The Crown's Game: Review

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With the second book in the series making its way through Instagram feeds, I prioritized The Crown's Game by Evelyn Skye high up on my TBR list. I knew almost nothing about the book before I started, except that it was based on Russian folk lore and culture, and the title seemed to imply a political chess match. It was a bit of that, a little angsty romance, and a whole lot of magic. Want to know what I thought? This is a SPOILER-FREE review!

As with all of my book reviews, I'm going to give you a basic spoiler-free summary of the book to help set the scene. Set in 1940s Russia, where the world's magic is slipping away due to a rise in religious fanaticism, we meet two people who are practicing their magic. One is a fiery-headed girl named Vika, who practices commanding the forces of nature on a deserted island with her father. The other is a well-mannered young man in the heart of the Russian empire named Nikolai, who is brilliant at manipulating and creating tangible things. Both of these enchanters come from mysterious circumstances but one thing is certain: they were each groomed to become the Imperial Enchanter and advise the tsar on all matters. Only one problem though- there's only room for one Imperial Enchanter, and The Crown's Game will determine who that lucky person is.

It's certainly an interesting premise, a situation that is easy to wrap your mind around. And I say "easy," being a voracious fantasy reader, because there have certainly been more complicated conflicts before. At its core, this is a story of two young Russians who have been taught to use their immense powers for good. They now have to deal with the morality of killing the other using this magic. The two Enchanters are interesting enough, and I actually begin to empathize with them as the game progresses.

But however exciting Vika and Nikolai are, they're unfortunately supported by a cast of characters that are one-dimensional- the conniving younger princess, the dashing heir to the throne, and the servant whose love can never be reciprocated. The magic that they conjure up during the game also falls flat for me. For two people whose magic is derived from a wellspring of lore, I expected showier displays. We learn what Vika and Nikolai are capable of within the first few pages of the book, so my expectations were extremely high for how they would top that when their lives actually depended on it. Another missed opportunity, I thought, was the play on an altered contemporary reality. Other Imperial Enchanters have existed, and Vika goes as far as to comment at one point, "I can just steal magic from Morocco." To me, that seems like a random geographical choice. Are there only select countries who have Imperial Enchanters? How does that play into global affairs? Is Morocco in this world geographically closer to Russia? Hopefully, our understanding of the implications of The Crown's Game are expanded in the next books by Evelyn Skye.

I rate The Crown's Game 3/5 stars !

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