Series: The Crown's Game #1
Written by: Evelyn Skye
Published: May 17, 2016 by Balthazar + Bray (HarperCollins)
(Amazon / Goodreads)
Synopsis: 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.
It's always great when a book you have been excited to read for a long time meets your expectation. That's exactly what happened to me for The Crown's Game.
Before I go any further on this review I just want to say how I listened to the audiobook and that I loved it so much! I mean how could I not, it's narrated by Steve West who is one of my all-time favorite narrators. His voice and manner of speech lulls you into the world and magic of the book. Not to mention that each character had a distinct and different accent and way of speaking which helped develop them in an interesting way. I usually don't love books that are heavily accented and to be honest when someone does a Russian accent I almost always hate it, but Steve West did it well. Plus it was just the perfect style of read for the audio format. The rich and descriptive detail made for something so engaging. I honestly couldn't stop listening. If you like audiobooks check this one out.
Okay, onto the real review.
The first thing that struck me about this book is the magical system. I usually like my magic to have clear rules and guidelines but here it was a free for all. If you can do magic, you can do basically anything. The quote being "imagine, and it can be. There are no limits." But somehow that worked. You never knew what to expect and what the characters were capable of so you kept being surprised. The possibilities made for so many fantastical and creative moments. And then the Game made the stakes higher as the book went on. The characters had to try and out do one another so the magic got even more impressive and interesting towards the end. If you are looking for fantasy read with a lot magic without rules then you will definitely enjoy this one.
But I also really liked the world of this book. It's a reimagined Imperial Russia, which is not something totally revolutionary, especially for YA fantasies, but is something that I love and really enjoyed about this book. I've always been such a Russophile so I couldn't wait to explore that in a fantasy setting. The Crown's Game is a case where the world-building was subtle. But as a warning, if you enjoy fantasy with a lot of political intrigue, history, and exploration of an interesting new world you will not find that here. I think in future books they may explore the larger world more but here the setting is just that, a location for the story to take place. But I kind of liked that. It didn't get bogged down with a lot of confusing detail and needless conflicts (although to be fair it did have it's moments for that). But I might be a little biased because it's one of my favorite places to inspire a high fantasy world on.
As far as the characters go, it took awhile for me to really connect with them, especially Vika. Because this is a book where all magic is possible the main characters of Vika and Nikolai did feel a little overpowered and almost unstoppable. And the focus on the magic made for less characterization, but that's not really a dealbreaker for me. At times the characters did feel a little tropey, especially when it came to the romance which was a bit of a love triangle, but I'm so used to not liking the romance that I honestly block it out through most of my reading. Plus this is the kind of book that has a lot of perspective, so many in fact that I lost count. And while I could keep them straight because of the different accents in the audio it was difficult at first to fully connect with any of the characters completely. But as the book went on and I saw them interact with each other I started connecting with them and being torn about who I wanted to succeed.
Probably the most surprising thing for me however was how I liked the plot despite that it not really feeling very specific. Most of the book revolved around the Game which, while being high stakes, didn't seem to have a clear progression from scene to scene. It was really all about just doing magic and out doing one another to win. But I liked the magic so much that I didn't mind. That is until about 2/3rds of the book when a perspective which seemed to not really connect, was brought into the main story and secrets began to be revealed. And then in the end I felt like it did build to a thrilling ending that resolved everything and still left it open for future books. And I honestly cannot wait for more books. When I was finished I had that feeling of satisfaction at how good this was and the desire for more. That to me is the mark of a good read.
On the whole I really like The Crown's Game. I thought it was an interesting and engaging YA fantasy. It had a fantastic magical system despite a lack of rules, characters that grew on me as the book went on, and an engaging plot. And the audio is absolutely amazing!
I give The Crown's Game by Evelyn Skye 9.5 out of 10 stars
Have you read The Crown's Game? What did you think? Leave me a comment with your thoughts. Thanks for stopping by and HAPPY READING!