Title: The Crown’s Game
Author: Evelyn Skye
Series: The Crown’s Game, #1
Publisher: Balzer + Bray
Release Date: May 17th 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 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.
– Blurb courtesy of goodreads.com
My Thoughts On…
I really wanted to love this book. It sounded amazing, the cover is absolutely gorgeous, and I’ve seen plenty of reviews that say this is the perfect book for fans of The Night Circus, which I really am. However I was let down by The Crown’s Game; there was both a love triangle and tons of insta-love, which are two of my most hated tropes in one novel, the plot was slow to start and when it did parts were left underdeveloped, and I was left with a lot of unanswered questions about the setting and the world.
Vika has been raised training to become the Imperial Enchanter. Every day she practices, honing her magic, waiting until she turns eighteen and can go to the capital to prove herself and take her place by the Tsar’s side. However unknown to Vika and her father there is another enchanter in Russia.
Nikolai lives in the capital; like Vika he has spent most of his life training and honing his magic but unlike Vika he knows there is a Crown’s Game coming. In Russia magic is a limited source and in order to serve the Tsar it cannot be split in half between two enchanters. The Crown’s Game is a duel to the death where Nikolai and Vika will prove their magic to the Tsar, and at the end one of them will die. When the game is called both Vika and Nikolai travel to the capital to showcase their magic. They each get five turns to perform feats of magic designed to impress the Tsar, and to impress the tsesarevich for his upcoming eighteenth birthday, and five turns to try and kill one another before the game makes the choice for them.
However as the time passes and they each showcase their talents; painting the Nevsky Prospect, designing a carnival of colours in the side canals, creating an island full of magic and nature and beauty, and then creating a way to travel all around Russia without ever leaving the island. The more time Vika and Nikolas spent trying to one up their opponent the more they learn about the other and feel a connection through their magic and their parts in the game.
After seeing the magical feats being created in his city Pasha, the tsesarevich and Nikolai’s best friend, becomes obsessed with the game and the enchanters. He reads books on magic and tracks down Vika. However he doesn’t know about Nikolai’s powers and he doesn’t know enough about what will happen when the game ends. However there is a force out there, greater than magic and greater than the game, which comes calling for the Tsar and his wife and forcing Pasha’s hand.
Vika’s magic is connected to nature more than anything else, she can create lightning from nothing, control fire, water, and create an island from nothing more than her imagination. She is strong and determined, and has spent her whole life training to become the Imperial Enchanter; it is her aim to serve by his side. She doesn’t know there is another enchanter in Russia but once she does it doesn’t change her end goal. She is very cautious of Nikolai’s magic, very cautious that anything he creates could kill her.
Nikolai’s magic is much more intricate. He doesn’t seem to have the brute strength which Vika has to connect with the elements but he has more mechanical skills. When Vika creates her island Nikolai fashions things for the people; a port for boats and benches which can transport them all around Russia without ever leaving the island. Unlike Vika Nikolai knows there is another enchanter out there, he’s always known that he would have to compete in the Crown’s Game but seeing Vika, seeing her power for the first time, he starts to doubt whether he can win. Nikolai came from nothing and is just as determined to become the Imperial Enchanter as Vika is.
Neither enchanter is completely brutal. They don’t want to kill each other but they both want to become the Imperial Enchanter and neither want to die. However as the game commences they start to become drawn to one another. They start off using their turns in the game to launch attacks on one another but it slowly gives way to something else. They work together, and Vika uses her turn to create something which Nikolai then expands on. Nikolai and Vika are connected by the game in ways no one else can understand, however they are both still very aware that they are each other enemies, and that at the end one of them will die.
I loved Nikolai’s relationship with Pasha, the tsesarevich and his best friend. They’ve known each other for years; Nikolai is the first person Pasha goes to when he has an adventure in mind and Nikolai always seems to be the voice of reason for Pasha. However one day Nikolai is aware that if he wins the Crown’s Game he will have to serve Pasha. Pasha knows nothing of the enchanters currently battling in his city, and Nikolai fears telling Pasha about his magic, wanting to be his friend for just a little longer before becoming his subject. However after seeing Vika Pasha is obsessed with finding out everything he can about magic and the crown’s game.
The relationship between Pasha and Vika is very very insta-love. He sees her once and becomes obsessed with her. He tracks her down and seems to be in love with her before speaking more than two words to her. The love triangle between the three characters wasn’t really developed much; both Nikolas and Pasha were in love with Vika, or seemed to be, but while Vika was more drawn to Nikolai because of the game the relationship between the two couples wasn’t really expanded on at all.
The Crown’s Game was set in Russia and while I loved the setting itself there were so many questions I had about the world itself. There was magic and while Vika and Nikolai were the main two enchanters there were other people with a small amount of magic, faith healers and girls who can read the future from tea leaves. The Imperial Enchanter is a role of great and historical important the majority of people in Russia and in the capital had no clue that magic exists; they don’t believe in it and there are references made to people with magic being burnt at the stake in the past. Then there’s the game itself. I don’t understand how the feats Nikolai and Vika pull off can prove to the Tsar that they’re capable of being the Imperial Enchanter, and if the Tsar isn’t even witnessing the acts firsthand how can he really judge which of them is the best for the role. The two have such different magical talents that it doesn’t really seem like a proper way of judging them. I did enjoy the magic but there was a lot about it that was left unexplained and I just couldn’t connect with the world.
It took me a while to get into this book, the story started off a little slow and there were parts of the plot which seemed important but didn’t really go anywhere. However I did enjoy The Crown’s Game, there were a few things I wish had been improved but I will be picking up the next book in the series. The ending was brilliant, a little predictable but enough to make me excited to see where the story goes next.
What did you think of The Crown’s Game? Was it a favourite of yours or could you just not get into the story? Let me know.