Published by Balzer + Bray on May 17th 2016
Genres: Young Adult, Fantasy
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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 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.
Two enchanting opponents, each with their unique powers pitted against a stunning Russian backdrop – what’s not to love about The Crown’s Game? Apparently a lot, judging from my initial comedown after finishing the book.
There was a lot I did enjoy about the book – the interactions between Nikolai and Vika, historical look at Saint Petersburg and Russian royalty, and the incredible displays of magic orchestrated as part of The Crown’s Game. The magical atmosphere and the romance developing between the challengers reminded me of The Night Circus which I also loved.
My favourite part of the book is the magic, which is a key feature of the book. Nikolai’s power is to enchant objects and things, while Vika’s is to command the weather. Although these powers are hardly unique, the execution of them will gradually evolve into a fanfare, each more spectacular than the last. From an enchanted box, to lifelike dreams, to healing and apparating, there’s nothing that these enchanters can’t do. When pitted against each other, you never know what to expect when you turn the pages when it’s their next move.
The Crown’s Game itself was also interesting, where both characters must compete to the death in their position to advise the tsar. It’s not something that hasn’t been done before, but I still enjoyed it with the magic and the Russian backdrop. I wish there was more background and build up to the Game though, as it felt as the characters were thrust into it quite quickly and without much contention that you would expect from a battle to the death.
I was a bit wary about the romance though, as Nikolai and Vika become interested in each other through their challenges of magic. It soon changes from trying to kill each other to who could be more compassionate, which happened too quickly. These two characters only meet each other a few times before declaring that they love each other. I also wasn’t a fan of the slight love square (thankfully it was quite one-sided) and how it all went down towards the end of the book.
Were they enemies fighting in a duel? Or were they friends making up for lost time? She didn’t know whether to protect herself or open up to him.
I liked how there was more to their lives than the romance and magic though, with the secondary relationships fleshing out their characters. Nikolai is best friend’s with the tsar’s heir Pasha, and they have a budding (and slightly competitive) bromance. He also interacts with his maid friend Renata and his mentor Galina, although I wish there was more interaction there. Vika on the other hand, has a close relationship with her father who supports her in the Game, and her bread shop owner friend Lumila. These people shape who the characters were, which was important as I found both of their personalities kind of bland and tropey – Nikolai as the orphan who becomes ‘special’, and Vika as the beguiling enchantress.
Pasha as the tsar’s heir was quite entertaining to read about – he’s spoilt and only knows a life of opulence, but he also has a rebellious streak to him. Pasha regularly disguises himself and escapes to explore the city as a commoner, which is how he befriended Nikolai. While I don’t think it’s realistic that his guards would turn the other eye so often, it was fun hearing about his disguises and his struggle between being treated like royalty and a commoner. You could really understand Pasha’s struggle as his humility and kindness is constantly frowned upon by his cold and noble sister and father, who are pretty much made to rule.
The wonderful Russian backdrop and the vivid imagery of magic were the parts of The Crown’s Game that I really enjoyed. There were however, lots of plot holes that needed developing, such as the origin of The Crown’s Game, where magic came from, character development and the romance. An enjoyable read, but not one without its flaws.
Rating: 3.5 out of 5
Thanks to HarperCollins Australia for sending me a review copy, in exchange for an honest review!
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Hmm, this one isn't on my TBR, and I'm not entirely sure it will make it there, either. When I saw it on EW, I was contemplating requesting it, but eventually decided not to because I didn't like the sound of the love triangle. If the romance had been between Nikolai and Pasha, I would have requested it in a heartbeat *laughs*
I'm glad you were able to enjoy it overall, Jeann, even though you had a few problems with it. Hopefully the information you wanted will come with the next book!
Lovely review as always <3
Fair enough Chiara, I actually really enjoyed it and there isn\’t too much of a love triangle thankfully. Yeah, I loved it when I was reading but sometimes these things come out in reviews you know? Thank you <3
Hmmmmm…. I'm still not sure whether or not to read this book! It looks super interesting, and I've heard SOME positive reviews, but most people say it's terrible. *shrugs*
Yup, your review basically sums up my feeling pretty much.Loved the Russian backdrop but the romance was a little awkward. I did like Pasha too!
Great review, Jeann.
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I KNOW it reminded me of Night Circus, like come on guys have some ambition? Anyway, I really liked it even though the romance was meh!
I actually quite liked it though too while I was reading it! It wasn't until I sat down and reviewed it when I thought I could poke holes through it though. I will definitely read the next one!
But maybe those few times they met were …. magical. *snort* I have this but set it aside. I got excited when you mentioned The Night Circus, though, it's one of my favorites. I think I'll continue to hold off on reading it, at least until the second book it out.
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Yeah, it reminded me a lot of Night Circus actually Christy! I loved that book and had the same issue with it – the romance lol. I think you might like this one though!
Glad you liked this one, I never got it because the cover was so off putting and I'm not a huge fantasy fan. But i'm glad you liked it. It sounds good but I don't know if this is my kind of book.
Fair enough Nereyda, it\’s not for everyone but I\’m a huge fantasy fan hehe.
I have been very interested in this one. I have not read any books set in Russia and I am very interested in that history. The romance doesn't sound great, but it still sounds enjoyable. I am glad you enjoyed this one.
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Thanks Cynthia, it definitely had some interesting historical elements but I still see it as mainly a fantasy.
I love the setting! Maybe the sequel will be more polished, the plot and other characteristics of the book sounds great.
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Me too, I'm actually really looking forward to the sequel!
I do like stories about Russian history and for some reason, I've always acquainted it to magic. Sorry it wasn't enough to win you over, though.
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I still really enjoyed it Joy, I love the magical setting! I do recommend giving it a shot if you're keen hehe.
After the reviews started pouring in for this one, I had to holdout because I wasn't sure if I wanted to buy it. I added it to my "library shelf", because I don't know if it will be for me, and at least I won't have to pay for it. I can see me liking the magic system and the setting, but I'm wary of the characters actions. Thanks for sharing!
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No problems Lekeisha, I actually really enjoyed it while I was reading it but it wasn't until I had to sit down and critically analyse it when the issues with the characters and romance came out though. I hope you give it a shot!
I'm really intrigued with this one. It seems like a mix of the Grisha and the Night Circus, and I love both books. I also love reading about bromance, so I think I would love this book 😀
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Yessss if you love both of those books, this one will be totally up your alley Tasya! Thanks for commenting!
This one sounds really interesting! I've heard some good things about it – and a Russian background?? SIGN ME UP! The magic sounds really cool, and ahh – I can't wait to get my hands on it! 😀 Glad you thought it was a pretty good read – hopefully the issues in this book are addressed in the next book?
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I loved the magical Russian background and the setting, it was really intriguing! Yeah, I'm hoping it will be addressed in the next book, it was a good debut to begin with 🙂
I've been curious about this one because of the Russian backdrop and I do love books with lots of magic. The romance sounds interesting too though the mention of that love square is a little scary. I always worry that the sequels will have triangles then!
Anyways, I'll have to give it a try for sure now.
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I actually think you might like this one Nick! I'm looking forward to reading your review for it! (I miss your blog so much, I've been somewhat preoccupied lately)