Title: The Crown’s Game
Author: Evelyn Skye
Series: The Crown’s Gram Series
Publisher: Balzer + Bray
Published: May 17th, 2016
Rating: ★★★★☆ (4 out of 5)The summary of The Crown’s Game from Goodreads:
Vika Andreyev 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’m one of those readers that can’t stop reading, even when I’m exhausted and my eyes are threatening to revolt unless I let them rest. I have to reach a decent stopping place if I need to pause in the middle of a book. The Crown’s Game never had one of those moments. There was never a break where I could put the book down and not think about it. I had to keep reading and lose sleep, otherwise I would lose sleep because I couldn’t stop thinking about it.
I love the setting in 19th century Imperial Russia. It kept the fantasy aspects of the novel grounded, yet it also gave them a place to jump from. It wasn’t an entirely new world, but it was a new realm of the world.
The aspect of the Crown’s Game was really interesting. The fact that the two enchanters would fight through magic until one was proven to be better and more worthy of protecting the tsar definitely permeated the romance of the book. I spent a good portion of the novel wondering, in the back of my mind, how Vika and Nikolai would make it out of the game alive.
Even the love triangle was done well. It’s made very clear that Vika feels different things for Pasha and Nikolai. Pasha offers a taste of sweetness, of compassion. He’s there for her in her darkest time of the novel. Nikolai, on the other hand, understands the power of having magic, and that magic n both of them creates a connection. We’re not made to believe that one kind of love is better or greater than the other.
I really found the magical elements fascinating. Both Nikolai and Vika can do so much with their magic, but it’s clear they each have different strengths. Their training also comes through in the magical duels they create. They know they have to defeat the other, but since they do not have identical magic, they don’t understand their playing field.
I am sure some people will not like the ending. I’ll be honest and say I kept hoping there was some secret chapter that would unlock that would keep the story going. I had to somehow find sleep after that ending. My mind continued to turn everything over, trying to find new possibilities. My mind and my heart still hurt when I woke up.
While I understood that the theme of the game centered around the upcoming birthday of Pasha, I do wish the game had a little more of a dark aspect. Don’t get me wrong, there is darkness involved. But it also felt a lot like a pretty smokescreen. In a battle where one will die and the deciding factor is use of magic, there wasn’t a lot of darkness permeating the battle.
I definitely think this was a good book. The fantasy elements were beautiful and I thought Skye did a wonderful job of weaving in her fantasy into the actual historical pieces of the novel.
I don’t think this book will be for everyone, though, just because of how it ends. It’s quite possible the rest of the series will play out in a way that will make the ending of The Crown’s Game not as shattering, but we’ll have to wait and see.
Thank you to Edelweiss and Balzer + Bray for an advanced copy of the novel in exchange for an honest review.