ARC Review: The Crown’s Game by Evelyn Skye

ARC Review: The Crown’s Game by Evelyn Skye
The Crown's Game
The Crown's Game #1
by Evelyn Skye

Genres: Action, Historical, Romance, Young Adult, Fantasy
Publication date: 17 May 2016
by Balzer + Bray

Format: eARC


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.

Rating Report
Overall: 2.1
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I'm Aentee, a 20-something lover of books and shiny things. By day, I attempt to prescribe books to all the patients in my optometry clinic. By night, I read books, watch TV, and spend way too much time on twitter.


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  1. says


    I was so very disappointed when instead of a cutthroat game, we had each character pining over the other. Pasha’s character was such a tool and the love square (because don’t forget that admirer of Nikolai’s) was just extremely shallow. I’m 99% sure why Nikolai and Vika even like each other is because of their magic. Not, ya know, those couple pages of dialogue/interaction between them.

    I couldn’t not compare it to The Night Circus, and also found it different in a not-so-good way. The writing doesn’t captivate as it did with TNC for me, and especially with regards to how the characters’ relationships developed. Not gonna lie, I had to reread The Night Circus after finishing this one just to get the remnants of my disappointment after that ending.

    I’m still picking up the sequel to see where it goes though LOL. :P
    Aila @ One Way or An Author recently posted…Book Review: Invaded by Melissa Landers (Alienated #2)My Profile

  2. says

    Oh bummer. Sorry to hear that this one wasn’t at all what you had hoped for. Been reading so many good reviews on it. Hoping that I will still find some enjoyment in it. Nice honest review all the same! Hope your next read is more to your liking!

  3. says

    So sorry you didn’t enjoy this, Aentee! I haven’t read this but from the way the book was pitched I expected it to be thrilling and brutal but I’ve heard from a few reviews that it’s not like that. I love romance in books but I’m not a fan if it’s the main thing the book focuses on….I might give this a go still but I’ll be aware that it’s not going to be how I was expecting it to be. Great review!
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  4. says

    I’m sorry you didn’t enjoy this book! When reading the synopsis, I thought it sounded amazing, but now I’m really having second thoughts. The setting sounds beautiful, but the romance sounds awful. Is instalove really still a thing, when everyone hates it so much? It sounds pretty boring, too. Often with books like these. they can either be explosive or just really dull, and this one unfortunately sounds like the latter. I think I’ll be giving this one a miss, even though the setting and cover is beautiful, because I honestly don’t think I will enjoy it. Lovely review, as always, Aentee! ♥

    Denise | The Bibliolater
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  5. says

    Damn, and I got so excited about this too. It’s hard not to with that summary. It sucks that you didn’t like it this much since otherwise people seem to be losing their heads over it. But if you put in a fight to the death and then all anyone cares about is falling it love I could see that being annoying. But on the flip side my favourite bits of the Hunger Games were the romance parts so who knows…
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  6. says

    This seems to be a book you either love or hate, so I’m sorry it didn’t quite work for you Aentee. :( I can definitely understand where you’re coming from though – boring characters and instalove aren’t my cup of tea either. Nonetheless, thanks for sharing and, as always, fabulous review! <3
    Zoe @ Stories on Stage recently posted…A Little in LoveMy Profile

  7. says

    Aw, I am so sorry that this didn’t work for you! I mean, I loved it, but I think it is one of those books that people either love or hate, so it makes sense. And I agree that it probably isn’t as adventurous as you’d think by the synopsis- but I am generally okay with a bit less action, and I did enjoy the characters. But it makes sense that if you don’t like them, you definitely aren’t going to like the book, because I think it’s much more character driven that it suggests. Great review, and I really hope you enjoy your next book much more!
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  8. says

    Woah Aentee, I definitely didn’t expect this coming into this review seeing as everyone has raved about it! There seem to be so many books like this lately, that are more ‘light fantasy’ rather than something we really crave. It seems like there’s lots of cliches here that one would definitely find frustrating! Great review though, and thanks for the honesty!
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  9. says


    I’m not a huge fan of the whole “there are no limits to magic” as well, because then there are no rules? And then basically ANYTHING can happen without any explanation. And that side plot shriveled and died, which is sad because I thought the buildup was pretty good. But then it was resolved in maybe 2 seconds? So yeah, sad. Also agree that the setting was wonderful though!
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