Review: The Crown’s Game

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  • Release Date: May 17th, 2016
  • Author: Evelyn Skye
  • Website: http://www.evelynskye.com/the-crowns-game/
  • ISBN: 9780062422583

This review was originally written in January, 2016, after receiving and advanced reader’s copy.

Review:

I’ve been eager to get my hands on the advanced copy of this title for some time now. Evelyn Skye is a local author, a delightful host of many of our YA events, and a lovely person.

That said, a good heart doesn’t guarantee a great writer. I was cautious about The Crown’s Game even though the premise tugged at all the parts of me that loved fairy tales and The Night Circus and the animated film Anastasia. My coworkers who had already read it had spoken highly of it, but I wanted to see for myself.

I cracked it open when I got home from my closing shift around 10:30pm. Four hours later, at a bit past 2:30am, my roommates were sleepily asking if I planned to turn off the living room lamp and go to bed any time soon. It was, after all, a work night.

I did, but reluctantly. I was enthralled. I woke before my alarm the next morning and toddled out to finish the book over my coffee, which was quickly forgotten.

The story follows a fiery young enchanter named Vika and her counterpart, the reserved and gentlemanly Nikolai, as they are drawn against their will into a deadly contest to decide which of them shall become the next Imperial Enchanter of Russia. Neither can afford to lose: only the winner is allowed to survive the Crown’s Game. But, because all the best 19th-century stories are about forbidden love, Nikolai begins to fall for Vika — as does his best friend, the future tsar, Pasha.

Now, I don’t typically like romance, especially not in YA. The mention of a love triangle put me on guard immediately. Triangles are too often a source of cheap interpersonal drama to liven up dull characters, usually at the expense of whatever interesting motivations or traits they had in the first place. So, naturally, I was pleasantly surprised when I found my heart racing at each new spark of attraction that flew between the characters. Skye found the golden ratio between making the characters individuals and developing their group dynamic, and she doesn’t pull her punches.

My favorite aspect of the novel, though, was the world it inhabited. Setting is hard to pull off: I’ve read too many historical novels that drown the reader in details of a cityscape and forget to let them come up for air through a plot. Not so here. At every turn, I felt I was walking the streets of Saint Petersburg in 1825, but I never felt disconnected from the story. The characters inhabited their world as if it were a living, breathing thing, so as a reader, I could, too.

And the magic. Oh, my word, the magic. Perhaps not as eerie as the circus acts in The Night Circus, but every ounce as lush and opulent and marvelous as the Russian court it is meant to impress.

In short, this is an engrossing, charming novel with the bones of a bestseller. It strikes the perfect balance between historical fiction, fantasy, and romance, and I highly encourage fans of any of those genres to mark their calendars for the release date.

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