The Crown's Game by Evelyn Skye
Published June 2016 by Harper Collins
Source: the publisher
Rating: 4 stars
From the blurb: 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.
The Crown's Game is Evelyn Skye's debut novel and from the outset I was utterly captivated. Sometimes I read negative reviews of a book and I let them put me off reading it, but I am so glad I gave this a chance. I started out skeptically wondering why, if the tsar needed an enchanter so badly, wouldn't he choose to use both of them? But of course the author had an answer for my ridiculous notion and after that I was completely sold.
Vika Andreyeva is sixteen and has grown up on Ovchinin Island, with her father, Sergei, a Baron. They're isolated from the Russian aristocracy and it's here Vika hones her magical skills. Her strength lies in controlling the weather and elements such as water and fire. Eighteen year old Nikolai Karimov was an orphan taken in by Galina, a countess. His power lies in the mechanics of things, he's good at creating objects that move, as well as putting things together. Seventeen year old Pacha is the tsesarevich, the tsar's son. He has little interest in becoming tsar or attending to any official business. He enjoys hanging out with his best friend, Nikolai, and sneaking away from his guards, dressed as a regular citizen of St Petersburg.
Knowing the three main characters were going to be thrown together, I was prepared for a love triangle, but it never truly formed. While each of the boys liked Vika, I believe she only had eyes for Nikolai, and these feelings took time to evolve, in both directions. Pasha was the only one to fall in love instantly, and perhaps this is because he was constantly on the look our a distraction from his life.
The game itself was not what I was expecting, I thought the enchanters would have to duel it out, attacking each other, but in this case, the tsar suggests they use their turns in the game to enchant the city in honour of Pasha's upcoming birthday. There were some beautiful descriptions of what Vika and Nikolai chose to create, each more imaginative than the last.
There were a few characters I was unsure of such as Pasha's sister, Yuliana. She seemed quite sinister and I was sure she was up to something, only to find she remained more of a background character - perhaps there'll be more of her in the sequel. And Aizhana really surprised me, I didn't see the twist coming at all.
The Crown's Game is beautiful, magical, captivating, and clever. I was utterly enchanted and completely surprised when I found myself heartbroken and in tears at the end.
Thank you to Harper Collins for my review copy.