Genre: Young Adult, Historical, Fantasy Publication.Date May 17th 2016 Pages: 416 Published By: Balzer+Bray Author Evelyn Skye The Crown's Game on Goodreads My review copy: Received from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.
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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.
How did dirt cling to a shadow, when the shadow wasn't really there?
She wondered what would happen if she put his hat on her head. Even just in her hands, his hat - his power - warmed her, like mulled cider on a winter's day.
The gleam in her eyes was one part gloat and ninety-nine parts mischief.
She was a diamond in a quarry full of quartz.
She was the sun, and he was a mere rock, drawn in by her gravity.
A deadly magical duel, a star-crossed love story and a richly imagined, dazzling historical backdrop - these are just three of many things that The Crown's Game has going for it. I fell in love with this book much like Hazel Grace fell in love with Augustus:"slowly, and then all at once."
If I am to be honest, while I thoroughly enjoyed the plot and Evelyn Skye's captivating writing style right from the very beginning, the brilliance of this book didn't hit me until the last 60 pages or so. Until that point, The Crown's Game was a perfectly satisfying, gorgeously imagined and highly entertaining read. And I was happy with that! Moreover, I was actually very pleased with the way Evelyn handled certain plot points and how she balanced the historical part of the story with the fantasy part of it. But then things started happening and the plot got even more tense, more heart-pounding, more jaw-dropping! And I found myself literally inhaling the last 60-or-so pages. I wouldn't call the ending a typical cliff-hanger (at least, not the kind of cliffhanger we get in, say, dystopian novels), but it was still an ending that shattered my heart and gave me hope both at the same time. I am now counting down the days until the second book (and the last one at the same time, as this is a duology) will be released! I. Can. Not. Wait.
But let me back up a bit and discuss the plot of this wonderful gem of a book.
Vika Andreyeva and Nikolai Karimov are both powerful and extremely talented enchanters. Vika can control the elements, summon animals and turn ash into gold while Nikolai's magic is more of the practical kind - he can conjure things - from clothing to magnificent bridges - and he's naturally good with mechanisms, clockworks etc. Their talents are very different and they would both be assets to the Tsar. Unfortunately, there can only be one Imperial Enchanter in the kingdom. Moreover, to ensure the magic of the Imperial Enchanter is at its full power, the other Enchanter has to die.
And so the Tsar is forced to initiate The Crown's Game - an ancient magical duel that will determine who is the more powerful of the two Enchanters. The winner will become the Imperial Enchanter, the looser will die.
I must say, I was very impressed with the logistics of the Crown's Game. Evelyn Skye has thought about everything and didn't leave us with any plot holes we could poke at. Upon entering the duel, the Enchanters are branded with a magical mark that ensures neither of them tries to run and hide. They really have no choice, if they refuse to take their turn in the duel or if they take too long doing it, the mark will burn painfully and eventually set them on fire. I don't want to spoil anything for those of you who are yet to read this book, so I won't be discussing all that in detail, but you should know that Evelyn did a very thorough job with the backdrop of the story, as well as the plot details. As fantastic and imaginative the story is, it is also very believable.
I'm not too fond of this story being compared to The Grisha series, because I feel that this is a completely different brand of Russian-inspired fantasy. The Crown's Game isn't as dark and gritty, though it definitely has its dark and brutal moments. The tone of the book, however, doesnt feel as heavy and eerie. For the most part, The Crown's Game is just incredibly beautiful and spellbinding.
The cast of characters is versatile and very interesting, there's a lot of depth and some hidden messages (or maybe not hidden exactly, but underlying and universal) about loyalty, staying true to yourself, sacrifice and doing what's right. There are also many unexpected plot twists that you will never see coming and some genuinely heartbreaking moments. Overall, The Crown's Game is all that it promises to be, and more. This is definitely a personal favorite of mine (I love stories based in Russia that incorporate actual historical facts and events) and I can't wait to find out what happens next. I need more Vika, Nikolai and Pasha in my life.
About the author
Evelyn Skye was once offered a job by the C.I.A., she not-so-secretly wishes she was on "So You Think You Can Dance," and if you challenge her to a pizza-eating contest, she guarantees she will win. When she isn't writing, Evelyn can be found chasing her daughter on the playground or sitting on the couch, immersed in a good book and eating way too many cookies. THE CROWN'S GAME is her first novel. Evelyn can be found online atwww.evelynskye.com and on Twitter @EvelynSkyeYA.
Pre-order links and info: http://www.evelynskye.com/pre-order/
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