Perfect for fans of Shadow and Bone and Red Queen, The Crown’s Game is a thrilling and atmospheric historical fantasy set in Imperial Russia about two teenagers who must compete for the right to become the Imperial Enchanter—or die in the process—from debut author Evelyn Skye. 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.
The Crown's GameFeatured
There's lots and lots of magic watching Vika and Nikolai battle is out was such a rush. They both have very different magical skills and their own strengths and weaknesses but when it came to their turn in the game, they were lethal. Creating deathly traps for one another in front of Russia all under the guise that it’s some impressive illusion because let’s not forget, magic doesn’t technically ‘exist’. Skye was able to draw the action out just enough to leave you wanting more, the paced never plot and the fun never stopped.
THE CROWN’S GAME is a rich and imaginative thrill ride of magic, romance, and rebellion. Evelyn Skye skillfully transports the reader to a historical Russia enriched with magic, and the descriptions absolutely stun. While the magic woven into everything is beautiful, the massive respect and appreciation for the objects the magic uses (rivers, bridges, islands, etc.) fuels the power in Vika and Nikolai. Vika’s love of nature and Nikolai’s love of structure are clear, and the complementary aspect of their powers only adds to the intensity of the game. The allusions to Cinderella throughout also add a lovely layer to the story.
While distrust and uncertain loyalties are everywhere, there is no denying the chemistry between Vika and Nikolai, and the emotional blows as they take their turns in the Game while attempting to preserve their morals (and possibly their hearts) are not light. There is a love triangle with Pasha, the heir to the throne and coincidentally best friend to Nikolai, but it is a minor part to the story, so readers who dislike them should definitely not be turned away. Outside of the romance, Pasha is a wonderful addition to the story, balancing out the enchanters and giving a narrative to the more political side of the plot.
Without a doubt, THE CROWN’S GAME is one of the most magical novels I’ve read this year. Lovers of historical fantasy will be ecstatic for the rich world building and luscious magic.
The book was told in alternating POVs of Vika and Nikolai, which not only worked well with how the crown’s game was set up but also made me care about both of them. They were both good people and had their own reasons for wanting to win. I didn’t want to see either of them die. I got attached to both of them quite quickly and the more I was hoping there would be some way no one would have to die. I liked Vika’s spunky personality and it contrasted nicely with Nikolai’s quiet one. They were both interesting characters, complete opposites, but they worked so well both against each other and together.
Pasha was another interesting character and I was worried, at first, that I might dislike him if he seemed like a third wheel but he was charming and adorable and sucked me right in. I loved his friendship with Nikolai and the fact that he hated being the prince when it meant he was always watched, never free unless he snuck out. I also enjoyed his fascination with Vika. It was written in a way that didn’t make it seem like a love triangle but really, just two friends whose attention had been caught by the same girl and everyone trying to figure out their feelings without hurting anyone.
The Crown’s Game part of the book was so much more than I expected. I loved that it wasn’t just about powerful fighting and attack spells but it really was more of a game. They took turns and the spells weren’t always destructive but showcased their talents. It was still dangerous and either could have died at any time but the fact that it wasn’t an all-out arena-style dual made me enjoy it even more. I couldn’t wait to find out what each of them would do for their next turn, how they would one-up the already impressive series of magical events that was showcased. I also loved how the general public, oblivious to magic, would come up with explanations to what was really behind the magical events – no matter how extreme they could be.
Because it wasn’t a magical fight-to-the-death dual, the pacing was slower than I expected but that just gave me more time to lose myself in the world. It wasn’t slow to read, there was still always something going on, just slower with the action parts than if it had been a bloody dual. I was tense and holding my breath so many times throughout the book even with it being more of a game than a dual so I’m not sure I would have made it through a dual.
I know that this is one book where, once I get the finished copy in hands, all the emotions I felt while reading it will come rushing back and my thoughts will echo what they were when I finished the ARC: I need the next book now!