There need to be more books set in Russia. It’s such an interesting setting and it just doesn’t get enough credit. Srsly. Luckily, Evelyn Skye has attempted to change up the status quo by giving us The Crown’s Game, a romantic fantasy that’s a great read if you don’t think about it too much
The Basic Premise:
Vika Andreyeva can control the elements and bend nature to her will. Nikolai Karimov can create illusions without parallel and create intricate machines using only his mind. Both are powerful enchanters in their own right, but there can only be one enchanter in Russia for it to continue to be a strong country, so the Tsar calls for the Crown’s Game–an ancient magical duel where only one enchanter can leave alive.
The Characters, Plot, Setting, and other Important Book Things:
Going into this, I thought this was a fantasy book first and a romance book second. That is not the case. It is a fluffy romance book first and foremost. It’s all passionate glances and tingly feelings. That being said, it’s an enjoyable fantasy book as well, if for no other reason than the magic feels fresh and different with its Russian flair. And the romance isn’t nauseating, since it’s balanced out by the cat-and-mouse feel of The Crown’s Game.
If you can accept the premise of the book (there can only be one enchanter in Russia, dangit!) at face value and because it must be true because everyone in the book says it, the plot is fine. Further contemplation makes this premise feel rather plot-device-y, but if you just smile and nod and say “sure, only one enchanter. Makes perfect sense” the rest of the plot works just fine. If you have problems with that first premise, nothing else will sit well and it won’t be as enjoyable. So…just accept it.
The characters are fun, though Nikolai veers a little to the trope-y side. Vika is a wild, outspoken girl from the woods. She’s self-confident without being annoying (and mostly isn’t very bratty) while Nikolai is a brooding (but deeply attractive and socially suave) orphan-turned-high-society-gentleman. Whenever they meet, sparks fly and then they spend the next two scenes trying to figure out if it was a genuine feeling or if the other person is manipulating them so they can win the Game. I feel it should be noted that as a romance, I don’t feel there is anything inappropriate in this book that would prevent younger teens from reading it.
In my opinion, the best part of this book are all the descriptions of the duels. Unlike any other book or movie with a duel, this duel is done in turns by performing feats of magic. And, for the most part, the feats performed are ones to make Russia/St. Petersburg more beautiful. Do they solve the endemic problem of hunger amongst the poor? No. It’s more…creating life-size, life-like dolls that perform intricate ballet. Shallow things. But…it was so beautiful to read the descriptions.
Also, it was really nice to read about magic being non-destructive. Or just a fight that ends up being not a fight, but a way to create something beautiful. Sometimes life can be really ugly, and it’s important for books to show that. But sometimes it’s also nice to read about beautiful things too and people using powers to create items or situations that inspire wonder and awe instead of fear and despair. Power/magical abilities in books aren’t used enough like that, and it was really refreshing to see a book spend so much time with magic that wasn’t being used to murder people.
Originally, I was going to give this book 4 stars because i just enjoyed it so much, but the longer I thought about it the more I realized that the plot spinning was just not where I wanted it to be, which is unfortunate. However, those who loved The Selection series or are looking for a fluffy, fantasy-based romance should definitely read this book.
The Rating: 3.5 stars