The Crown’s Game by Evelyn Skye
Publisher: Balzer + Bray (10th May 2016)
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 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?
The Crown’s Game by Evelyn Skye has to be one of the most talked about books since I discovered it on Amazon late last year. Paired with an impressive campaign on social media, it has generated so much hype, that upon receiving it for review, I was a bit tentative to read it. Well, I hope I am not the only one who has bad experiences with overly-hyped books. *cough* Truthwitch. *cough* #NoTNoShade
So, here’s the deal about Evelyn Skye’s debut novel. It centres around the tsardom in Russia back in the 1800s. That was one of the reason that made me pick up The Crown’s Game because I feel like reading is a form of time travelling – I love exploring different timelines through the pages of a book. Right-o. My initial thoughts about The Crown’s Game based on the blurb on the back of the book: a fight-to-the-death competition between magic wielders to take the position of the tsar’s Imperial Enchanter.
What I missed from the blurb was the part where there were only two Enchanters. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t mind a badass duel, but I was expecting a Hunger Games-ish trope in the book, but it was fine. Since the protagonists, Vika and Nikolai could practically do anything with their magic.
She was the sun, and he was a mere rock, drawn in by her gravity. He needed to be closer, to feel her magic, to touch . . . her.
The Crown’s Game had such an intriguing and interesting concept because there aren’t that many YA books out there that are set in Russia – Oh, yes. I just read Leigh Bardugo’s Shadow and Bone and I loved it! – so it was a very refreshing take on high fantasy. I loved that the book was a rich tapestry that featured the wonders of St. Petersburg and the Russian cultures embedded in the book. The world building was incredible and I enjoyed being transported to Russia during the time where tsars ruled Russia.
Now, onto the characters. Vika lives on an island far away from St. Petersburg where she trains under her father to become a successful Enchanter, only to find out that there’s another Enchanter: Nikolai, which forces the tsar to commence the Crown’s Game. I don’t want to spoil the mechanics of the existence of the Crown Game so I’ll let you read it on your own.
“You cannot love her. You hardly know her.”
“If there were ever a girl a man could fall in love with without knowing, it would be Vika.”
There’s the whole “forbidden love” trope in The Crown’s Game which was dealt with pretty well, if you like the whole “I love you but you’re my enemy” thing going on. Which I didn’t mind but I wouldn’t say I loved it because I hate characters dying and the only way the Imperial Enchanter is selected is when one of them dies. So no.
The love triangle between Vika, Nikolai and his best friend, Pasha who is the tsesarevich and heir to the throne. I didn’t really appreciate the whole “instalove” thing going on with Pasha because obviously, he was a lovesick fool in the book. So again, no Pasha. No. Though I have to admit, he is quite the charmer. Or just desperate. *rolls eyes and purses lips*
The highlight of the book was definitely the moves. Every Enchanter has five moves to make. Five magical acts to impress the tsar and wow the readers and I loved every one of them. I felt like the competition between Vika and Nikolai was intense and I liked that both of them tried their very best to outdo one another.
OK, let’s go to the issue of the book. I didn’t really enjoy the multiple POVs in the book because it made the whole plot very predictable. However, it did expand the plot, so it wasn’t a huge deal for me to read about the sub-plots of the book. The introduction of a possible antagonist in the book made it more complicated because I didn’t feel that sense of closure with the ending. A lot was left unexplained, but I guess there will be a sequel.
So, let’s wrap this up by highlighting the pros and cons of the book:
- Incredible world building
- Amazing diversity of cultures in the book – I loved the food and desserts in the book because I love food.
- Breathtaking magical acts
- Vika kicking ass
- Nikolai’s amazing dance abilities
- The instalove and love triangle
- Some parts were left unexplored: the antagonist (the smelly old crone)
- Lack of political tension – Dude, it’s a tsardom. Isn’t there anyone plotting to overthrow the old dude?
Feel intrigued to give The Crown’s Game a try? Let me know what you think of it if you’ve read it already!
I’d like to thank MPH Distributors for sending me a copy in exchange for an honest review. Do stay tuned for my interview with Evelyn Skye!