Disclaimer: I received a free copy via Edelweiss for review purposes.
The Crown’s Game was one of my highly anticipated releases for 2016, and whilst I didn’t end up hating it, it was certainly more of a disappointment that I expected. The Crown’s Gameis a book I would recommend for fans of magical realism, and for fans of The Night Circus, though beware there are strong similarities. If you can overlook those, you might enjoy this.
Vika and Nikolai are enchanters – the only two in Russia. In a time of heightened military struggle between the Ottomans and the Russian Empire, the Tsar needs an enchanter by his side. The problem is, he needs only one enchanter, and so he initiates an ancient duel called The Crown’s Game, where the two enchanters will be pitted against one another, and the winner will become the Imperial Enchanter…the other will perish.
The Crown’s Game is historical fantasy, set in Russia. I don’t know much about Russian history, but Evelyn Skye states in her authors note that she studied Russia in college, so I’ll assume she’s well versed in Russian history and culture. (I’ve seen some Russian reviewers say the same, too). This was my favourite part of the book; Skye devoted a lot of detail to Russian architecture, setting and atmosphere, and thus it feels authentic.
The characters and romance were…not my favourite part. Vika was probably my favourite, and I thought she was fierce and powerful. As for Nikolai…I was not too impressed, but as the story progressed he did grow on me; he’s quite intelligent, and calm, which I guess is nice. Pasha, the Tsarevich of Russia, offers a bit of light-heartedness, but his romance with Vika detracts from his characterization. Actually, the romance and love triangle in general detracted from the plot, and it was also very under-developed, so I couldn’t really root for either of them – though I’m leaning more towards Vika and Nikolai (if I decide to pick up the sequel, that it). Even without it, this “deadly duel” felt tame.
I was hoping for a lot more action, grittiness and fighting, which is what the blurb hints at. Instead we got a lot of painting buildings, making rivers dance, and puppet shows. This was the biggest let down. Nonetheless, the story is still magical and the Russian atmosphere certainly makes up for it.
There are strong similarities to The Night Circus, I won’t deny it, and it kind of pales in comparison. But if you can get past that, this is a pretty decent historical fantasy.
RATING: ★★★☆☆ (3.5)