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!