Saturday, 16 April 2016

Review: The Crown's Game by Evelyn Skye

Title: The Crown's Game (The Crown's Game #1)
Author: Evelyn Skye
Release date: May 17th 2016
Publisher: Balzer + Bray
Genre: Young Adult Fantasy
Format: eARC
Pages: 339

Source: Edelweiss

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.

Aaaahhh, this book! I'm still not over how amazing it is. It was even better than what I expected, which is saying something because I already had high expectations based on the premise and synopsis. Also, this beauty is Evelyn Skye's debut novel, which blows my mind! I'm so, so impressed by this.

The Crown's Game is set in 19th century Russia. I'm quite fascinated by Russian history, and though most of my knowledge is from around and after the Bolshevik Revolution, it's clear that several aspects of this book are historically accurate. Reading this made me feel like I was right there in Imperial Russia! The writing is phenomenal, and the descriptions beautiful. I haven't read any YA books so deeply embedded in Russian history, so I really loved this one.

Vika is an enchanter-in-training, living with her father on a small island away from the city. Vika has been told by her father her whole life that she will one day become the Imperial Enchanter, and so she needs to be strong enough to protect the tsar. But her life is turned upside down when she discovers that there is, in fact, another enchanter. It is exceedingly rare to have two in the same generation, but Vika and Nikolai are both enchanters prepared to do whatever it takes to become the Imperial Enchanter. They have to take part in the Crown's Game, a series of magical battles ending with the death of one enchanter, thereby declaring a winner. But can either of the young enchanters actually find it in them to kill the other? Well, it doesn't really matter because they don't have a choice.

I have so much to say about this book. But I'll start with the characters. I adored all three of them! Vika is easy to like, and she's powerful as hell. I loved seeing her perform her magic to impress the tsar. She's wild and bold and quite terrifying at times, but she can also be kind and gentle, and she cares so much for her father and the people she's grown up around.

Nikolai was another fantastic character. The book is told in third person and we get his perspective too, thankfully. He, unlike Vika, has known that there was another enchanter, and so he's more prepared. But his power is different from Vika's, and he has to learn to use his strengths against hers. Nikolai was difficult to figure out at first - he's kind of an enigma. We get to know more about him later on, though, and I'm now fascinated by him. He begins to fall for Vika soon into the Game, and it was heartbreaking to see him torn between his feelings for her and his desire to win the Game.

I was surprised by how quickly the two of them got with the program regarding the Game - the competition as well as the trying to kill the opponent thing. Vika especially - she didn't seem like the type to do that. The two of them have five turns, and with each turn (at least in the beginning), they would attempt to get rid of the other. It was amusing, in a sense, but also kind of weird because the darkness didn't feel like part of their characters. But I loved that we got to see them use magic, and also exactly how they used it. In so many YA fantasies, the plots are focused on the journey or the romance or politics of some sort, and that bothers me because it's fantasy, can we please see some magic? Well, in this book, we see magic - lots of it! It's incredible, and I just drank it all in.

Another very important character I forgot to mention - Pasha! He's the tsarevich, the heir to the throne. And also Nikolai's best friend. The two of them hang out in the city at night (Pasha having snuck out of the palace in disguise), and they share everything. Well, almost everything. Pasha has no idea about the Game or that Nikolai is an enchanter, but they both know Vika and they both fall for her. I really loved Pasha, especially midway through the book. He's sweet and kind and adventurous, and I loved that he's nothing like his father or his sister. Also, I sympathized with him a lot, since his father and his best friend are hiding something so big from him, and even Vika is involved, but Pasha's kept in the dark. I won't say any more about him, because spoilers. I really really want to, though! Sigh.

There are so many twists and turns and shocks in this book! I almost couldn't keep up. I had no idea when any of them would pop up, so this really was a roller coaster of a book. The Game was intense, and there are things happening outside the game as well that are huge. And then there's the constant conflicting feelings between Vika and Nikolai. Romance isn't a big part of the plot - in fact, it's barely existent. But there's definitely romantic tension, and don't worry - no love triangle. Not in my eyes, anyway. Vika and Nikolai are clearly drawn to one another, and not just because of their magic. It's interesting to see how that worked out considering they're pitted against each other from the moment they officially met.

Okay I'll stop now, but let me tell you this - if you miss out on reading this book, you will regret it. I promise you that. The Crown's Game is one of my favourite YA books not just this year, but ever. And though that cruel, cruel cliffhanger of an ending just about killed me, I still urge everyone to read it. Evelyn Skye has done a fantastic job with this book, and I'm already desperate to get the sequel in my hands.

*Thank you to HarperCollins for providing me with an eARC for review*

Rating: 5/5

2 comments:

  1. I'm glad you liked this book so much! I could see the appeal but ultimately, several factors brought my rating down. The love triangle being the biggest one. I am looking forward to reading the conclusion though!

    Great review, Richa. =)

    Alyssa @ The Eater of Books!

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  2. But.. but.. sobs. I had to DNF this one :( But ahh, so glad you ended up loving it Richa :D Such a lovely review. So happy you weren't disappointed, like I was :) Thank you for sharing sweetie. <3

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