PURCHASE:Amazon | Book Depository
Perfect for fans of Shadow and Bone and Red Queen, The Crown’s Game is a thrilling and atmospheric historical fantasy set in Imperial Russia about two teenagers who must compete for the right to become the Imperial Enchanter—or die in the process—from debut author Evelyn Skye.
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.
This is one of those cruel moments when the awesome blurb is a lie. I went in expecting ambitious and morally-gray protagonists, pitched against one another in a deadly game. What I got instead was two love-addled playmate, a totally confused magic system, and a plotline so contrived, I can barely remember its details. It reminded me of The Night Circus, but not in a good way.
Let’s get the good out of the way first. The author of The Crown’s Game majored in Russian History at university and her knowledge about the country certainly shows. Her writing and description was a love letter to Russia, with its opulent sight and scenes lovingly retold. In fact, the writing was always the strongest when Evelyn Skye was reimagining Russia in all its splendour. When her same descriptive proses are applied to emotions or actions, the sentences tended to become plodding and difficult to read. However, I did enjoy how well researched this book what, and how she took liberties with certain historical events to conjure her own world.
My main issue with this book is its lack of action and stake. especially as the blurb promised a lethal and dangerous game. Vika and Nikolai have been forced to enter a literal tournament to the death. However, despite the high stakes – the character totally lacked ambition or moral ambiguity. The text even went out of its way to reassure us that Vika and Nikolai were both pure, innocent children – who wring their hand over the thoughts of pain and bloodshed. While this in itself would have made for some compelling character study, it was immediately sacrificed for their inexplicable attraction and mooning over one another instead. Yawn.
From the get-go, we instead get mutual pining and instalove – instead of either teen thinking up of way to win this tournament and escape certain death, we instead get pages of description about how hot they find one another. Their mutual lust was never convincing, handwaved off as fated attraction due to their affinity to magic. The two main characters had absolutely no chemistry, the book had to resort to explain their attraction with magic. As for the plot,Instead of a Cornucopia style all out battle to the death like I had envisioned after reading the blurb, or even a cunning game of masterful deception 0 what we got instead was two teens frolicking around St Petersburg and remodelling it? Vika made a pretty fountain, while Nikolai repainted a street using magic – I’m sorry, but no matter how many flowery descriptions you throw my way, stuff like that will never amount to more than boring.
Basically, every single trope that should have gone out of fashion years ago resurfaced in this book with vengeance. There’s a ball where the heroine arrives last and stuns everyone with her beauty and her amazing gown (there was at least half a page of description on it!). There’s a shoe-horned and utterly unnecessary love triangle, with one of the wheel getting so little development, it’s laughable why he’s even present at all. There’s lengthy description of people’s chiseled features or long, arresting mane of hair. There’s a whole bunch of magic thrown around with little regard for the laws which should govern it. The text pretty much outright state it, with one of its main quote stating: “Imagine, and it shall be. There are no limits.” Any fantasy world without rules become immediately unappealing to me, it’s no fun knowing that the characters can literally do anything – how am I meant to ever believe in any sense of accomplishment from anything they achieve if it’s so easy?
The characters are very underdeveloped as well, I never felt like I got to know them beyond seeing their attraction towards one another. Most of Nikokai, Vika and Pasha’s thoughts were about their romantic interests, all of which remained wholly unconvincing because they barely interacted with one another! The side characters suffered even a worse fate, as their life seemed to revolve entirely around these main characters – either yearning for them or orchestrating their plans around them. As such, when the casualty started rolling in, it had very little impact on my reading experience.
Aside from the flimsy game, there was also a side plot I almost forgot about – mainly because the book introduced it as almost an after thought. The climax of this book felt very rushed, something which was all the more glaring due to its previously plodding pacing. I know that many felt shocked by the ending, but even the events towards the end of this book felt half-hearted and robbed of its full emotional impact.
I am so exhausted of these uninspired and trope-riddled books being marketed as action-packed fantasy. Personally, I might have enjoyed it more if the blurb did not promise so much action and intrigue. If you’re looking for a romance-centric story, I guess you can find it here – but it’s been done before, and much better, elsewhere.
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