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The Crown's Game Hardcover – May 17, 2016
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From School Library Journal
Gr 8 Up-In an alternate 19th-century Russia, the tsar can call upon the abilities of an enchanter. Normally, only one exists at a time. In the rare case that two are born, they must compete, because Russia's inherent magic will allow only one to remain alive. Vika is an expert at controlling the elements and has been training her whole life to serve her country, unaware that another enchanter exists. Nikolai, best friend to the tsar's son, Pasha, who does not know of Nikolai's ability, has been training with his mentor explicitly for the Crown's Game. When the game begins, Vika and Nikolai take turns showing off their magical prowess for the tsar, creating wonders that get more powerful with each turn. Friendships, budding romances, and betrayal among Nikolai, Vika, and Pasha make the stakes even higher in a Game that will cost Nikolai or Vika their life. The forefront of this speculative fiction title, the action-packed, magical duel, is set against the backdrop of a richly detailed world. It is not surprising that Pasha and Nikolai fall for Vika, though Vika's pragmatism stops anything from developing. The book ends with one winner remaining, but the final sentence hints that the loser has not disappeared forever. Readers will eagerly await the next installment. VERDICT A blend of Erin Morgenstern's The Night Circus (Doubleday, 2011) and Leigh Bardugo's Shadow and Bone (Holt, 2012), this work will make a solid addition to young adult collections.-Marissa Lieberman, East Orange Public Library, NJα(c) Copyright 2011. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
“Wildly romantic, wholly immersive, and gloriously over-the-top.” (Kirkus Reviews (starred review))
“Readers will eagerly await the next installment.” (School Library Journal)
“Skye skillfully incorporates Russian history, detailed and intriguing backstories for all protagonists, and inventive feats of magic by the two young enchanters…[in this] delightfully engaging romance.” (Booklist Online)
“The Crown’s Game is a captivating tale that deftly transports readers to a mysterious and fascinating fantasy world, one teeming with hidden magic and fiery romance.” (Sabaa Tahir, #1 New York Times bestselling author of An Ember in the Ashes)
“Utterly enchanting. The true wizardry is in the atmosphere—Skye crafts a Russia of magic and elegance, depicting St. Petersburg in such a breath-taking way that you’ll swear you’re standing on the banks of the Neva and dancing through the halls of the Winter Palace.” (Sara Raasch, author of the Snow LIke Ashes trilogy)
“Gorgeous and richly imagined, The Crown’s Game is a dazzling exploration of the choices we make when faced with impossible situations and our darker selves. Readers will fall unabashedly in love with this novel.” (Sara Grochowski, Brilliant Books)
“It was beautiful. It was terrible. I loved it.” (Hafsah Faizal, Icey Books)
“The Night Circus meets Cinderella in an alternate Russia. This extraordinary world has everything from insanely creative acts of magic, political intrigue, hope against all odds, romance, and oh-such-high-stakes-non-stop action. It is hands-down honest-to-goodness brilliant. Bravo.” (Angela Mann, Keplers Books)
Top customer reviews
Things I loved:
*The impressive magic used during the book
*Nikolai because of his overall story. I love his origin, once you get there. I love his casual friendship with Pasha. I love his conflicting emotions.
Things I did not love:
*The "Love" triangle/s. It's one thing to have a love triangle in a story and feel the connections as a reader, but I felt nothing. It was a stretch. And Renata should have been in the book more in some way. She was one of the more interesting, yet underdeveloped characters.
*Vika. I tried to like her but there wasn't a lot to really draw me in to her. I liked Sergei more than her and he's hardly in the book.
*The general lack of character development. I've read the book and I really don't know much about the majority of characters.
*The ending. I know things will work out in some form in the next book but just ugh. It's frustrating and I'm kind of pissed.
Let's start with the good:
Solid. For the most part.
Now, I am probably biased from my own studies in Russia, but this world is fantastic! The author definitely put to use her experiences and studies of Russian culture and history. Instantly, I felt like I was transported back in time to Imperial Russia and I loved it! She really knows how to capture the atmosphere of St. Petersburg. However, I feel like the world was wasted with such a plot.
Which leads me to the bad:
I was promised an "ancient duel of magical skill". I was expecting magical duels. I wanted magical duels. So wtf? Where was my magical duel?????
The magical aspect of this story was lacking so much that it hindered the plot. The majority of the magic used was little tricks the characters did to make their daily lives easier. For such a beautiful and enchanting place Russia is, there didn't seem to be any magic in the air....
But, damn, there was so much 'love' in the air I was beginning to suffocate. It seems like the plot wanted to be all about a deadly, magical duel between two riveting and young enchanters. But, the plot changed its mind very quickly and turned into a story following two boring and dramatic enchanters who fell in love at first sight. Oh, but wait. This is YA, so there needs to be more tension....let's throw in a love triangle! Don't get me wrong, sometimes a love triangle works and adds depth to a story and characterization. This one was just unbelievable. Can we just clarify: because it's YA, doesn't mean it needs a bloody love triangle! There are far more ways to create tension.
I don't have much to say. They all had potential in the beginning. Vika was strong willed and stubborn. Nikolai was mysterious and dark. Pasha was entertaining and charming. Then, they all got poked in the ass by the tip of the 'love triangle syndrome', and everything went downhill from there.
One thing that I started to see towards the end was the portrayal of youth being forced. At many times, the characters didn't seem like genuine teenagers, especially when it came to the feeling of love.
I have to be honest and say I started skipping chunks of descriptions and scenes after I reached 70%. Around 80%, the plot actually started to get interesting (excluding all the stupid forced romance.) There were twists that I was not really surprised by but were still pleasing. The ending seemed a bit rushed, though. Also the story felt like it was trying to be very dramatic as people started dropping dead like flies. Some of the deaths would have moved me, if I actually cared. But, I didn't. None of the characters made me care enough.
Will I be reading the sequel? No.
Have I given up on Evelyn Skye? Not yet.
Not much real action in this one and the closest thing to a real fight is a couple of bumps in a bar. The magic itself is pretty weak as well in that it is all cosmetic rather than part of the actual story. There is meant to be angst between the main characters but it really only seems real in the lesser characters. The biggest issue I had was these powerful magicians were afraid of the Tsar for no apparent reason. The ending is weak though predictable and has been done better in other books.
The writing itself is very "fairy story" like and the book would probably be a good bedtime story to read to your kids. If you have a strong issue in Russia you may find the book more enjoyable than I did. It seems a little Steampunky at first but that is just the time setting and the top hats. Can't really recommend it other than as something to read to the kids.