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.
***I received the ARC ebook from the publisher HarperCollins through Edelweiss in exchange for an honest review***
Wow. First can we take a second to admire the cover, then the synopsis, and now the story... It’s all amazing! This quote taken from Pasha’s perspective fits perfectly:
“This was the sort of book one ought to read in pieces, to properly appreciate and savour each bit. And yet he wanted to devour it whole. Messily and all at once.”
The Crown’s Game idea itself originally caught my eye, making me desperate to have the book in my hands. A high stakes, magical fight to the death? Yes please! It didn’t turn out exactly as expected, the focus on impressing the Tsar with their talents more than killing the opponent in an all-out arena style dual. It created a lot less tension (and worry for the characters, both a relief and shame), slowing down the pace, however it also kept me interested in what the enchanters would do for their next turn and the interactions between.
Nikolai (intelligent, fashionable, swoonworthy) and Pasha (naïve, free-willed, adventurous), Enchanter One (regretfully so) and the Tsar’s Heir (even more regretfully so) stole my heart. I really enjoyed seeing their easy-going relationship and it’s something I would have preferred to see more of. In fact, I’d take the bromance over the romance! Especially because there was a love triangle that steered eerily close to being two rounds of insta-love. One aspect I don’t mind, the other makes me want to tear my hair out (take a guess which is which *glares at insta-love*). Meanwhile Vika (determined, fierce, stereotypical?) remained oblivious to it all.
There’s no doubt in my mind that the setting stole the show. Set in Russia 1825, extensive research and wild imagination combined to build a world that felt incredibly real. I was dawn in and then immersed before I realised that the delicious food didn’t exist in my life and I had to go find some (probably my only real problem with the book!)
It’s left a lasting impression, much as the ending has for different reasons. I may have found it a little lacklustre and predictable even after hearing other people say the opposite, but I’m still excited for book 2 and the direction events hint towards it going in. Something I know for sure, the world waiting will be waiting in all its splendour and I look forward to jumping back in.
For now, with descriptive writing the epitome of stunning, that captivates from start to finish, The Crown’s Game is not to be missed. Especially for fans of the Grisha Trilogy or any fantasy!
Before I’ve found myself glad that characters have not truly ‘died’ yet I’m starting to doubt if that is the case here… Nikolai would come back to a girl that may not love him and a friend that practically sentenced him to death! I see no welcoming party and sue me if I can’t stand the idea of seeing him hurting. Right now, I love Pasha and understand things aren’t his fault but perhaps I have a wicked soul because I was glad to see him guilt-ridden.
“I hearby swear my loyalty to the tsar,
And promise to abide by the rules of the Game,
A duel of enchantment, until a winner is declared.
To this and all traditions here before established, I commit myself
As an enchanter in the Crown’s Game.”