I was fortunate enough to read an ARC of The Crown’s Game by Evelyn Skye after winning a blogoversary giveaway from the Book Addict’s Guide (Thanks Brittany!). I was so stoked because this book has been on my radar for a long time and there is just something so awesome about reading a book before it officially comes out. It was released on May 17.
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.
I remember seeing one of the snippets on the back of the book proclaiming, “It was beautiful! It was terrible! I loved it!” and I couldn’t help but think what a weird thing to say about a book. However, after finishing this novel, I totally agree. It was beautiful. It was terrible. This bittersweet debut is gut-wrenching and I didn’t know whether to be grateful or angry about the way the book made me feel.
This story is set in an alternative history Russia, and I don’t know anything about Russia other than what I’ve learned from watching the news and reruns of Anastasia, but the author made me feel like I was really there. The world-building was so great. The writing was descriptive and beautifully detailed.
The magic in this book was interesting. Based on the premise, I was expecting deadly magical duels like a male/female version of a Harry Potter/Voldemort showdown, but that isn’t what happens at all. Each enchanter creates both beauty and malevolence as they compete for the top spot. I found their “turns” to be underwhelming at times and overdone at others. It never really hit the right balance for me until the end.
Now, this book is truly terrible in the heart-breaking, what-the-hell-just-happened ending. It will be like a car accident, where everything is fine and then WHAM! I’m probably still in shock at that ending. With shock comes a lack of feeling and that’s what I feel for this book. I’m numb. I know the writing was beautiful. The setting was spectacular and the story was unique and vivid. However, I don’t know if I loved it, liked it, or hated it. I think only the sequel can provide a redeeming quality and bring my true feelings to the surface. I’ll have to wait and see.