I know this post goes against my June posting schedule, but I’ve been on a reading blitz since my birthday, and I have to share my thoughts on some of these fantastic new books!
With an exciting summary, a beautiful cover and decent reviews, I expected great things from this book. However, I think I may have expected too much, because while this wasn’t a bad book, it certainly wasn’t anything special. I enjoyed it, but as I’ve said many times before, it simply fell flat for me. All the right things were there, but they simply never came together, and the ending simply felt like a cheap cop-out.
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.
Right from the get-go, I should have known I’d be let down by this book. While the summary is intriguing, there’s clearly some issues in it, that, had I foreseen, may have staved off my inevitable disappointment.
To begin, the payoff of the the Crown’s Game is described as “The victor becomes the Imperial Enchanter and the tsar’s most respected adviser. The defeated is sentenced to death.” Seems harsh, but pretty straightforward. Then, however, the summary wraps up with this: “it becomes dangerously clear . . . the Crown’s Game is not one to lose.” Well obviously, because if you lose you DIE, therefore losing clearly isn’t the best option. Moreover, the front cover basically just gave away the most interesting part of the plot.
Beyond the somewhat lack-luster motivator of inevitable death (is this reminding anyone else of The Hunger Games), The Crown’s Game also fell short in it’s use of the seemingly omni-present archytype of star-crossed lovers, love-triangle nonsense. Because, of course, the two enchanters fall in love (… this is basically screaming The Hunger Games now), even though they know they’re destined to kill each other. And then, there’s the love triangle between Vika, Nikolai and Pasha (which was also given away on the front cover- is there anything the front cover didn’t give away? It’s like a Marvel trailer).
And then (SPOILERS), the author cheats her own damn paradigm by allowing the reader to know that the enchanter who lost/died didn’t actually die, therefore cheating the game…? Except it was made pretty clear that’s impossible.
So now I’m just lost, let down and disappointed that what could have been a fantastically original book turned into a story about star-crossed lovers caught in a love triangle, trapped in a duel to the death that results in no one dying, somehow. But hey, it has a nice cover!