The Crown's Game by Evelyn Skye
Series: The Crown's Game #1
Rating: 3.5 stars
Published: 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.
Let's think of some other games in fiction that involve a "winner-take-all" style.
The Hunger Games.
Essen Tasch. The Element Games.
And so forth.
Two of them were kill to survive. Essen Tasch was disable your opponent to advance.
The Crown's Game? Not really much of a game if we're going by these standards of competing. The game itself took on a more eloquent, artistic approach to it. While it was nice to see magic being used to magnify St. Petersburg's beauty (and I did visit the city while I was reading this book), I only wish that there was more action, and was left disappointed by the lack of it.
The idea of the game is for the tsar to chose an enchanter to keep by his side in order to display Russia's power and instill fear into enemies. We have Vika, raised on an island by her eccentric father, and Nikolai, an orphan raised by the widow Galina. Their magic varies, but both are powerful in their own right. They have five turns to display their power to the tsar, and the loser is subjected to death. Of course, as all games go, this is not so simple, as feelings and emotions and romance come into play. There's an abundant amount of this in The Crown's Game.
Nikolai and his friend, the tsarevich Pavel (or Pasha), find the other enchanter performing one of her spells on the island, and are immediately entranced by her. Or well, Pasha is immediately in love with her.
"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.”
And when Vika meets Nikolai, we get a whole lot of this -
The instant he touched her, his shadow flickered, and his real self flashed through. Vika sucked in a breath.
Oh, mercy, he was handsome, all ebony hair and ink-black eyes and a face so precisely chiseled, Vika could almost picture the blade that had created him. And the sparks that danced through his magic! Goose bumps rose where his hand held her, even though there was a glove and a sleeve between them. Everything inside Vika quivered.
Just no more please. Insta-love, romance, love-triangles, all of that. Nikolai barely even interacts with Vika, let alone speaks with her. The dance, the island, the fight - barely enough to warrant falling in love.
Her touch, even through their gloves, resonated to that ethereal part of his core he could only describe as his soul. He suspected that even his real body, asleep on the benched, warmed as her hand clasped his.
The ending, expected. No surprises there. I did not expect, however, the plot twists at the end, and the several reveals that made me actually enjoy the book more so in the end. Ignoring Pasha, who just annoyed me at the end for his stupid decisions (you are a terrible tsar, man), and Vika, who doesn't really serve much use beyond her ability to attract the two main male characters (oh and her magic, can't forget that), the other characters were enjoyable. Nikolai was more developed and his backstory was interesting to read about, I couldn't actually hate Yuliana, because she was the only one in that palace with her head on her shoulders, Galina and Sergei's sibling bonding was sweet, etc.
Because I'm a sucker for Russian history and culture, and I was actually able to picture the city in its majestic glory, I tolerated all the sappy cheesy bits. St. Petersburg is a city of wonder. The setting of Russia was fantastic and I could tell the author put a lot of effort into getting it right.
The writing had a certain elegant flow to it (if you get past the purple prose with the instalove) that was pleasant to read.
But his silhouette was identical. Vika had been right that she could still feel his presence, and she could almost hear him in the wind, invoking the words he'd once written on her armoire:To sum it up, my feelings are mixed (sort of like my rating). I settle on 3.5 stars, as I can't decide between 3 or 4. The writing and the characters and the twists were what I liked, and understandably, I can see the hype behind this book, but the action and the romance is lacking and undeveloped. Hopefully the sequel develops the interactions between the characters more, and I'll be checking it out.
Imagine, and it shall be.
There are no limits.