Review: “The Crown’s Game” by Evelyn Skye

A review by Amanda.

Vika and Nikolai do not know that the other exists, but they have been training for the same job for most of their young lives. They are enchanters living in Russia, and each expects to one day serve as the Imperial Enchanter for the tsar. Their magic is a nature-based gift shared among all who have magical talent, drawn from one communal source. In order for the Imperial Enchanter to do their job well, he or she will need to draw on more than their fair share of the magic to become the most powerful magic user in the realm. Vika and Nikolai will have to compete in the Crown’s Game to prove which one is the most powerful and thus the most deserving of working for the tsar. The catch? Whoever loses the duel must die, no exceptions. Upon their death, the magic will return to the well for the newly appointed Imperial Enchanter to access when needed.

Enchanters engaged in the Crown’s Game are expected to be cold and ruthless, willing to do whatever it takes to win. Nikolai is an orphan, sold to his ambitious magical mentor as a child. His best friend is Pasha, the eldest son of the tsar, and next in line to the throne. Nikolai will do whatever he can to elevate his status above the poverty line, to have freedom and security. Vika has been trained in secret by her father. She loves the power that her magic gives her and has the ambition to back it up. She chafes at the limits her father has given her, impatient to put her abilities to work for the good of Russia. Neither Nikolai or Vika knows what’s truly in store for them, and neither expects to feel anything besides animosity for the other.

The Crown’s Game entwined historical events with magical storytelling in a beautiful fashion. Nikolai, Vika, and Pasha all felt extraordinarily real, like people one might have met before. The reader was given enough insight into each character’s mind to understand their individual motivations, as well as how and why they perceived each other in certain ways. The explanation of magic’s existence was simple and practical, as was the reason for the necessity of death in the Game. Romance occurred organically and added a layer of complexity and tension to the otherwise straightforward plot. The descriptions of St Petersburg and other cities draw the reader in and offer a sense of familiarity. I sincerely hope that this book is merely the first in a captivating series with these people and places.

My rating: 5/5 stars.

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