Review: The Crown’s Game by Evelyn Skye

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Title: The Crown’s Game (The Crown’s Game #1)
Author : Evelyn Skye
Genre : Young Adult, Fantasy
Publication Date : May 17th, 2016
Publisher : Balzer+Bray
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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 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.


“For the winner of the game, there would be unimaginable power. For the defeated, desolate oblivion. The Crown’s Game was not one to lose.”

The Crown’s Game isn’t The Hunger Games, and it isn’t Shadow & Bone.  Guys, it’s so much better than both.  The Crown’s Game brings to life a time rarely explored in YA—tsarist Russia—and it does so in a way that makes you never want to leave.  The book is lush with Russian culture and way of life, and flows with the magic that is unique to its world.  As an added bonus, the characters of the book, the things they’ve experienced and the places they’ve been to feel like your own, their very lives feel like your own, and if there’s anything that you, as a reader, deserve to experience at least once in your lifetime, then it is this.

As I’m sure you’ve read in the synopsis, The Crown’s Game, initiated by the Tsar, is a duel between Enchanters to prove their magical skills.  The winner becomes the personal advisor of the Tsar, his counsel, his confidante.  The loser of the Game faces death.  And of the two Enchanters, Nikolai Karimov is the first.  Nikolai is an orphan boy, trained by his mentor Galina, and with the unique ability to build anything out of thin air.  The first time he is introduced in the book, his challenge is to rearrange a few misplaced books in a library.  From outside the library.  The Crown’s Game is Nikolai’s sole opportunity to leave his tyrant mentor behind and become something other than the poor orphan he has always been.  By his skills, it is clear to see that Nikolai is a tough competitor and a skilled Enchanter, and by his heart, his goodness is as bright as the sun.  A lot about Nikolai is revealed in the book, some good some bad, but actions are what truly make a man, and Nikolai is made of love and generosity.

I’d like to believe that Vika Andreyev is based on a real life inspiration to Evelyn Skye, because we truly need women like Vika in our society.  Vika’s skills as Enchanter were related to the elements.  She can build fires, and create water walls, and freeze boys who spy on her.  She is focused and dedicated to her cause of becoming the Imperial Enchanter, but she is sensitive and doesn’t run over anyone or anything trying to get there.  Vika has a mischievous streak, and it shows in her each and every move in the Game.  Her skills are unparalleled, and she is not afraid of making a lasting impression on the Tsar.  I personally loved each and every part of Vika’s moves in the Game, and this is why she is probably my favourite Enchanter!

The third part of the puzzle is Pasha, the crown-prince of the Empire.  Pasha is the best friend of Nikolai, and their friendship is one of the lightest parts of the book.  Their banter is everything, and their love and camaraderie shows in their every action.  What’s more is that Pasha doesn’t want to be Tsar—not now, not ever—and he tries to live his days like as much of a peasant as he can.  He is truly a master of disguise, and the fact that the Tsar’s Guard is forever unable to locate him when he is away on one of his “adventure” is brilliant and amazing!  Pasha is often the pawn subject to pressure both from his father and his sister, and it is quite a surprise that he is able to remain as happy and smiling as he does.

With both Nikolai and Pasha falling for the beautiful Vika, (who really has zero fucks to give about the boys) it is clear that the end of the Game will not be any sort of a happily-ever-after for everyone involved.  I’m going to leave the basics of the Game for you to find out when you read the book yourself, reader, but know this: The Crown’s Game, as brilliant and spell-binding as it may seem, is not a happy one.  It is a Game where circumstances make you choose between sacrificing your humanity or sacrificing your life, and once one starts to go down that road, it is a slippery slope.  There are other characters in the story, points of humour and family, but once the Game begins, everyone is hopelessly entangled in it, and the only way for it to end is for one of the two Enchanters to win.  And for the other to die.

“This was the sort of book one ought to read in pieces, to properly appreciate and savor each bit.  And yet he wanted to devour it whole.  Messily and all at once.”

I’ve quoted from the book, and it is a beautiful quote, but I assure you, reader, that your experience with The Crown’s Game will be of the “all at once” sort.  The book is beautiful, and I’m only half talking about its cover.  The writing is so rich, so full of twists and turns, bursting with the gift of an author who knows exactly the effect she’s having on the reader.  Evelyn Skye has not only written what can easily be named an internet-breaking masterpiece, but also a book that, for me, is the best debut we have seen so far in 2016.  There wasn’t one thing I didn’t love about the book, and I’m such a nitpicky reader, so this is huge.  I love that I get all my favourite things all in one book (royalty, magic, a #womancrushforever, dessert, an author I love) and I can’t ever stop Evelyn Skye for making that real for me!



7 thoughts on “Review: The Crown’s Game by Evelyn Skye

  1. Joey @ thoughts and afterthoughts says:

    I’ll admit that I went into the book thinking the competition was akin to some Russian fight-to-the-death Hunger Games — and then was sadly disappointed when it wasn’t even that. It’s that grey area that was missing for me (because the story could have actually ended on page 166 (?) re “second move”). But I’m really happy you enjoyed it and I do like the parallels you drew between Vika and Skye – I never thought of it that way!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Rhea says:

      Thank you! I’d say–having not read THG, only seen the movies–that I was expecting the Grisha-verse fiasco all over again. You know how that went down for me. But this book was very different–thank God–and so much better. Of course, I went back after your comment and re-read bits and pieces, and you may be right…? No complains, though, I reallllllly loved this book ❤


  2. MyBookJacket says:

    This has been ALL over my timeline and I’m actually not interested in picking it up because of the hype. But your review makes it sound interesting! Haven’t seen Russia feature much (except in Russian fairy tales and well that’s got Russian in the title itself!) this feels like one of our mythology challenges but with kings and snow. Loved the review Rhea.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Rhea says:

    Thank you! I do hope you end up picking the book up eventually–it really is pretty neat, if I say so myself 😀 The setting of Tsarist Russia was one of my main reasons to read this one! Such a unique and unexplored time in YA! I love your mini-pitch: Challenges but with Kings and snow!


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