, I highly recommend you read this book. If you’re a fan of fantasy and you think you’d appreciate the Russian backdrop, you will not be disappointed. I easily give this book 4.5/5 stars!
***Disclosure: I received this book from the publisher via Edelweiss in exchange for an honest review. No other compensation was given and all opinions are my own.***
About the Author
Evelyn Skye 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. THE CROWN’S GAME is her first novel. Evelyn can be found online at www.evelynskye.com and on Twitter @EvelynSkyeYA.