Winner Takes All: The Crown’s Game

IMG_5728“The smell of sugar and yeast welcomed Vika even before she stepped into the pumpkin-shaped shop on the main street of their little town.”

I started this book because of a Twitter readalong group created by Brittany of brittanybookrambles. The premise sounded interesting, and I like discussing books with other people, so I figured, “Why not?” I borrowed the book, sat down to read our assigned pages, and fell in love. I tried to stop reading so that I wouldn’t accidentally spoil the book for others, but I just couldn’t. Evelyn had me holding my breath until the very last page, since she had so many twists and turns!

Vika Andreyeva is an enchantress with an affinity for nature magic, while Nikolai Karimov is a master of mechanical enchantments. With rebellion threatening the Ottoman Empire, the tsar desparately needs a Royal Enchanter. Thus, the Crown’s Game is enacted: a duel of magical abilities. The victor will win much glory and respect, and the loser will be executed, for only one can have full access to the stores of Russia’s magic. As the competition progresses, more and more secrets are revealed, until no one is truly safe anymore.

I’ve heard some people say that the beginning of the book was a bit slow, which I can understand. However, I personally liked the initial pace. I’m a huge fanatic of Russian culture (which is due mainly to my Russian ballet teachers), so I loved that there was time to really soak in the atmosphere and setting of the book. And there certainly was a lot to soak in: from the breathtaking enchantments to the gorgeous balls and gowns to the delicious pastries! I even loved savoring the names of the characters. I mean, names like Vika, Nikolai, Renata, Pasha, Ludmila, or Yuliana? What’s not to like? I felt that their names actually portrayed their characters. Vika had a playful yet wild quality to her, Nikolai was mysterious but quietly confident, and Pasha was rebellious despite his heritage. Finally, I really enjoyed having a high fantasy genre take place in a historical setting, and I think they blended together nicely. Once the pace of the book picked up, so did the pace of the surprising revelations. There were so many unexpected moments, and I found myself saying, “Oh, damn” out loud a lot. Even the ending was unexpected, making it bittersweet. I found myself smiling, despite the tears in my eyes.

With all of these lovely aspects in mind, it is not difficult to see why Evelyn Skye’s The Crown’s Game debuted as #3 on the New York Times Young Adult Hardcover list! This book is phenomenal, especially for a debut book, and I can’t wait to read the sequel.

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