Brilliantly written, incredibly compelling, a tale that combines the whimsy of enchantment with a dash of darkness and a sprinkling of Russian culture – that, my dear friends, is the story you will be getting should you choose to pick up your very own copy of The Crown’s Game. (I highly endorse doing so.) It’s the tale of two young enchanters – Vika and Nikolai – both gifted with incredible magic who are forced to compete in an ancient tradition known as The Crown’s Game to demonstrate their skills. When the game ends, one will become the Tsar’s trusted adviser and the Imperial Enchanter; the other will die. As the two compete, secrets will come to light and complicated feelings will emerge. And as the outside threat to the empire hangs over their heads, only one question remains: who will emerge the victor in the end?
The Crown’s Game was utterly enchanting from beginning to end. I was immediately swept into a world of magic, where elements could be manipulated based on pure will, where things could be constructed on a whim, where a glamour can be conjured with a wave of one’s hand. The magic in this tale is top notch, both in terms of what magic wielders are capable of and in what is required of them in order to use such incredible power. Magic is an incredible force in this world. Yet it blends into actual society in an effortless way, allowing it to seem both an organic construct of this world and yet still very separate from the reality of the Russian society (which was skillfully presented as well, complete with details in the form of fashion, food and form).
There are other characters who charm their way into my heart, like Pasha, the boy prince who loves to sneak out of the castle to be among his people, and Ludmila, the fierce mama bear of a baker who loves Vika like a daughter, to name a few. But though many secondary players shine brightly as individuals, they just find themselves eclipsed by the focus levied on our two main characters, Vika and Nikolai. Vika is determined, ruthless in her desire to prove she is worthy to be the imperial enchanter because she has spent all her life on her small island home in training for it. She has an impulsiveness that leads to reckless choices, most especially when she’s met at every challenge by Nikolai. Nikolai, an orphan raised by his mentor in St. Petersburg, is well-versed with the streets of his city; he is also familiar with court etiquette, as he is close friends with the tsarevich Pasha. He’s an expert at tinkering and mechanical magic, and he’s got no taste for blood – especially if it’s to come from bright, vivid Vika who has caught his eye.
These two do the slow dance from the enmity of strangers to the intimacy of two people who see one another completely, and it is one of my favorite parts of this entire story. It is interesting to note that the game unfolds much in the same way, with a cautious start leading up to a spectacular finish that will leave you wondering what will happen next. Though I generally prefer an even pacing in my stories, the slow build-up worked incredibly well in allowing me to get to know both of them intimately and form a connection that would stick around for the rest of the story.
All in all, hats off to Evelyn Skye for writing an incredible debut novel! The Crown’s Game is a wonderful blend of magic and mayhem, of love and friendship, of secrets and lies – and it had me engaged from start to finish. I fell head over heels in love with Vika, Nikolai and their story, and I’m simply dying to know what will happen in the next one. I highly recommend this one!
If you could perform magic, what enchantment would you cast?
There are certainly many day-to-day enchantments that I could see myself casting (making my bag similar to Hermione's in the last Harry Potter novel, ensuring I always had a spot on the train during my commutes, just to name two), but I decided to answer this question trying to conjure up the greatest of all enchantments. I'd bring to life a castle filled with doors behind paintings of places - and the doors would transport you to wherever that painting was set. It would be a dream world, of course, but you'd get to experience the highlights of each location - and go back to the castle when you were finished with that particular adventure. It would be fun to get the chance to travel, at least I think it would be!
The Crown's Game by Evelyn Skye | Series: The Crown's Game #1
Publisher: Balzer + Bray | Publication Date: May 17, 2016
Source: ARC downloaded from Edelweiss (Thanks!)
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.