Review: The Crown's Game by Evelyn Skye

Monday, June 13, 2016

The Crown's Game #1
Publisher: Balzer + Bray
Publication Date: May 17th, 2016
Rating: 4 Stars
Source: Purchase
Pages: 399

Summary (from Goodreads):

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.

Vika Andreyeva has lived her whole life on Ovchinin Island with her father, Sergei. She has been training her whole life to be the Royal Enchanter. Not knowing that there was another enchanter out there, Vika and Sergei are surprised to receive a summons from the Tsar to take the oath for the Crown's Game.

Nikolai Karimov was taken from the Kazakh Steppe when he was seven by a noblewoman named Galina to train to be the next Royal Enchanter, but unlike Vika and Sergei, Galina and Nikolai know that there is another enchanter. So rather than just training to be the best that he can be, Nikolai is more so trained to defeat his opponent.

The three main characters in this book are Vika, Nikolai, and Pasha, the crown prince of Russia. This story is told from all three of their POVs, plus a few other people. With all the different POVs in this book and all the changes in narrator throughout the book, I felt like it was a little hard to connect with some of the characters on a really deep level. But all the POV changes makes for short chapters which makes for an easy time finding a good stopping point!

Vika has been raised in the woods of Ovchinin Island all her life. Being kind of an outcast in the village, she really only spends time with her father. Being raised the way she was, she doesn't really have the manners of the more noble people of St. Petersburg and this can be seen when she first meets the Tsar when she takes her oath. Vika is smart, she's tough, and she can hold her own in this challenge!

Nikolai was born to a faith healer who died during childbirth on the Kazakh Steppe. He was raised by the village he was born in, but they weren't sure what to make of him and his magic. So he was taken to St. Petersburg to train for the Crown's Game at age seven. He has had to work for everything that he has and he tries really hard to fit into his upperclass household with no help from Galina. He is really sweet and hardworking and I don't even know, but I loved him.

Pasha, the crown prince of Russia, pretty much has his head in the clouds all the time. He does his best to shirk his duties as the tsesarevich in favor of going on new adventures with Nikolai, who is his best friend. He doesn't really seem like Tsar material, but I think that he just has his own way of showing how much he cares about Russia and maybe just needs to grow up a little bit. He is a fun character and always seems to be up for some mischief.

The synopsis makes this book out to have a love triangle, but I really don't see it that way. While two different boys do have feelings for Vika, I think in order for it to be a love triangle she has to return the affections of both boys to an extent and that is not what I saw happening. It is pretty clear who she wants to end up with.

But she's a smart girl and knows that it's not practical for her right now to get into anything. There really isn't anything steamy about the romance, but it is definitely cute. The steamiest the romance gets in this book is basically some intense magical dancing.

The world building in this book is fantastic! I love knowing that if I were to visit St. Petersburg right now I would be seeing most of the places in this book just as they're supposed to be. Not just places that this book is based on, places that actually are in this book! That's so cool and it makes me wanna to on a trip to see it!

I loved the descriptions of the places and especially all the food in this story! I want to try ALL of the goodies from the amazing bakery in this book! The bread, the pastry swan things, the cream puffs, the truffles, just all of it!

The magic was fun to read about in this book! Vika and Nikolai both were impressive enchanters. Vika's magic seemed to be more elemental, more influential with things that are living and breathing. Nikolai on the other hand, his magic was more mechanical. He was good at building and creating.

When you meet Vika and Nikolai in the beginning of the book, I think I was more impressed by what they were doing to practice their magic than by what they ended up actually doing in the Game. The things they were doing for practice seemed far more practical for the position they were trying to get than what was expected of them in the Game. But more on that slight disappointment a little bit later.

Seeing what each enchanter could do was fun, seeing the creativity of each of them with their moves. I think my favorite thing was the magic surrounding the masquerade ball that takes place! Or the magic surrounding the fantastic bakery that pops up!

This book reminded me a lot of the book The Night Circus, except, you know, infinitely better. BUT like in The Night Circus, I found the duel to be not nearly as epic as it is made out to be. For one thing, when they take the oath, the Tsar suggests they use their turns to do something impressive for the tsesarevich because it is his birthday.

Okay, so you have these two incredibly powerful enchanters that you are forcing to fight to the death and what you want to base this life and death decision on is who can basically do the best party tricks to impress Pasha? Really?

Seeing as the entire purpose of the Royal Enchanter is to be a close adviser to the Tsar in times of conflict and war, you'd think it would be more important to know that they have the power and ability to protect Russia in a crisis rather than see who can make St. Petersburg the prettiest.

Also, it didn't even seem like the Tsar was paying any attention at all to the duel so how would he expect to choose a winner after he had "seen" what all they could do?

Overall, I would definitely recommend this book! While I thought that the many POVs made it hard to connect with some characters and that the duel left a lot to be desired, I think the good outweighs the disappointment in this one! The characters are great, the magic is fun, the world is amazing! If you are a fan of The Night Circus, you better read this one!

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