The Crown's Game by Evelyn Skye

by - June 04, 2019

The Crown's Game by Evelyn Sky (2016)

[Wow look at me, taking aestheticc photos like I should]

Buckle up, folks. This review is going to be a long one.



Steamy Hatefuck Scale: 1/5

  • If you're looking for witty banter, exchanges of death threats, or scenes that border on will-they-fight-or-kiss, you will be sorely disappointed. Nikolai and Vika have no murderous bone in their bodies. They never wanted to kill each other from the beginning, and each attempt is sorely half-hearted.

Secret Softness Scale: 2/5

  • Oh, this pair is soft indeed. Their hearts are linked by their magic, and they are instantly attracted to each other. And when they interact, they spend more time being tender than actually trying to hurt each other. But I think it's a very shallow kind of softness, one triggered by a) the fact that they don't want to kill each other at all, because they do not like murder and b) they are instantly attracted to each other. Skye tries to heighten their romance by talking about how only they can understand each other... because they're the only two magicians in Russia and that's so terribly lonely. But there isn't enough internal reflection, dialogue, or expression of this to make it truly believable. I feel like Skye is just repeatedly telling us that they are connected and in love rather than showing and proving it. Very disappointing.

I actually gave a shit about anything scale: 2/5

  • How can a novel be about love interests fighting to the death and yet I don't give a shit, you might ask? This concept is why my blog exists!! But the reality is that the stakes don't feel real, Vika and Nikolai as a couple don't even feel that real (and yet I shipped them more than the other option), and the plot moves so slow it's growing moss on its back. It doesn't even have the benefit of a ton of character introspection to help us get to know them and their fears better, which just makes it worse.

For Fans of Broody Hero X and Fierce Heroine Y
Nikolai is very much not a broody hero, although he is described as one at the start! Vika is definitely confident and carefree. They are both wildly ambitious, but ultimately very normal. I can't compare them to other characters because this novel didn't dive deep enough into their psyches to prove that they aren't generic.


Here is the blurb from Goodreads:

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 prose is bland but not too unbearable, the concept is recycled, but the characters are at least interesting. I would describe The Crown's Game as basically a YA Night Circus set in Russia.

In The Crown's Game, each country has a powerful magician called an Enchanter. Russia's lives to serve the Tsar. But in this generation, there are two (Vika and Nikolai), and so they are forced to fight to death in the Crown's Game. Only one Enchanter is allowed to live, and the game itself will kill the less-deserving player in the case of a tie.

Given this, if you expect something Hunger Games or Battle Royale-esque then you are very, very wrong. The Crown's Game is a romantic fantasy at heart. Vika and Nikolai are ambitious and powerful, but they are also instantly likable. The novel features a love triangle, heartwarming family relationships and friendships, and magical twists.

It's also really, really boring. For a romance novel with a love triangle, the two boys don't even have a significant interaction with the girl until after 200 pages. Note that the book is only 399 pages long. I love slow burn, but a slow burn actually requires a spark of flame.

I said this was a love triangle, but since this is Enemies to Lovers Reviews, let me start with Vika and Nikolai: the rivals. My main issue is that The Crown's Game is set up to be a tragic (or not?) enemies/rivals to lovers romance, when it lacks the real bite of one. Vika is instantly attracted to Nikolai, and she only half-heartedly shakes off her feelings for him. Nikolai, meanwhile, never wanted to kill her in the first placeand so he always avoids it. The entire game consists of them tiptoeing around their feelings for each other... except that Nikolai doesn't even realize that he loves her, and Vika is too busy with, you know, not dying, to deal with her two suitors.

I mean, I understand what Skye was trying to do. Nikolai doesn't want to love Vika, but he does. Vika doesn't want to love anyone (she just wants to focus on the game), but she does. It's a compelling conflict. But unfortunately, despite the dual (well, quadruple, honestly) POV, the characters' feelings aren't explored so much in depth. Because of this, they feel so distant and irrational. Maybe it's just me, but when I read romance, I want to read the characters deal with their feelings and pine.

There is pining, of course, but it's so minimal that it's absolutely criminal.

My other issue with this romance is that it's insta-love and fueled by instant attraction. Pasha, the second love interest, chases Vika because he sees her once and falls in love. Nikolai finds her beautiful but frightening, but ultimately falls for her too. I feel like there was so much lost potential in their dynamics. Usually in enemies to lovers, the pair gets stuck together or goes through something that makes them realize they aren't so different after all, or that they actually like each other. But there's nothing with that here!! They don't get to know each other until the latter half of the book, and even then, their conversations aren't that deep. I won't spoil, but at one point they discuss their families... and it could totally be a Rey and Kylo Ren hurt/comfort scene where they become vulnerable and learn more about each other and have a Sweet Moment but. It was cut off so abruptly and they change topics like it was nothing.


Do you know what this novel is? It's not even a rivals to lovers. It's barely even a forbidden romance or a real tragic one. It's basically "two strangers have the hots for each other but they can't kiss because they have to kill each other; oh no."

Because they are basically strangers. They are barely friends.

In my personal (and not necessarily popular) opinion, this novel was a disappointment. Don't get me wrong; I love Nikolai and Pasha's friendship. I love Nikolai and Vika's characters. But the rest is forgettable. I already struggled to read through that snail's pace of a first half, but the latter half isn't so rewarding either. I feel like enemies to lovers is beautiful because it requires significant character development and emotional connection. But The Crown's Game has very little of that. It's a shame because the concept is amazing and I was so excited to read it but eh.

TL;DR: Do not recommend.

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