In this fantastical re-imagining of Russian history, Evelyn Skye places two potential Imperial Enchanters, Nikolai and Vika. Mentored from childhood, both magicians must now compete in The Crown’s Game, and find out who will become the Tsar’s Enchanter, and who will lose more than just the game.
Skye has created a historically fantastical version of The Night Circus. I’ve seen the book referred to as such on some other blogs, and called it as much when I posted my review on Litsy. There are even Shakespeare references, though none so obvious as Prospero the Enchanter, or Miranda.
Nevertheless, the strength of the book does not depend on allusions to Shakespeare. Nikolai, Vikochka (Vika), Sergei, and Galina are richly drawn characters, as are the siblings who are heir to the throne of Russia, Yuliana and Pavel. Interestingly, the brother-sister relationship between Sergei and Galina mirrors that of the relationship between Yuliana and Pavel (Pasha) in terms of the differences in characteristics between brother and sister.
Ludmila and Renata, friends of Vika and Nikolai respectively, are there to support the magical duo as they weave their magic through Saint Petersburg in an attempt to win the favor of the Tsar, and the title of Imperial Enchanter.
Unbeknownst to either of them, danger approaches from afar and from Nikolai’s past, and it will skew the balance of the game in a way no one expects.
I loved Skye’s beautifully-imagined setting, and I especially loved the gorgeous feats of magic she wrote into being for the Enchanters. The tension between the two characters was real, and intimate in a way that can only happen when Vika and Nikolai are quite literally the only two people alive with magical capabilities, and when they are fighting for their lives. The tension in the friendship between Pasha and Nikolai was real as well, and I can imagine many readers shipping the two of them. Being friends with the Tsesarevich of Russia has its perks for Nikolai, and Pasha is a wily, witty character all on his own. I enjoyed their friendship and their banter, as well as Pasha’s role in the novel and as a part of The Game itself.
I did at first question the shadowy figure from Nikolai’s past, but she too was necessary for the story as it needed to be told: Aizhana, though a relatively minor character for most of the book, affects the outcome in ways I didn’t expect, and she definitely upset the balance of the world of the book.
Fans of The Night Circus, Leigh Bardugo’s Grisha trilogy and Six of Crows, and other magical fantasy novels will love Skye’s novel.
Perfect for fans of Shadow and Bone and Red Queen, The Crown’s Game is a thrilling and atmospheric historical fantasy set in Imperial Russia about two teenagers who must compete for the right to become the Imperial Enchanter—or die in the process—from debut author Evelyn Skye.
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.