Release Date: May 17th 2016
Series: The Crown's Game #1
Genres: Action & Adventure, Fantasy & Magic, General, Love & Romance, Young Adult
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.
“There’s no escaping death. Either I’ll be defeated and therefore die,
or I’ll triumph but live with the guilt of sentencing the girl to the end.
There is no such thing as a winner in the Game.”
The characters lack depth.
There are a wide variety of characters in THE CROWN’S GAME, but unfortunately, I couldn’t connect to any of them. Vika and Nikolai are both enchanters fighting to be the only one of their kind and serve the Tsar of Russia. Besides Vika being refreshingly bold and confident, something that is a little uncommon in YA fantasy, there isn’t much else to her. There are a few attempts at adding a little more depth to Nikolai, but they fell flat and were not fully developed. Character development is also depressingly absent, and the romance borders on insta-love. There was also an unnecessary love triangle that, in my opinion, was only added to create more angst.
It has no punch.
There wasn’t anything that really stood out to me about it, there was no real substance or WOW moment. The stakes never felt super high despite this being a game revolving around death as a consequence for failure. This aspect is a little hard to explain but I guess I would say there was nothing super memorable about this book.
The potential was there, but fizzled out.
However, I could feel what THE CROWN’S GAME could have been between the lines of each page. The bones are great: Imperial Russia, a magic duel to the death, a forbidden romance, war on the horizon, and secrets threatening to topple the empire? It sounds epic. THE CROWN’S GAME was sadly only a shadow of all that. There were some additional plotlines that came into play that I was excited about but they just sort of…burnt out and faded away. I’m not sure if they are being saved until the sequel or just cast off.
A bittersweet plot that follows through.
What I do have to give props for (besides the pacing, a 400 page book never felt so short) is that THE CROWN’S GAME makes no secret that the Game is one that can only lead to an unfortunate end for one enchanter. I loved that there was no miracle cure or way around this fact because I always appreciate an author who isn’t afraid to make big moves like this. However, View Spoiler »Since there is a sequel (which I honestly see no need for, this book is more meaningful on its own) I doubt this decision is concrete and a loophole will most likely be found. « Hide Spoiler
Better alternatives are available.
If you are looking for similar books, some of my all time favorite novels revolve around the concept of THE CROWN’S GAME, at least in some way. I would recommend THE NIGHT CIRCUS and A DARKER SHADE OF MAGIC. Still, THE CROWN’S GAME is not a bad book, just one that could have been much better.