Release date: May 17th 2016
The Crown’s Game is an ancient dual that showcases magical skill – this time between two teenagers, Vika and Nikolai. Vika, a girl from the small island of Ovchinin, is eager to prove herself and show her skills while Nikolai, an orphan, wants to show he belongs. One will succeed to be the Imperial Enchanter and one will die. Vika and Nikolai never imagined having to compete in such a dual, or that they might have to kill someone in order to become the Enchanter. No one else knows what it’s like to have magic and they find that they’re drawn to each other. Things get complicated when Vika catches the attention of Pasha, Nikolai’s best friend and the heir to the throne. With each round, the stakes get higher and it becomes clear that losing the Crown’s Game is not an option.
This book was high on my list of anticipated releases for 2016 and, going into it, I was worried it wouldn’t live up to expectations since they were quite high. If it lived up to expectations, it might end up being my favourite read of 2016, already. So I’m extremely relieved and happy to say I not only liked it, I loved it.
The book was told in alternating POVs of Vika and Nikolai, which not only worked well with how the crown’s game was set up but also made me care about both of them. They were both good people and had their own reasons for wanting to win. I didn’t want to see either of them die. I got attached to both of them quite quickly and the more I was hoping there would be some way no one would have to die. I liked Vika’s spunky personality and it contrasted nicely with Nikolai’s quiet one. They were both interesting characters, complete opposites, but they worked so well both against each other and together.
Pasha was another interesting character and I was worried, at first, that I might dislike him if he seemed like a third wheel but he was charming and adorable and sucked me right in. I loved his friendship with Nikolai and the fact that he hated being the prince when it meant he was always watched, never free unless he snuck out. I also enjoyed his fascination with Vika. It was written in a way that didn’t make it seem like a love triangle but really, just two friends whose attention had been caught by the same girl and everyone trying to figure out their feelings without hurting anyone.
The Crown’s Game part of the book was so much more than I expected. I loved that it wasn’t just about powerful fighting and attack spells but it really was more of a game. They took turns and the spells weren’t always destructive but showcased their talents. It was still dangerous and either could have died at any time but the fact that it wasn’t an all-out arena-style dual made me enjoy it even more. I couldn’t wait to find out what each of them would do for their next turn, how they would one-up the already impressive series of magical events that was showcased. I also loved how the general public, oblivious to magic, would come up with explanations to what was really behind the magical events – no matter how extreme they could be.
Because it wasn’t a magical fight-to-the-death dual, the pacing was slower than I expected but that just gave me more time to lose myself in the world. It wasn’t slow to read, there was still always something going on, just slower with the action parts than if it had been a bloody dual. I was tense and holding my breath so many times throughout the book even with it being more of a game than a dual so I’m not sure I would have made it through a dual.
I know that this is one book where, once I get the finished copy in hands, all the emotions I felt while reading it will come rushing back and my thoughts will echo what they were when I finished the ARC: I need the next book now!
*I received a copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.