The Crown’s Game by Evelyn Skye

The Crown's GameInformation

Goodreads: The Crown’s Game
Series: The Crown’s Game #1
Source: Library
Published: May 17, 2016

Official Summary

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.


The Crown’s Game has a fascinating premise: two enchanters must duel to the death to determine who will be the next royal enchanter and adviser to the tsar.  Yet a complicated duel becomes even messier when each of the participants decide they don’t want the other one to die.  With undertones of The Night Circus and other beautifully magical books, The Crown’s Game seemed destined to become one of my new favorite books.  Unfortunately, I didn’t connect with the characters, and much of the plot doesn’t make sense, so The Crown’s Game actually was one of my biggest letdowns of 2016.

Possibly one of the most difficult things for an author to achieve is making readers care about their characters, and it’s certainly something Skye struggles with.  Of course I feel bad that Vika or Nikolai is destined to die, but it’s the type of “feeling bad” I’d have for any person in a sad situation.  I did not care about them, or any of the characters,  as individuals.  I’m not entirely sure what Skye could have done to fix this, though I think showing readers more of what was at stake for the characters might have helped.  Of course nobody wants to die, but beyond that, what matters to these characters? What do they lose if they die?  If Skye had shown me more of what makes the characters tick or what they wanted to achieve in life, or shown me who would have been absolutely devastated if they lost and died, I might have cared more.  I needed to feel there would be some emptiness or unfulfilled potential if one of these characters died.

The plot was somewhat more exciting than the characters, but some of it doesn’t quite make sense, and the pacing is off.  There are really two strains of plot going on, and Skye didn’t quite reconcile them.  The book wants to be dire and epic and deep, but it gets sidetracked by frivolous magic and flights of fancy.  And, honestly, if the book had simply embraced frivolity, I think I could have really enjoyed it.

[Slight spoilers this paragraph.] Ostensibly Vika and Nikolai are dueling to the death. Their goal: impress the tsar with their magic and show him they have what it takes to be a royal advisor and also lead a upcoming war.  What do they with their magic instead? Decorate St. Petersburg.  Now, the book goes out of its way to assure readers that Vika and Nikolai are performing stunning, complex, difficult magic, that it takes enormous strength and power and concentration to do something like paint all the houses on a square or make a water fountain in a river.  So, sure, I’ll buy that.  However, this takes place in a world where 1) few people believe in or know anything about magic and 2) the tsar started the Crown’s Game because he fears a looming war.  So 1) probably no one knows whether painting some houses is complex magic or not and 2) it definitely doesn’t have an immediate use in war.  Of course, the book also has to come up with lots of convoluted explanations to help the plot make sense (i.e. no one believes in magic, so the competitors can’t do anything too dangerous or scary). However, this is still stupid because they could have just gone somewhere more isolated, and I think there’s still a way to demonstrate you have warlike abilities that would be more effective than making magical puff pastries.  The enchanters’ training exercises that nobody saw were more to the point than the things they choose to do during the actual competition.

In terms of pacing, the book starts out slowly then goes on a mad dash at the end, complete with the classic “overdone drama between two characters motivated by a seemingly insignificant ‘event.'” I was not really a fan. The book then ends suddenly and kind of assumes readers will be on board for the next one, but I don’t think I will be.

Usually I give 2 stars to books I actively dislike, but I’m giving 2 here instead of 3 mostly because I was just so bored the entire time I was reading it.  I also considered DNF-ing several times, which is also a criterion I use to give lower ratings.  There’s a lot of potential in The Crown’s Game, but it has a bit of an identity crisis over whether it wants to be a book about beautiful magic or a book about war and danger and deceit.  I would have loved a more frivolous take on this, I think, a book that just gloried in aesthetic magic and making St. Petersburg beautiful.  I didn’t really buy all the dire additions to the plot, however.  This was one of my most anticipated reads of 2016, so I’m quite sad I felt so let down.

2 stars Briana

16 thoughts on “The Crown’s Game by Evelyn Skye

  1. Lauren @ Wonderless Reviews says:

    Ah, sorry this one let you down!! That’s the worst. I haven’t read it yet, but I’ve seen a ton of reviews similar to this which is a shame because it seemed like such an interesting concept with a lot of potential! Great review!


    • Briana says:

      I saw a lot of disappointed reviews, too, and it played a large part in my decision to put off purchasing the book at its release. I only picked it up because I eventually saw it at the library and though “Why not?” I was really excited for it with all the hype before publication, so I was really sad I didn’t think it made much sense.


  2. TeacherofYA says:

    Sorry about the letdown. I’ve been hearing it a lot about this book. This book never interested me, and that was (surprisingly) based on the cover alone. I didn’t feel the cover-love, so I skipped it. I wasn’t drawn to it. When people all over started reading it, I wondered if it was going to be awesome. But it seems to be the consensus that it’s not. So I’m glad I steered clear.
    Nice honest review! Five stars for you!!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Briana says:

      Haha, thanks!

      I actually really loved the cover. I can totally be sucked in by a city that’s made of a crown! But, yeah, I think the book really needed to make a decision about whether it was going to be lighthearted or dark, not try to do both.

      Liked by 1 person

      • TeacherofYA says:

        Yeah. Book that can’t make up its mind what it wants to be…I know that problem. Just read a “NA Paranormal/Fantasy,” and I’d call it an erotic novel. Apparently she threw in some zombies and said, “yeah, this will make it appeal to more people.” Ick.

        Liked by 1 person

  3. Bailey @ Fictional Fox says:

    Completely agreed in my review. I was really excited about this. I speak Russian and lived in Moscow for a year so I was super excited for this. But I hated it. The premise was way more interesting than the book itself.


    • Briana says:

      I know very little about Russia, but I saw some people familiar with the country who didn’t think it was the best representation of it. I have no idea about that, but the plot was definitley not a high point for me.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Bailey @ Fictional Fox says:

        Yes, I definitely do not feel the book was a great representation of Russia. Unfortunately, it seems to me that in popular media, books and film alike, Russians are either portrayed as villains or are westernized. I’d say the later in the case of this book. And trust me, most Russians would be about as impressed with the painting of the streets of St. Petersburg as you and I were haha


  4. luvtoread says:

    Great, honest review! I had heard a lot about this book before it came out, and it sounded really fabulous. But now all the reviews are coming out, and like you said, so many have been disappointed by the book.
    I think I will still read The Crown’s Game, as the premise does sound fun and interesting, but I’ll wait until I find it somewhere super cheap, or like you, read a library copy. I’m not racing out to buy it now that’s for sure!


    • Briana says:

      Yes, I was going to purchase it around release or even pre-order. and the reviews really put me off. it wasn’t the worst thing I’ve read, but I am glad I ended up not purchasing it.

      Liked by 1 person

  5. kimmiegg says:

    This definitely did sound like a promising book, and the beginning of the review was very intriguing. It’s too bad that the book itself was not as you expected…


  6. Read Diverse Books says:

    I was somewhat hyped for this book before its release because the premise does sound great, but then the ARC reviews started coming. And I mean the real ARC reviews, not the really early ones on Goodreads that seem almost like sponsored content. That’s when I started to get a little worried that it would be a disappointment, and to hear it’s one of the biggest letdowns of 2016 kind of convinced me not to read this book at all. At least not any time soon.

    Let’s hope this is the kind of series that gets better as it progresses, but book 1 may not encourage many people to return for seconds.


    • Briana says:

      In retrospect, I think it just seemed flat and inconsistent. There are definitely books I dislike a lot more, but I wanted to love this and didn’t. 😦


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