Guest Review: The Crown's Game by Evelyn Skye

Tuesday, May 24, 2016
Why I chose this book:
Hello readers! I am guest posting for the lovely Amanda over the upcoming book The Crown’s Game. I picked up this arc because I have been in awe of Russian history since I was in junior high, and having read the first two books in the firebird trilogy recently, I was enamored with it all over again. It’s also being heralded as one of the fantasy breakouts of the year so I’m kind of thinking it could be the next Red Queen in terms of popularity.

The Crown's Game by Evelyn Skye
Publisher: Balzer + Bray
Release Date: May 17th, 2016
Genre: Young Adult, Historical Fiction, Fantasy
Amazon  ||  B&N  ||  Book Depository

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. (Goodreads)

My Bookish Thoughts:
The first thing you need to understand about this book is not only is it a fantasy, but it is also a historical fiction. Credit should be given to Ms. Skye (who holds a bachelors from Stanford’s Slavic Languages department) who seamlessly weaves Russian fact with her mythical world. Most remarkable in this aspect is that she uses the Russian language in her book in such a way that it lends itself to the story instead of distracting from it. The research is well done and if you’re someone like me who likes to nitpick (my bachelors is in history) you will be hard pressed to find places in this book where you can do so.

As far as the book its’ self this is definitely a slow burn for the first one hundred and fifty pages so you really have to stick with it. This mythical environment in a real world is almost even more difficult to set up than a completely made up one because you can’t just make up a protocol or a rule or explain away an inconsistency as easily, because of this the set up takes some time. This is certainly more Red Queen than it is Throne of Glass in writing style in the beginning, but there is a pivotal moment where you will not want to stop reading. So before I get into the nuts and bolts I boil it down to this: if you need to be grabbed immediately this book may not be for you, but if you can wait and take the time it is certainly worth it.

The book follows two enchanters who have led very different lives. Vika lives with her father in a village far away from city life, while Nikolai lives in the city with a woman who took him in when he was an orphan, and has become very well entrenched in the life of an aristocrat. They both have different forms of magic, which to me is one of the books most interesting components.

Vika uses a very elemental magic, one that lends her to work better with bigger picture items, while Nikolai uses a mechanical magic that allows him to construct his magical plans piece by piece. It is very similar to one of DC comic’s iconic characters the Green Lantern. For those of you who don’t know there are multiple different Green Lanterns who all have the same power, but they each approach it very differently, this leads to an oftentimes-similar end result with a dissimilar method of getting there. This allows the reader to easily compare and contrast the two main characters magics and personalities, but also that of their mentors (Vika’s father and the woman who took Nikolai in).

The two protagonists have both been preparing to become the Imperial Enchanter, someone who uses magic for the Tsar of Russia, but they do no know that each other exist. This leads to The Crown’s Game a battle to the death where the winner will become the imperial enchanter. For me This is a very usual scenario that is very fresh in its presentation in this book.

The love triangle (or really triangles as there are a couple different one’s going on) is interesting but not overdone and very accurate for people who are in a historical setting of a royal court. This book might leave some disappointed who want the immediate satisfaction gleaned by Sara J. Maas or Susan Dennard (which I love) but one has to remember this is trying to be a historical fiction and as such takes into account the patriarchal undertones of the time regarding female sexuality. This is deftly maneuvered by Skye who also weaves messages of consent throughout the narrative something that is often missing from steamy romances in both teen and adult literature. 

Final Thoughts:
I really enjoyed the book but I do understand it won’t be for everybody. I want to note that I like this book but am placing a lot of my hope in its sequel, which won’t get so bogged down by all of the world building that had to be done in this book. No word on how many books this is set to be (I’d put my money on three maybe four tops) but they look promising and the book ends on a cliffhanger that keeps you very invested.

I gave this book 3.5 stars.

Tess is an all around nerd with serious addictions for YA Fantasy, comic books, Funko Pop, Star Wars, and superhero movies and TV shows. When not working at the library, you can normally find her working on a puzzle or playing tabletop games.

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