The Crown's Game by Evelyn Skye
Publisher: Balzer + Bray
Publication Date: May 17, 2016
Genres: Young Adult, Fantasy, Romance
Pages: 399
Format: e-ARC
Source: Edelweiss

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.

Quick Thoughts and Rating: 3 stars! The Crown’s Game was one of my most anticipated reads of the year, and I was so sad when it didn’t live up to the expectations I had built for it in my head. While the magic involved was fanciful and the setting was grandiose, the slow pacing and quick romance were enough to pull down my rating.

♥ Review: I’m in a rough patch book-wise, I suppose. This is the third or fourth book in a row that I’ve read that was accompanied with a three stars or less rating. I keep reading in hopes that I’ll find that one amazing book that will completely wow me out of this blasted funk, but unfortunately for me and this review, The Crown’s Game isn’t going to be that special one.

After I finished reading last night, I scrolled through a few reviews to see if anyone had noticed something that I did, and I found that, in fact, many people had made the very same observation. This book reminded me so much of The Night Circus by Erin Morgensten, so it’s no coincidence that I rated them the exact same for very similar reasons. (You can find my review for that book here.) For me, the magic was whimsical and I couldn’t wait to see what the opponent’s next move and creation would be. It was the highest point of the book for me. The author touched on all my senses, especially the visual aspect as she brought each trick to life on the page and in my mind. I was in awe.

But with that awe, also came the down-time between those moments of grandeur. This book read extremely slow for me even though I finished it within a few hours. I was tempted to skim whole sections just because I didn’t feel like the pace was moving at all. Furthermore, this book is written in third and follows several characters throughout. While I liked a majority of the people introduced for the most part, some more than others, all the skipping around between their narratives without any real rhyme or reason not only made it more difficult to connect with them on a personal level, but it was sometimes jarring enough that it took me out of the story completely. I would have loved if it would’ve focused more on Vika and Nikolai,  maybe extended out to Pasha. However, I can see why the author chose to add in the other perspectives, it just didn’t work for me, personally.

Then there’s the romance—the love triangle, or quadrilateral? It was more definitive toward the end with the “appropriate” pair professing their love, but it was a long path to get to that destination. Yet, if I’m being completely honest, I didn’t feel the love between any of the pairings, except maybe I believed that Pasha and Renata. Their feelings came through in more than just their confessions, unfortunately neither person landed with the person their heart belonged to. Furthermore, when these characters fell for someone, it was hard and fast. Meeting to instantly “I may love this beautiful person.” It was pretty hard for me to get on board with, even if the end game was do or death.

The ending also left me a little confused, like, why introduce some of those other components if you were just going to kill that person off? (I’m being purposely vague to keep from spoiling.) However, upon further reflection, perchance it was deliberate to thread this book into the next, and ultimately it was something that I could accept. Perhaps it even intrigued me enough to give the second book a go, though I know I won’t be moving it to the top of my TBR pile once it becomes available. Overall, I wanted to love this beyond words, but I was left slightly underwhelmed.

♥ Teaser Quote:

     “Repeat after me,” the tsar said to both Nikolai and Vika as he read from the Russe Scroll.
     “I hereby 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.”
-quote taken from the eARC of The Crown’s Game at 22%

Book Rating Breakdown
General Book Feels

♥ Rec It? Possibly. Generally, when I find a book that I feel good enough about, but not too confident (aka “Middle of the Road”) in recommending it, there’s typically other readers that will love it exponentially more than I did and some that will probably end up not liking it all. So, it’s hard to give it a blanket “read this book” recommendation. With that being said, if other reviews or the summary entice you enough, I’d say read sample chapters before you buy or wait until it’s on sale or borrow from a library/friend.

♥ A very special thanks to Balzer + Bray and Edelweiss for providing me with an advanced copy of this title.

*Disclaimer: An eARC of these title was provided by the publisher via Edelweiss in exchange for an honest review. However, that did not influence this review in any way. All thoughts, quotes, and opinions will be of this version and not of the published edition.

Full of giggles, flails, snark and Southern endearments. Avid Reader. Lover of swoony boys, kickass heroines, yummy kissing scenes, and pretty prose.

I like to draw hearts in the sky (eternal optimist) and wish on stars (forever dreamer). Documentaries, sweet tea, sleep, and brightly colored knee-socks are a few of my favorite things. ♥

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