on May 17th 2016
Genres: Fantasy & Magic, Magical Realism, YA
Source: ARC borrowed thru Around the World ARC Tours
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.
~ There’s a blurb that this book is a cross between the Night Circus and Shadow and Bone. I have a love/hate relationship when books are compared to a cross between two other books- usually because it sets my expectations way too high. It kind of works here though. It does have shades of Night Circus, because it is a magic contest between a man and a woman, but Skye isn’t trying to copy Morgenstern’s fairytale like writing, and while the magical realism set in Russia is reminiscent of Shadow and Bone, it’s very different. I do think if you like both the Night Circus and Shadow and Bone then you’ll probably like The Crown’s Game.
~ Vika is a strong female from the get go. This book is full of strong female characters (okay, Galina is evil, but she’s undeniably kick ass). Ludmilla and Yuliana and Renata- they all get to have real strengths and aren’t just background characters. I loved that. They were far from perfect though (like Vika burning through all that energy).
~ Magic!! I loved the magic in this book. Like the tents in The Night Circus, the things Vika and Nikolai create are stunning, especially when they play off one another. Unlike Marco and Celia though, they are dueling on a much deadlier playing field.
~ the book takes place in the 1800’s in Russia and it’s a mix of fiction and reality. I had to Google on occasion, just to see what was real and what wasn’t. Apparently my knowledge of Russian history is appalling if there isn’t a Disney movie about it.
~ I loved that the magic that the enchanters draw upon is the magic of Russia itself. Although, I think it was a bit strange that there couldn’t be more than one royal enchanter- I get it, the magic is stronger if it’s contained in one person, but if the two work in tandem… but then I guess there wouldn’t be much of a book. 😉
~ Love triangle? How about love squared? Pasha and Nikolai are enchanted (haha) with Vika, and she definitely is attracted to Nikolai (but you know, she still wants him to die) and then there’s Renata- she loves Nikolai even though she doesn’t have a real chance with him. But even though there’s all this romance, the focus of the book is on the magic contest, which I appreciated. Vika and Nikolai got shiz done, they didn’t just mope around like Danny Zeko stranded at the drive-in (branded a fool).
~ I’m not going to lie, I teared up a few places in this book. I’m not heartless, people!
~ The one thing, or really the one character, that kept this from being a 5 star OMG You Have To Read This Now book is whole Aizhana story line. She would just pop up during the oddest time, and I feel like if she’d spoken to a particular character earlier than things might have turned out differently. I know it’s magical realism, which is something I love, but her character just didn’t work for me.
~ Incroyable is my new favorite word.
~ The ending!!! It’s not a cliff hanger but… I need book 2 out now. Yes, before book 1 is published. That’s not really unreasonable of me. If Ms. Skye isn’t done with it yet, than I’ll gladly accept weekly chapters of it emailed to me. 😉
Vika- strong, independent with a wild streak (okay, it’s actually a streak of black hair in her red hair, still counts).
Baron Sergei Mikhailovich Andreyev- Vika’s father- he’s been training her since birth to be the Imperial Enchanter.
Ludmilla- owns and runs the Cinderella Bakery and is a mother figure to Vika. I want her baked goods so bad.
Nikolai- orphan and enchanter- he’s aware of Vika long before she knows there’s another enchanter in Russia. He’s besties with the crowned prince, but he’s not arrogant about it (his good looks? Yeah, he’s a bit of a charmer).
Countess Galina Zakrevsky- Nikolai’s mentor and benefactor since finding him at the age of 7. She is so not mommy material. I couldn’t not picture her like the Countess in Sound of Music. Stop being mean to Julie Andrews!
Pavel Alexandrovich Romanov- Pasha to his friends and loved ones, he’s the crown prince of Russia, but he’s not particularly excited about his future responsibility.
Yuliana Romanov- Pasha’s younger sister who is super pissed she’s not the first born male, has the brains and the lack of sentimentality that she thinks a Russia Tsar needs to succeed.
Renata- a servant of Galina’s and friend to Nikolai, she also reads tea leaves.
Aizhana- emerges from under the earth after being in a state between life and death for almost 20 years. No, really.
Poslannik- an adorable albino rat and spy.
Tsar Alexander and Tsarina Elizabeth- he’s the somewhat douchey ruler and she’s his long suffering (and plain old illness suffering) wife.
There were a lot- but Nikolai’s benches were truly magical. And while I didn’t care for Aizhana’s character, I loved discovering how she was connected to the main players.
Stop the Clock:
The Crown’s Game made for a very good read- I love magical realism and this one was almost pitch perfect. You can feel The Night Circus’s influence in the plot, but it’s not a copy, Skye incorporates her love of Russian mythology and history in away that is unique and lovely. I went in with some reservations- I read it right around the time Cassandra Clare’s latest charge of plagiarism was leveled, so I might have been sensitive to the comparisons between TNC and The Crown’s Game, so I was relieved that it wasn’t a rip off.
The Crown’s Game gets a Midnight Book rating of: