Publisher: Harper 360 UK
Genre: Fantasy, YA, Historical
Source: a copy in exchange for an honest review
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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 Game by Evelyn Skye was one of my most anticipated debuts of this summer. I mean, a historical fantasy set in Imperial Russia that’s full of magic? Count me in. I was counting down the days to this book and even though I got sent an early copy to review (which I am so unbelievably grateful for, thanks a bunch Alice at @Harper360UK), I will definitely still be ordering a stunning hardback copy. But let’s get to my review of the story…
In this story we have Vika, who’s been training her entire life so that she could fill the position of Imperial Enchanter when she turns 18 but doesn’t realise that she isn’t the only enchanter in Russia. Nikolai, an orphan that was abandoned by his mother and taken in by a harsh and somewhat ruthless woman who filled the position of his mentor, has also been training for most of his life.
From the first page, I fell in love with Evelyn Skye’s world-building. The story itself is set in Russia and there is so much detail that you can tell that a lot of research and time went into the world building which is one of my favourite things about this book. I felt part of the story, while I was reading it I was completely absorbed and the imagery was so vivid and capturing. Let’s not even talk about the descriptions of the food. Oh wow. The first page begins at a bakery, and the same bakery and baker, Ludmila, pops up here and there and I fell in love with them. A bakery and a side character. That’s just how amazing this book was.
I could talk about the descriptions of food –
don’t get me started on those floating cream puffs – all day but let’s talk characters. Vika was such a fantastic character to read about. Stubborn, independent, creative as hell – I mean, during the game they had to impress the Tsar with their magic and each move both she and Nikolai made surprised and awed me, but we’ll get onto the magic in a second – and determined to get what she’d spent her entire life training for. We see from the very beginning that she’s treated like an outsider by most but still, she carries this confidence that comes through so realistically and it made me want to applaud her. Then there’s Nikolai. Sweet, handsome, Nikolai. I love Nikolai. As a character, with an unfortunate upbringing, I never felt that his personality was reduced to that single thing. I loved that his magic was different to Vika’s because this made the whole competition a lot more interesting, the fact that they were both powerful but were better trained in certain areas made it difficult to see who had the upper-hand which added to the anticipation.
The story, though focused mainly on Vika and Nikolai and the Game, wasn’t only limited to their POVs. The POV alternates between Vika and Nikolai but we also have Pasha, the young, adventurous heir to the throne, who also happens to be Nikolai’s best friend and completely oblivious to the fact that his best friend is an enchanter. We also have perspectives from Sergei, Vika’s father and mentor, and Galina, Nikolai’s mentor. And a POV from a very mysterious character… (who freaked me the hell out).
I have to admit that the writing itself didn’t blow me away but I feel like since it’s a debut, it’ll most likely develop along the way. The world-building, action scenes and detailed imagery definitely made up for it though.One small thing that wasn’t my cup of tea was the love triangle. I think the more YA fantasy I read, the more hesitant I am with love triangles. However, that being said I think that the love triangle in this story was tolerable and didn’t play much of a role in the overall story. To be fair, it is made very clear in the summary that there is a love triangle so I was expecting it, and I was interested to see how Nikolai and Pasha – who are best friends – would react once they realised they both like the same girl. Also, I think the fact that there was a game involving magic happening all over the city yet people refused to believe that magic existed may be a little hard to believe but we all know that people can come up with the most far-fetched explanations to stubbornly ignore things that they don’t understand.
Okay, now to talk about what I’ve been stopping myself from talking about this entire review because I knew I’d babble. THE ENDING. Guys. I know my reviews are usually incoherent babblings but the ending. I still can’t believe that the story ended that way and I was reduced to tears. Evelyn Skye definitely didn’t hold back. The ending of this book completely shattered me to the point where I actually threw it across the room. Evelyn Skye is definitely going on my list of authors that have broken my heart and I can’t wait for the sequel…
there better be a sequel, I mean how could there not be after that ending.
Overall, I rated The Crown’s Game 4.8/5. I had high expectations and I have to say it didn’t disappoint at all. The Crown’s Game made me laugh, cry and by the end my copy was slightly battered from throwing it across the room in despair… I absolutely adored it and can’t wait to read more from Evelyn Skye.
Rating: ★★★★★ (more or less)
Favourite quote: I usually pick quotes that show my favourite scene etc. So here you go:
“I don’t blame you.” He tipped his hat in the ballerina’s direction, but unlike the time he did so after she’d tried to drown him, there was nothing mocking in his gesture now. “I don’t blame you if this is the end.”
Have you read The Crown’s Game? Are you planning on picking it up? Let me know!