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The Crown's Game

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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.

407 pages, Hardcover

First published May 17, 2016

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About the author

Evelyn Skye

9 books2,091 followers
EVELYN SKYE is a New York Times bestselling author of novels for adults, young adults, and children, including THE HUNDRED LOVES OF JULIET, DAMSEL, and THE CROWN'S GAME.

She is a graduate of Stanford University and Harvard Law School, and she lives in the San Francisco Bay Area with her husband and daughter.

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Displaying 1 - 30 of 4,046 reviews
Profile Image for Emily May.
1,993 reviews298k followers
May 23, 2016
She was the sun, and he was a mere rock, drawn in by her gravity. He needed to be closer, to feel her magic, to touch . . . her.

Anyone for another boring, fluffy fantasy full of magic and murder instalove, love triangles and ballgowns?

I'm just going to get the ultimate, overarching problem out of the way first - this book is so so boring. To be honest, I didn't expect that. The blurb alludes to the love triangle and romantic elements so I was prepared for googly eyes and some fast-paced thrills, but The Crown's Game simply lacks any tension.

In this world - a fantasy version of Tsarist Russia - there can be only one Imperial Enchanter, one person with magical skill to stand by the Tsar's side. Usually, though, it's pretty simple because only one candidate exists. When more than one exists - in this case, Vika and Nikolai - they must duel to the death over several rounds in The Game. Only one can come out alive.

Let me tell you why this potentially awesome premise bored me to tears.

Well, firstly, they don't even fucking try! From the very moment that they see one another, a crush develops, and they suddenly forget all of their training and every ambition they've ever had. That's the problem with this book. There's no tension. There's no questions being asked. Will they? Won't they? Dammit, they already have! Before The Game even begins!

This is how Vika reacts the moment they meet:
The instant he touched her, his shadow flickered, and his real self flashed through. Vika sucked in a breath.
Oh, mercy, he was handsome, all ebony hair and ink-black eyes and a face so precisely chiseled, Vika could almost picture the blade that had created him. And the sparks that danced through his magic! Goose bumps rose where his hand held her, even though there was a glove and a sleeve between them. Everything inside Vika quivered.

The love triangle's third member (though there are arguably multiple love triangles in this book) is Pasha, the heir to the royal throne. Let me tell you something about love triangles - I don't always mind them. No, really. If there are two interesting options involved and realistic reasons why the other person would fall for them both, I can get on board with that angst. But here, it is an unnecessary, forced obstacle that should never have been added.

Pasha is not a realistic love interest. There can be no doubt that the main ship here is Vika and Nikolai; the love triangle feels thrown in to create some additional drama. To be honest, this book sorely needed some drama and tension, but Pasha could not create it. He did nothing. The central relationship never feels threatened by him. Also, he adds another dose of instalove:
“You cannot love her. You hardly know her.”
“If there were ever a girl a man could fall in love with without knowing, it would be Vika.”

Oh, please.

Because everything is so instant, so unexplained, it's hard to take anything seriously. How awful it would be to be forced into a fight to the death with the person you love... and yet, I don't buy Nikolai's obsession with Vika's red curls as "love". Their actions never made any sense. Their feelings seemed hardly more than a crush, so it infuriated me and made me roll my eyes when they were flirting and dancing instead of trying to kill one another.

The Game's trials and dueling are dampened by this mutual crush. It never feels like a fight to the death. It feels like tame love taps between two lovestruck teenagers. Of course, in the beginning, they don't know how the other one feels, so it would be natural to assume that the other one really is trying to kill them... and, I don't know about you, but if I thought a cute boy was trying to kill me, I'd rip his cute face off. Just sayin'.

One more thing. I am not Russian. I know very little about Russian language and culture. Though if I was going to write a Russia-inspired fantasy, I would do some research beyond reading Bardugo's Shadow and Bone. Because it now seems to be the thing in YA fantasy novels for the characters to appear to get drunk on kvass. Which is a soft drink, sometimes with a tiny amount of alcohol (so tiny, it is given to children).

Granted - before someone points it out - the book never explicitly states that the kvass gets them drunk. But let's imagine this scenario: A father suddenly discovers that is daughter could be on the brink of death. He freaks out and claims desperately "I need that bottle of Pepsi". He pours himself a glass, throws back his head, and downs it in one. It doesn't quite hit the spot, so he does more shots of Pepsi until the bottle is empty. Maybe it's just me, but something tells me someone is confused about the nature of Pepsi...

Anyway, The Crown's Game is a very light, fluffy fantasy, lacking in tension. There seems to be very little to read the sequel for. The ending gives away the obvious direction of the next book and the lack of remaining conflict in their relationship suggests a predictable outcome .

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May 18, 2016
For the winner of the game, there would be unimaginable power.
For the defeated, desolate oblivion.
The Crown’s Game was not one to lose.
Awesome. Great. That's an excellent thing to keep in mind. Do. Not. Lose. Except someone forgot to tell the main characters cause nobody seems to give a shit about winning the game the instant their nether regions start tingling in the presence of the opposite sex.

Having a Russian setting and involving magic, one cannot help but compare this to Leigh Bardugo's Shadow and Bone trilogy. For me, there is no comparison. I admit, it was not the greatest series, but it was interesting and it was entertaining despite the angest and despite the painfulness of the love triangle. If you think you can escape the love triangle here, think again, and this book is even worse because it's just so bloody boring.

I used to write really long reviews for books, ripping them apart, criticizing everything that is wrong, but it just seems to tiring to do so these days because I seem to have the same fucking criticism for every quasi-high-fantasy that comes out. Every book has the same problems, this book is no exception. Insta-love. Romance over ambition and rationality. A recycled, boring plot. Acceptable but plodding writing.

These days, I can't even be fucked to actually hate a book such as this because I'm just so tired of it all.
Profile Image for jessica.
2,555 reviews35.8k followers
July 2, 2018
wow, what an enjoyable story! this has been presented as ‘the night circus’ meets ‘imperial russia’ and it totally delivers in that regard.

i am such a fan of russian history, so i think that was the highlight of the book for me. although the history was slightly skewed (as mentioned in the authors notes at the end), the story was so alive with culture. i loved it! as for ‘the night circus’ part, the only thing in common was that both stories focus on two people who find themselves in the middle of a competition to prove who is the greatest enchanter/magician. which was really fun! i love ‘the night circus’ with all my heart, so i was relived that i didnt find myself comparing the two books at all. this book had enough character of its own for it to stand up for itself.

what i wanted more from was the writing. for being a book centred around magic, the writing felt so heavy and dull. i wanted to be whisked away by enchantments, by light and whimsical words, but the writing wasnt that at all. it didnt keep me from liking the story, but i think it would have been much more enjoyable had the writing style been a bit different.

overall, a really good read and i cant wait to dive into the next book!

4 stars
Profile Image for Melissa ♥ Dog/Wolf Lover ♥ Martin.
3,540 reviews9,969 followers
December 4, 2017
I loved this book so much! I put off reading it forever because of some not so great reviews, but I have learned my lesson once again!

Vika & Nikolai ♥

Vika & Nikolai are pitted against each other as the only two enchanters in Russia. They are to fight to the death to be the next Imperial Enchanter to the tsar. Well I think that's rude. They could both live!

Pasha is best friends with Nikolai and he has no idea what Nikolai is until later on. Pasha is the prince but doesn't act like one.

Pasha and Nikolai see Vika in the forest one day using magic. Pasha wants to find out who she is because he ends up with a little crush.

I loved the feelings between Nikolai and Vika though. ♥ But what are they to do when one has to die? You have to read the book and see.

I really hope with the ending, the next book is going to be really good and go the way I want it to go. Lol

Happy Reading!

Mel ♥

MY BLOG: Melissa Martin's Reading List
Profile Image for ♛ may.
807 reviews3,839 followers
January 19, 2017

What a wonderfully magical and whimsical book – don’t be fooled though, it ripped my heart in half.


I’m personally offended that I have to wait 6 entire months before the release of the next book. Like um, no my feelings need to be repaired. #Rood

The Crown’s Game is a historical fiction book that fuses magic with Russian history. Vika Andreyeva and Nikolai Karimov the only two enchanters in Russia and with political unrest increasing in neighbouring empires, the tsar needs an enchanted by his side.

But which of the two will take that title and walk out with their life?


This book is written in such a poetic manner, although some people (as you might have seen from all the mixed reviews) found it to be dreary or tiresome, I found the writing extremely captivating.

The world building was described in such a subtle manner, not taking away from the plot but just enough to construct a beautifully enchanting world.

What really charmed me was the characters, I must say. These precious little children are so adorable and special and so different from each other yet they are able to build friendships and fall in love (though not always requited).

Basically I just really love my baby Nikolai and Pasha is pretty adorable too and I sort of love Vika as well. You know what, just give love to them all please. They all deserve love.


A little prior to the halfway point, there was almost a second mystery that unwound itself and brought some really IMPORTANT information to life and I’m positive it will play a large part in the second book.

So if you managed to reach to conclude of the story, you would have been blessed with the heartbreak that is the ending. I still don’t understand why that needed to happen, I mean like WHY CAN’T WE JUST ALL BE HAPPY??!!???! but no obviously Evelyn Skye doesn’t like to see me without tears.

It’s okay though, we’ll all just embrace our tears. (ಥ﹏ಥ)

“Imagine, and it shall be.
There are no limits.”

5 stars!!


this is happening because of peer pressure

757 reviews2,349 followers
August 3, 2017
Wow, talk about going into a book expecting to be bored as fuck and trashing the shit out of it....and then coming out screaming and loving the crap out of it and screaming so much BECAUSE AHAHAHAHA this was great.

So, I've read The Hunger's Game, but never once, did it occur to me, that THIS BOOK, is literally just like that book. Not once did I compare it even though IT IS SIMILAR. There's just something so???? original and captivating about this book and it was so fun!!! It wasn't until afterwards I read someone's review that I saw them point out the similarities between both books and then the realization hit me.

Honestly, I can see why many people find this book boring and that's because there is no action and nothing exciting in this book. I wouldn't call it slow paced either because I flew through this beauty. And slow paced book never work out for me.

Don't go into this book expecting too much badass action or cool magic because you will not get that. I recommend diving straight into this book knowing nothing because I did that and it worked out great. Many of my friends hated this and thought it was boring. I never bothered to check what this book was about and just started reading with my lowest expectations and I WAS SO SURPRISED BY HOW MUCH I LOVED IT!

Pasha is literally like Rhy. He reminded me so much of him. They both are heir to the throne. They are charming, flirty, funny, witty and so loveable. AND I KIND OF SHIP HIM WITH VIKA LMAO, IT'S GONNA SINK ISN'T IT????

Nikolai is serious, hot, serious, hot, and quiet. Kind of reminds me of Zuko without the anger.

Vika is a badass and strong character and I really liked her.

The love triangle can choke.

Initial reaction:

Profile Image for Brittney ~ Reverie and Ink.
260 reviews4,948 followers
June 10, 2016
I.... I barely know what to say right now... so here goes ~ a mess of words and emotions. Don't worry, this is spoiler free.

"Imagine, and it shall be. There are no limits."

First of all, the elephant in the room. The plot of this book is nearly IDENTICAL to the Night Circus. Maybe I should rant about that but you know what.. I didn't really care? I love both books so I didn't mind the nostalgia. There are parts I liked more about each of the books- but I just found myself savoring this book to pieces regardless. Plus, this one is going to be a trilogy - so I see the series spinning off drastically from where the Night Circus ended.

Okay, now that is out of the way...

HOLY WOW. I just need to point out all the reasons I loved this book.

The Magic

Magic Russia will never ever get old. Never. (BRB going to watch Anastasia now...) And not only is the magic system here lush, it is completely unique and imaginative.

The Writing + Pacing

This is is where I see the most complaints. But honestly, I just savored it. I'm glad it wasn't too fast paced. But yes, this is a slower book... so don't go into it expecting otherwise. The writing itself was every bit as beautiful as The Night Circus - the prose, descriptions.. everything!
“This was the sort of book one ought to read in pieces, to properly appreciate and savour each bit. And yet he wanted to devour it whole. Messily and all at once.”

I couldn't have said it better myself.

The Characters

I think I can safely say that each character will tug at your heartstrings (though Nikolai was my favorite for obvious reasons.. gentle, sly, and TOPHAT.) Just enjoy discovering each one... I'd rather not give any further hints.

The Plot

As it was in the The Night Circus, the game aspect of the plot was just heartbreaking. It was a bit more vicious in this book... more intense and emotional. Yes, there was a "bit" of insta-love, but it was not handled the way a YA book typically handles it. There was much more of a connection than just attraction even though some things seemed to escalate quickly. I had no complaints in that department. Overall, I was completely swept away in the entirety of this story.


Someone help me because I am a WRECK. No, I am not OK. Will I be? That rests in your hands, Evelyn Skye. Please save us all. I literally beg you. PLEASE FOR THE LOVE OF ALL THAT IS GOOD IN THIS WORLD.

For real though I need some serious comfort food right now...
Profile Image for Ben Alderson.
Author 21 books13.5k followers
July 20, 2016
Just know, this is my FAVOURITE YA book of all time...
more to come on a video review soon!
Profile Image for Chantal .
343 reviews832 followers
July 11, 2016
Well...for a book about magic The Crown's Game was decidedly unmagical.

Here on Goodreads I ask people to answer a challenge question when they send me a friend request, the question being: What are some of your biggest bookish pet peeves? The answers are usually pretty similar and include some of the following:

- Insta-love
- Love triangles
- Characters who seem to lose all sense of reason or rational brain function when they meet another character they consider “hot”
- Lackluster worldbuilding
- Boring plot
- Bad writing and over-the-top metaphors

Well my friends, I’m here to tell you that The Crown’s Game contains every single one of these things. It’s been a while since I’ve read such an unoriginal, lackluster and just overall generic book. It’s alright for a book to have tropes, you probably can’t read YA if you’re not ready to handle some of them, but if a story is just made up of all of them, that’s where I draw the line. It made me cringe because it’s practically a “how-to” guide for bad YA and I genuinely cannot understand how an editor was not able to spot this.

I've been trying and failing to find something about this book that would be able to redeem it and at least give it something above one star but unfortunately I came up empty.

The premise of The Crown’s Game is pretty intriguing. In an Imperial Russia inspired fantasy world, two enchanters are born where only one is allowed to exist. So in order to decide who will become Imperial Enchanter, that is, the magician who will stand beside the tsar and help him rule his kingdom, the two teens – Vika and Nikolai – must duel over several rounds until one of them dies or the tsar chooses a winner.

When I first heard this premise I knew I wanted to read this book right away as soon as it was released. The story wasn’t unfamiliar, after all, it’s pretty much The Night Circus, but I figured that in a YA book, set in a Russia-inspired fantasy world it could be amazing. Obviously, this is a classic case of good premise gone wrong.

First off, this book is boring. Really boring. How could a magical duel to the death not be exciting, you ask? What could possibly go wrong? Well, for starters, the two enchanters don’t even try. Like seriously, I have rarely seen such undetermined characters. They tell us through their boring inner monologues that they really want to win because reasons, but do they ever show us that? No. From the get-go, they feel a “connection” and the reader immediately knows there won’t be a real game but that instead it will be the story of two hormone-driven teens falling in love (instantaneously). Tension gets thrown out the window the moment the game begins.

You don’t believe me? Take a look at Vika’s thoughts, taken from the passage where Vika and Nikolai first meet.
Oh, mercy, he was handsome, all ebony hair and ink-black eyes and a face so precisely chiseled, Vika could almost picture the blade that had created him. And the sparks that danced through his magic! Goose bumps rose where his hand held her, even though there was a glove and a sleeve between them. Everything inside Vika quivered.

Barf. Can you get any more cliché?

The answer is yes! Enter: love square.

So we’ve got insta-love between Vika and Nikolai and we also have insta-love in regards to Pasha who seemingly falls in love with Vika the moment he first sees her. This quote was taken from a passage which happened after Pasha saw Vika for literally two seconds from like 10m away.
Pasha hooked a leather ottoman with his foot and dragged it closer, then settled deep into his armchair for a long afternoon of reading. But he did not admit it to himself, either aloud or even quietly in his own head, that he was interested in the girl for more than just her magic.

Say what?

In addition, Pasha was such a flat and archetypical character and it’s pretty clear that the author much preferred Nikolai over him. He was supposed to add drama (which the story desperately needed) but the attempt backfired. Also, can I just say how much I hate when

Throw in a masquerade ball and a gown made of snow and there you have your stale YA fantasy recipe.

And how ironic it is that Vika would wear such a gown, because that’s exactly what she is: the most special of all special snowflakes. Since I cannot possibly describe Vika’s beauty, grace, perfection etc. myself, I’ll let Nikolai and Pasha do some of the talking.
She sparkled like the lanterns under the moonlight

“You cannot love her. You hardly know her.”
“If there were ever a girl a man could fall in love with without knowing, it would be Vika.”

There were few girls he knew in Petersburg society who could traipse through the Savannah without complaining about the burs snagging at their skirts or the dry wind mussing up their hair. But those thoughts didn’t even seem to occur to Vika. She was a mythical creature among ordinary human kind.

I mean COME ON. The book is FULL of these types of things.

The worldbuilding (for which I was super excited) just left me kind of…meh. I’m not going to comment on the depiction of Russia because I really don’t know a whole lot about Russian culture and it’s also an alternate universe so judging the author for historical inaccuracies wouldn’t be entirely fair. What I can say though, is that despite the descriptions of food, this alternate Russia did nothing for me. In terms of magic system, The Crown's Game was disappointing as well. There seemed to be no rules to the magic and the limits that did exist seemed random and convenient. The idea that using magic leaches your energy is not a bad one, just utterly unoriginal and unispired. When one of the central plot points of the story is a magical duel, I expect that an actual magic system is established, as to add cleverness or tension or something. That wasn't the case.

Lastly, we have the writing style. Oh boy. I can’t remember the last time I cringed this badly while reading certain paragraphs. I think the author was trying to be poetic and romantic with her weird metaphors but they ended up sounding either incredibly pretentious or were straight out nonsensical.

Oh and that ending *rolls eyes*. I'm pretty sure we've all seen it coming from a mile away.

Clearly this book did not work for me and I cannot recommend it. If you feel like you can disregard all the tropes and clichés, feel free to give this a try. But if you're searching for a fun and enjoyable YA fantasy, I would steer you elsewhere.
Profile Image for Laura.
425 reviews1,255 followers
May 15, 2017
The thing that intrigued me most was the impossibility of the situation. One of our main characters would have to die in the end due to the rules of the Crown’s Game. From the start I was fighting to decide who I wanted to root for. And that was before all the additional drama laced in.

The Crown’s Game is the opportunity of a lifetime. It is a competition between enchanters where you demonstrate your magical abilities in an attempt at being chosen as Imperial Enchanter. The Tsar selects the winner who also becomes his most respected advisor, while the loser gets sentenced to death. Like I said…rough situation. Kill or be killed.

Vika is sixteen, lives with her loving father, and believes she is the only enchanter in the empire. (There is usually only one due to lack of magic left). She is under the impression that she is just waiting until she turns 18 to go serve the Tsar. In the meantime, training so that she’s the best Imperial Enchanter she can be.

Nikolai is an eighteen year old orphan who was taken in at a young age by cruel Countess Galina in order to train him to use his magic for the future Crown’s Game. Unlike Vika, he’s always been aware he would have an opponent for the Imperial Enchanter title.

Pasha is prince, future heir to the throne, and also happens to be Nikolai’s best friend. He cares way more about hanging with his friends than becoming Tsar. He is doesn’t know about Nikolai’s abilities. (or magic in general). And finds himself falling for the new arrival in town, a peculiar girl with seemingly magical abilities.

The story is atmospheric with deep world-building and strong characters. I actually can’t rave enough about Evelyn Skye’s world-building. Set in 1825 in Russia, it is clear that she did her research, while also taking an imaginative approach. The setting is detailed and written so beautifully. The characters charmed their way into my heart. There are multiple POVs, even with additional secondary characters that I also couldn’t get enough of. I hope there’s more of them in the second book.

The love triangle thing was meh. It was annoying by merely existing, but less of an issue than I thought it would be. However, the insta-love kind of threw me off where that came into play. Dumb. I was hoping for a darker competition or at least one that was more deadly..less “let’s paint the city” more of this:

And it was the first time it truly sank in that the things she could do were not only fascinating, but also possibly deadly. She shivered at her own potential; if she were honest, a small part of her thrilled at it, too.

Other than that, The Crown’s Game was engaging and unpredictable. I enjoyed the thrilling nature of the story. Can’t wait to see what happens in book 2!
Profile Image for Katerina  Kondrenko.
498 reviews841 followers
December 30, 2020
1 out of 10

Ревью в моем блоге/This review on my blog
Living A Thousand Lives
(please use Chrome/Yandex browser or Android/IOS to see the page; otherwise, spoiler-tags I use to make my post compact may not work)

Genre: historical fantasy, AU, YA
Stuff: Imperial Russia, magic
Fail: the story and its filling
POV: 3rd-person, multi
Love-Geometry: pissed me off

“There are things more dangerous than a little magic.”

Buddy-read with Vera and Nastassja.

This May was cruel to me: bad book after a bad book. I'm tired of negative reviews, but have to do it again, 'cause The Crown's Game, which I'd been waiting for months and supported here, had failed me.

Russian Stuff

Evelyn did her (superficial) research, but it didn't help. Wanna know why? 'Cause banana skin is not a banana itself.

This story includes real things from Russian history, Russian words, names, and traditions, but they aren't always correct and, what's more important, they lack flesh, power, and soul. Croissants for breakfast won't make you look French as well as a sombrero on top of your head won't allow everyone to mistake you for a Mexican. I'm not saying that we Russians are that complicated, mysterious, and unfathomable, but a few books about our history and a touristic trip aren't enough to get the gist.

People in Skye's book have nothing to do with Russians, especially with Russians from the Imperial Times. The way they talk, act, love, make decisions, and simply live is wrong. Where are manners? Passion? Culture? I mean, theater, ballet, poetry? Where's Pushkin? His exile was over in the 1820s. What about bonded peasants? Renata and Ludmila don't look like people without rights.

The Crown's Game is rather a patchwork quilt that is made of random facts and stereotypes.


— Until XX century Russia had no such a name as Victoria (Vika), 'cause it wasn't in our church calendar. There was an analog, though: Veronica (Nika). Also, all my Vika-friends cringe when they hear 'Vickochka'. There are other nicknames for Vika, such as Vickulya, Vickusha, Vickunya. 'Vikochka' sounds weird.

— Once kvas had indeed been an alcoholic drink, but in the XIX century, its recipe had changed. Since then it's just a tonic and summer-time cooling thing. Evelyn could use mead or homebrew instead.

Evelyn thinks that true Russians are hiking through birch forests, playing the balalaika, and having an almost religious zeal for buckwheat kasha with mushrooms and fresh butter. Like really?

— The ball scene was weird to put it nicely. Suchlike events had their order, guests couldn't start dancing without Tsar and Tsarista's (not Tsarina) arriving. Also, there was an order for dances (polonaises, then a waltz, then...) and dancers (according to the table of ranks). What I saw in The Crown's Game was a modern masquerade-party.

— There was Zakrevsky. There was Zakrevskaya. And there were Zakrevskys. Why? It had to be Zakrevskiye. The devil in the details. If you want to sound authentic, go to the mat.

— “Ochen kharasho, spacibo,” Vika said. (c) You either write a line as it has to be pronounced "Ochin' kharasho, spasiba" or you write it grammatically "Ochen' horosho, spasibo". And an apostrophe at the end of a mellow tone is an important thing. These tiny details can change meaning. Von is get out!, while von' is stench. There are other fails. “Dobre dehn.” (c) One can say this is an archaic form of Dobryj Den', but this form is from another epoch. “Myevo zdarovye.” (c) which had to be Moyo zdorov'e. Bolshebnoe Duplo had to be Volshebnoe Duplo. And so on.

— Pavel Alexandrovich Romanov. Wrong. In the set terms, we put out surnames first. Romanov Pavel Alexandrovich. And no one would call him Pasha. He might be Pavlusha for his mother, but that's it.

There are more, believe me (check this review, for example). I don't know who was consulting Skye about Russia, but Google could do it better.

Now listen, I might forget about pseudo-Russia with pseudo-Russians and simply enjoy the story, but...

The Idea

Hello, The Night Circus ! I have nothing against similar concepts, they add to new books a nostalgic mood. But The Crown's Game stole too many details from the original and thus ruined the joy. For example, A Criminal Magic is about magic duels too, but it has a unique background (as well as a slow pace with a shitty romance, so don't be excited to read it). ACM isn't a masterpiece, but it shows how to work with a borrowed material without plagiarizing it. Moreover, where The Night Circus had a beautiful atmosphere, The Crown's Game stands empty-handed.

The Characters

They are names without stories. Flat, one-dimensional, dull. I thought their promo-profiles would be only the tip of the iceberg, but after this read I learned nothing more. In short, Vika has no personality, Pavel has no spine, Nikolai has no balls. If you shuffle these words, nothing would change, 'cause they all lack personalities, spines, and balls. As to minor heroes and heroines, they were only tools.

The Game

We have two enchanters and for some reason, we need only one to survive and become the Imperial Defender and Tsar's Adviser. How we would test our candidates? Maybe we'd check their education? Or ask them to do some strategy work? Or try their powers on the battlefield? No, we ask them for a show! And they would try to impress us with renovations and colorful fountains, with thunders and islands, with dancing dolls and beautiful gowns of snow. How the fuck that would help at war?

Love and Instalove

Pavel had a glimpse of Vika from afar and fell for her. Vika had a glimpse of Nikolai standing next to him and fell for him. Nikolai had tried to be reasonable and mature but after a few chapters fell for Vika as well. Mind that I'm talking not about curiosity or sympathy or lust, nooo, they all called it 'love'. Oh, dear... There was also a desire to suck sugar from fingertips, to kiss this and that, and a lot of crazy metaphors.
"And touching Nikolai, even through her gloves and his sleeve, was like being pummeling by stampede of wild horses. No, wild unicorns. Beautiful, wild unicorns."

The Writing and Logic

The book is easy to read, but it's hard to process in places. Vika's faint from weariness lasts more than 15-30 minutes. This is a fucking coma. Arizona sleeps with a guy on her own accord and then blames him for her loss of virginity and ruined reputation. Vika learns some bad news, grieves for a while, having a date and just theeeen goes to destroy everything in Nikolai's house, as if in heat. Is she a slowpoke? Nikolai sends stone birds to attack Vika, she calls for the real ones thinking that their lives would be on Nikolai's soul. Bravo.

The Ending

Predictable meh.


And that was one of the most anticipated releases of this year. My intuition sucks.

The Crown's Game (Царское состязание):
The Crown's Game (Царское состязание) #1/2
The Crown's Fate (Царская доля) #2/2
Profile Image for Brittany (Brittany's Book Rambles).
225 reviews450 followers
February 9, 2016
Привет, друзья! I am here to tell you that you are not prepared for the majesty that is The Crown's Game. You need to know that when you look at that cover, you are looking at a FIVE STAR book. There is magic, romance, a complex plot, drool-worthy guys, and Russian prestige. I. LOVE. IT. It's definitely one of the BEST books I've ever read, and I mean—we're talking Leigh Bardugo levels here, people!


I'm always nervous when I read a book that is set in Russia because often times, the language is incorrect or something isn't depicted properly. However as your Russian representative and a member of the Tsar's Guard, I can assure you that Evelyn Skye has executed the Russian culture, language, and mentality to a T.


If you get a manuscript or an ARC, please be advised that Evelyn has added on the "a" at the end of the last names of the female characters in the book, but the change was made after the ARCs were already printed.

A note about Russian last names:
The endings of surnames are a key not only to a person's nationality but also to their gender. Most Russian surnames change their ending in the feminine: usually the letter "-a" is added at the end (Ivanova, Sorokina), or "-sky" changes into "-skaya (Moskovskaya). However, last names ending in "-ich" and "-ko" are gender-neutral, with the female version not changing its form even when the name is declined (names ending in "-ko", which are particularly common in Ukraine, remain unchanged in all cases, irrespective of whether the person is male or female). Source.

Now that our Russian grammar lesson is done for the day, let me get back to telling you how much I love this book. The Crown's Game was everything I wanted it to be and more. The entire time I was reading, I was flipping out over every page—and we're talking actual shrieking, and jumping up and down. Guys, the book love was intense.


The Crown's Game beyond exceeded all of my expectations. Everything from the plot, the writing, the characters, and the magic—oh my god, the magic! I am in LOVE.


I was a flailing mess the entire time while reading this book. Not just because it made me swell with Russian pride, but also because it just kept wowing me.


The plot is incredibly intricate with really well-developed characters. You get each character's backstory without feeling overwhelmed. Plus, all of them are so lovable that I got incredibly attached to all of them—even the "bad guys."


I can confidently say that The Crown's Game is one of my favorite books of ALL TIME and all of you need to read it!

Read my full review of the Uncorrected Manuscript HERE.
Profile Image for Mikee (ReadWithMikee).
203 reviews1,315 followers
April 14, 2017
❝I hereby swear my loyalty to the tsar,
And promise to abide by the rules of the Game,
A duel of enchantment, until a winner is declared.
To this and all traditions here before established, I commit myself
As an enchanter in the Crown's Game.❞

Rating: {★ ★ ★ ½}

Sadly, I wasn't too blown away with The Crown's Game. This book was one of my anticipated releases of May and I even met Evelyn Skye at YallWest! You could not imagine how disappointed I was to have to rate The Crown's Game only three stars. I was expecting it to be like the Grisha trilogy but instead, it reminded me of The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern a tad bit TOO MUCH.

The Crown's Game was literally The Night Circus set in Russia. The premise and the characters were the exact same: two rival mentors who have been training their protégés since they were young to prepare them for a competition to the death by showcasing their magic and outdoing the other until eventually, only one is left standing.

If this was The Night Circus, Nikolai would be Marco and Vika would be Celia. Nikolai is an orphan. Marco is an orphan. Vika is the "daughter" of Sergei (mentor). Celia is the daughter of Prospero (mentor). The hero learns about the heroine's identity even before the competition starts. A side character named Renata (unrequitedly in love with Nikolai and reads tea leaves) was the parallel character of Isobel (unrequitedly in love with Marco and reads tarot cards) from The Night Circus. Both Marco and Celia started off competing each other in the competition, but as the story progressed, they began to collaborate on their magic. Coincidentally, Nikolai and Celia also collaborated on an enchantment together. And so much more! The similarities were uncanny.

I can understand one or two similarities but these two books were the same exact story. Just change the venue from Circus to Russia, change a few names and characters, tweak the plot here and there, and you have The Crown's Game.

I believe this book would've been so much better if it wasn't so similar to a book that already existed. To be honest, it's hard to think of something new to write about because almost everybody has done it all, but this was just way too similar. Even if it were inspired by The Night Circus, I wished Evelyn didn't stick to the outline so closely. I feel like unless you read The Night Circus, you wouldn't recognize the resemblance but it is one of my favorite books of all time. Unfortunately, The Night Circus is an older book and not many new people to the YA community would have read it so maybe not a lot of people would notice the similarities. But I could recognize the similarities like the back of my hand.

Overall, even if I didn't to compare it to The Night Circus, I found The Crown's Game to be fairly slow. Two hundred pages in and I still wasn't intrigued or blown away by anything that was happening. In fact, not much was happening at all. The book significantly became better in the last 50 pages but even then I felt like things were resolved too quickly.

It was a good attempt for a debut novel. If I didn't read The Night Circus, my rating probably would've been higher. However, I had a fun time reading The Crown's Game. It was a quick, little read. Don't get me wrong, the world is magnificent, but I was just expecting something else entirely when I read the synopsis. I may not have personally liked it, but I would recommend this book to readers who love magic and magician-esque plots. I'm looking forward to picking up and reading the sequel!
Profile Image for Cait Jacobs (Caitsbooks).
305 reviews14.6k followers
August 5, 2023
Overall: 4.5/5 Stars
Characters: 4/5
Setting: 5/5
Writing: 4.5/5
Plot and Themes: 4/5
Awesomeness Factor: 5/5
Review in a Nutshell: The Crown’s Game is a fun, entertaining historical fantasy that will engross you in a world of magic, love, and death.

“Imagine, and it shall be. There are no limits.⁠⁠⁠⁠”

Blog ||Tumblr || Bookstagram || Twitter|| Reviews

// Content Warning: Violence, Death, (Mentioned) Animal Death, Murder //

- Premise -
The Crown’s Game takes place in Russia, in the early 1800’s. Vika and Nikolai are both enchanters, trained in their magic so they can one day take the role of the Imperial Enchanter, a secret but crucial job. But there can only be one Imperial Enchanter. In order to decide who will work for the Tsar, they are forced into The Crown’s Game. A game of magic and skill, where the winner gets the title, and the loser must die.

“If I think highly of myself, it’s because it’s well deserved.”

- Writing & Setting -
Evelyn Skye knows a lot about Russia. You can tell on every page of this book that she knows what she’s talking about. She included so many small details that a lot of authors would probably ignore, and it pays off. You feel immersed in this world. The magic system is also well written, with nothing vague yet also allowing room for the characters to surprise you.

”And then she let go. For even she knew there was only so much one could do to protect a winter moth drawn to an icy flame.”

- Plot-
The plot is somewhat similar to The Night Circus, with a competition between two magic wielders, and only one will survive. It’s a little slow at first, as we meet the characters and they begin to understand the circumstances they’re thrown into, but the second half picks up and will leave you dying for the sequel.

"A little peril has never stopped me.”

- Characters -
The one big downside to this book is the love triangles. There’s two. And one really bothered me. It just felt a little unnecessary. That said, the other love triangle was handled well (it probably helps that I went in expecting it). The characters themselves are really interesting, with realistic flaws and goals. You find yourself starting to care for them slowly through the book until you’ve reached the end and your desperate to see how their story ends.

”Do you believe in what you cannot see?”

- Conclusion -
Pros- Fun magic system, great historical setting, interesting characters
Cons- Love triangles, slow start
Overall- 4.5/5 stars.
The Crown’s Game is an addictive historical read that will whisk you away to imperial Russia and captivate you with shows of incredible and unique magic.
Profile Image for Dannii Elle.
2,064 reviews1,481 followers
August 21, 2016
So, historical fiction with a fantastical twist might just be my newest obsession! I absolutely loved everything about this; from the historical setting in 19th century Russia, the imaginative magic system, the focus on the royal hierarchy and the plethora of equally lovable character. I already want more from this world!

The Crown's Game begins in Vika's perspective and the reader is immediately immersed into this strange, ancient world. We learn early on of Vika's magical abilities and the fear from the common folk that this evokes. I felt an initial affinity with her that made me immediately align to her plight. That is until we learn of the existence of another enchanter, Nikolai, and despite him being Vika's adversary I was just as drawn to his character as I was with Vika's. Skye exhibits a brilliance for creating flawed and yet lovable characters as each and every person introduced had a side to them that evoked my empathy and endearment.

The Crown's Game, that the title refers to, does not begin until nearly a quarter of the way through the text. I love how the world and the magic system was fully set up before beginning the quest that the rest of the text is dedicated to. From then on the novel is awash with displays of magical ingeniousness that has the reader and the Russian townsfolk equally as enthralled!

My only negative is that, despite the disaster that awaits the loser of The Crown's Game and that the two opponents are literally in a duel until the death, there isn't much tension displayed. I loved seeing the pair exhibit their skill in imaginative and thrilling ways, but never once did I worry over the outcome of these beloved characters. I don't exactly know why that is: I immensely enjoyed their journey but felt a little distanced from it, perhaps.

This is a book of unique brilliance and I can only equate it to being the literary love-child of A Game of Thrones and The Night Circus. All I know is, I already can't wait until 2017 and the next installment!
July 20, 2021
”She wanted again to hold on to him, and have him hold on to her, so they could whirl together through the cosmos like galaxies that could not—and would not—be confined”.

¡Ya me hacía falta leer un libro de cinco estrellas, que me fascinara y me dejara queriendo más! The Crown’s Game es una historia de fantasía ambientada en Rusia y que está llena de magia, misterios, tensión, juegos peligrosos y tramas escondidas que nos toman por sorpresa.

En este primer libro de la bilogía nos encontramos con Vika y Nikolai, dos personas que no se conocen, pero que comparten algo tremendamente especial: son hechiceros. Y, como tales, tienen el potencial de servir eventualmente al zar en el palacio. Tanto Vika como Nikolai han estado entrenando sus poderes durante toda su vida con sus mentores, quienes los han convencido de que sus destinos yacen en presentarse cuando estén listos en el palacio y ser designados como el nuevo hechicero real. Sin embargo, cuando el zar convoca los Juegos de la Corona, Vika y Nikolai se dan cuenta de que el otro existe y, como dicta la tradición, deben enfrentarse para que el zar pueda escoger a un solo hechicero. ¿Lo más tétrico de todo? Solo uno puede salir vivo, pues el poder no puede vivir repartido en dos hechiceros, uno solo debe ostentarlo todo. Así, las vidas de Vika y Nikolai se verán unidas de la manera más inconcebible posible, pues ninguno de los dos pensó que alguna vez tendría que matar a otra persona.

La verdad es que todo en este libro me recordaba muchísimo a The Night Circus, pero, evidentemente, con un ambiente menos circense y más de la rusia de los zares. De hecho, sentí que este tuvo mucha más acción que el libro de Erin Morgenstern, que es precioso, pero un poco lento.

Desde el primer momento, me enamoré de las personalidades de Vika y de Nikolai, pues ambos son personas que atesoran sus poderes, aunque los usan de diferentes maneras, y no son nada pretenciosos. A pesar de que sabían que su destino acabaría en el palacio, ninguno de los dos se presentaba como una persona pedante y pagada de sí misma. Evelyn Skye les crea unas vidas tan completas, llenas de detalles, familia encontrada, amigos y pasiones que, cuando empiezan los Juegos de la Corona y saben que el tiempo se les está acabando, sufres un poco.

Ahora, debo decirles que si están esperando que haya una batalla épica, llena de rayos, centellas y explosiones… no la van a encontrar. Los Juegos de la Corona, a pesar de que buscan que uno de los dos hechiceros muera, pueden jugarse de muchas maneras. Y la forma en la que Vika y Nikolai escogen hacerlo es única, intensa y llena de belleza. Cada uno tienta al otro con sus jugadas, con sus poderes y, con cada movimiento, con cada turno, se comunican de una manera muchísimo más especial que con palabras.

Y esa fue, quizá, otra de mis cosas favoritas de este libro: la forma en la que Evelyn Skye va creando un lazo entre los dos hechiceros. Me fascinó el concepto de su magia comunicándose, sintiéndose una sola y uniéndolos en un baile que todos sabíamos que no iba a acabar bien. Porque, claro, el final de este libro es tremendamente cruel y, a pesar de todo, inesperado. Hay una jugada que no esperábamos, pero es perfecta, pues nos deja muriéndonos de ganas por leer el final de la bilogía.
Profile Image for Nasom.
195 reviews141 followers
June 30, 2018
Real rating: 3.5

Buddy read with Red King

What i liked
- I really enjoyed the plot. Like I said in one of my updates, it reminded me so much of the night circus. We have two people who have been trained since they were little to become the king’s enchanter. With two enchanters, there has to be a game to determine who would become the winner. They have to play until one of them dies. To win, they have to either impress the King with their abilities or kill the other enchanter. I enjoyed the competition which wasn’t a battle but more artistic. I enjoyed reading about what the two enchanters made as they were all beautiful things.

- This book has multiple POVs which can be good or bad but I liked it in this. Especially since it was kinda evenly distributed instead of it being mostly in one person’s POV. Also, the chapters are really short (71 chapters) so if you don’t like one person, you don’t have to deal with their POV for a long time.

- There was a plot twist I didn’t see coming which was impressive because in YA books, it’s easy to guess plot twists especially in the first book of a series.

What i didn’t like .
- I really did not like the romance at all. In my opinion, I feel people use the term ‘instalove’ loosely. Crushes on people you just met happens a lot in real life so I don’t mind when it happens in books. But in this, there was instalove. It was even acknowledged in the book. Actually, there were two sets of instalove. How do you still feel ‘connected’ to someone and have dreams of you kissing them when they tried killing you? The love just seemed unrealistic to me. Honestly, I didn’t mind it until the second half of the book where romance seemed to be the main focus. Plus that love triangle wasn’t necessary

- I guess the end was supposed to be beautiful but I just found it anticlimactic.

Overall, this was an interesting read and I was never bored, but I don’t think I would read the next book because I don’t care to continue lol. It should have been a standalone tbh.
Profile Image for Jiana.
296 reviews824 followers
February 6, 2017
Update 01/31/2017: I decided to remove a star and change the rating to 4 stars. Been thinking about it and realized that while the book was indeed great, it still didn't feel like a 5 star read for me.


“Imagine, and it shall be.
There are no limits.⁠⁠⁠⁠”

I have a confession to make. So I have a shelf here on GR named "Not-Interested", and The Crown's Game was under the "Not-Interested" shelf... *gasp* yep. I have sinned in my past life. But then, Cait read it and loved it and recommended it to me, so I was like "fine, will try it" AND LOOK WHAT HAPPENED. A 5 STAR BOOK. I have seen the light. Great.

The Crown's Game is Evelyn Skye's debut novel and there are a few flaws here and there, which is expected. BUT I DID NOT CARE ONE BIT. This book was magical, SO VERY MAGICAL. The magic, the description, the scenery... everything was just so pretty to imagine! The writing was brilliant. Not too wordy and not boring. Also, apparently some people found this boring? Fortunately for me, the pacing was great! Only reason it took me a week to finish was because of my slump, but when I finally got out of it, I read the last 200 pages in one sitting!

Also, the world building was so well-done! I wasn't confused one bit. The enhancements were so cool and interesting, as well.

NOOOOOW. THE CHARACTERS. I LOVE THEM, OK. LOVE, LOVE, LOVE! My favorite is my baby Pasha. #ProtectPashaAtAllCosts OKAY THANK YOU.

Our female MC, Vika, is amazing. It's always a big plus for me when the heroine in a fantasy novel is cool because I always tend to dislike them. Vika is clever and headstrong and I just love her! Our male MCs are Nikolai and Pasha. Nikolai is so quiet and brave and *sighs*.... so lovely.

You know how a book is all fun and games and then suddenly all hell breaks loose? THIS WAS THE CROWN'S GAME. I was just sitting there reading enjoying it AND SUDDENLY EVERYTHING WAS A BIG FAT MESS. Problem after a problem after a problem and I was like "SLOW DOWN MY HEART CAN'T HANDLE THIS!" and then my heart broke. I didn't really cry, just got teary-eyed but my heart broke so bad and I just wanted to throw the book in my trash bin. Yep.

This book has so many mixed reviews and I can see some of the problems other readers have with it, but honestly, the plot, writing and the characters were just so good that I just didn't care at all! I definitely recommend it! As a debut novel, I'd say Skye did a wonderful job. GIVE ME THE CROWN'S FATE NOW, PLEASE AND THANK YOU.


Buddy reading with my wife EM
Profile Image for ambsreads.
656 reviews1,393 followers
May 16, 2017
Buddy Read with who dat aka big boy aka Caitlin

Wow. It's been around 24 hours and I still am unable to put The Crown's Game into the words I want to. I am still in shock. I picked the book up despite seeing some mixed reviews which would have otherwise drove me away, and then proceeded to read it with one of my favourite people who I met through this site. If I hadn't been reading it with Cait I probably would have DNF'ed it.

One thing I can say about this book is that the beginning is slow. It is so horrifically slow that I was frustrated with our characters. I grew to love them though, clearly from my rating of this book. However, since I don't want to say anything about this book in fear of ruining it for you I will put it in gifs.


Ultimately, I need to be put in my glass castle (my big boys will understand) and be held by someone because damn. Definitely one of the best books I've read of 2016.
Profile Image for Steysha.
111 reviews212 followers
February 3, 2016

There are things more dangerous than a little magic

This book was amazing! I wish it didn't have to end. Fans of The Night Circus, this is what we were looking for!

Vika Andreyeva and Nikolai Karimov are two enchanters who were chosen by tsar to participate in the Crown’s Game. I should note that it`s a very rare case when two enchanters are born at the same time. Both enchanters don`t know about each other, until it`s time to fight in the Game. They also don't know much about the competition, except for one - they have to demonstrate their abilities and prove who is worthy to serve the king. The loser will face death, because two enchanters cannot exist together.

The Imperial Enchanter will need all of Russia’s magic, especially since Bolshebnoie Duplo is no longer as potent as it was when the people of our country still adhered to the old ways. The Imperial Enchanter must be the only major conduit of what magic remains. There cannot be any dilution

And now Russia is being threatened by the Ottoman Empire. The King will need all his forces in the looming war. It's time to choose the Imperial Enchanter. But no matter how zealously Vika and Nikolai were preparing for competition, they did not expect that they will penetrate with forbidden feelings for each other. However, their lives are at stake, which means that their relationships are not going to happen.

Vika packed the clay from the former pitcher in her hands. It hardened into a ceramic cannonball. “I don’t fancy dying.”
Her father emptied the bottle of kvass. “Then the only option is, you cannot.”

I also should say that the prose was great. The author managed to show Russia in all its glory. After reading this book you will want to see firsthand all of the places visited by the protagonists of the novel. Ornate descriptions of the surroundings were skillfully diluted by exciting dialogues that won`t leave anyone indifferent. The story isn`t fast-paced, but it`s by no means boring.

���I’d like to be a menace to anyone who dares to trouble Russia.”
“You already are a menace.”
Vika pecked Sergei on the cheek. “Then make me a bigger one.”

If you are expecting ferocious magical battles for the right to become the winner of the Crown's Game, then forget about it. No, as it was in The Night Circus, the main task of enchanters is not to kill each other, but to show their capabilities by working for the good of the country. Each of them is given five attempts to show themselves and to surprise the King. St. Petersburg is their battleground. However, at first enchanters didn`t abandon their attempts to kill each other and to end the Game earlier than it was planned to. With each move their creations impress more and more, but their affection for each other grows too. Nevertheless, both have their own reasons for needing to win.

And he could not give that up, because studying with her was his ticket to becoming more than a no-name orphan. He could be Imperial Enchanter someday.

The romance came to my liking. It wasn`t love at first sight. The enchanters were interested in each other, because they had very different types of magic. Vika copes better with natural phenomena, while Nikolai wields artificial mothers. The only thing that bothered me was Pasha. Personally, I`m not a fan of love triangles, but in the end I warmed to this character.

For a debut novel I think this book was very impressive. There are a lot of twists and turns that were impossible to guess in advance. All characters are strong-willed and well thought-out. Vika became one of my favorite heroines, and Nikolai is in the list of boys-I-want-to-marry.

I recommend this book to all fans of YA fantasy. I hope it will surpass your expectations, like it did in my case. And I also look forward to the sequel BECAUSE YOU CAN`T END A BOOK LIKE THAT!!! Enjoy your reading :)

“Good.” After a long pause, the tsar rose from his wooden throne. “Then let the Crown’s Game begin.”
Profile Image for Nastassja.
423 reviews1,014 followers
July 6, 2016

I think I should've been alarmed when I first read these words in the beginning of the story:

<...>but he wanted his daughter to grow up truly Russian—hiking through birch forests, playing the balalaika, and having an almost religious zeal for buckwheat kasha with mushrooms and fresh butter.

So to speak, the Russian aspect is as true in this story as hiking through birch forests, playing the balalaika and so one are true for Russian people, which is to say - it's bullshit. Not even in the 19th century those "hobbies" were a thing a true Russian enjoyed. I don't even want to touch other Evelyn's failures concerning Russian culture (and the were enough of those) but for one I can't ignore: Bolshebnoe Duplo ( a magical hollow) I read. Stopped. Read it again and then couldn't stop laughing for 10 minutes. Like seriously? Bolshebnoe Duplo... Letter B in Rissian means letter V in English and the correct form of the word accordingly would be Volshebnoe. Maybe Evelyn decided to give the B letter a free pass to go amok and feel authentically Russian for once, no matter that English speaking people wouldn't understand author's "love for authenticity" and Russian speaking people wouldn't appreciate the gesture of mutilating their language.

The storyline is no better and resembles one big empty duplo (pun intended). I seriously can't fathom how a book about magical tournament set in Imperial Russia in reality turned out not to be about magic tournament set in Imperial Russia.

Than what was it about?

Insta-love and unicorns.

Guy one saw Girl one and fell for her,
Guy two saw Girl one and fell for her,
Girl one saw Guy one and fell for him,
Girl two was already in love with Guy one.


I wouldn't be surprised if stupid clichéd romance in YA books is one of the reasons aliens never visit our planet. I mean, who wants to deal with stupid teenage drama in the first place and when it's a drama in square? Nope.

Apart from everyone loving everyone in this book for no reason, the characters are also shallow, fickle creatures with no substance or depth. And they all are so fucking purrfect I wanted to throw up every time perfection was pushed in my face!

Just come on, how many stories about perfect beautiful people who fell in love from the first sight do we need to read and hate, to hint authors it's time to start creating flawed characters with something more to their name than good looks and lusty glances.

I was reading the book. I was rolling my eyes. I finished the book. I forgot it existed.

That is how I can summarize my reading experience.

For more detailed information about the book, go read my friends' reviews with whom I was supposed to buddy-read the book but couldn't due to busy time: review #1, review #2


Profile Image for Rachel E. Carter.
Author 9 books3,518 followers
June 1, 2016
2016 can't come soon enough. This book looks amazing. Hype don't let me down.
Profile Image for booksnpenguins (wingspan matters).
801 reviews2,915 followers
February 21, 2023
There is no such thing as a winner in the Game.

Oh, you know me. I read Nikolai and Russian historical fiction and I'm gone faster than you can say Блин!
Just kidding, but not really.
I went into this book expecting nothing from it and it probably was for the best since I had the chance to fully savor every moment.
I was only a few pages in, in fact, when I realized this book is a gem in disguise. Main disguise being that cheap cover. It's probably the only thing I despise about this novel.
Seriously, this is everything I'd hoped The Night Circus to be and then some. It has magic, a competition, a beautiful setting, great main and side characters, friendship, love, humor and it's so fast-paced you wouldn't get bored even if you put effort in it.
I love love love love love Vika, Nikolai and Pasha, and the writing is so good it was hard to pick a favorite quote to start this review with.

Bless you, Evelyn Skye. You've gained a new fan.

#PenguinOnATBRMission: book #11

this hashtag is something I self-indulgently created for fun when I decided to thin out my immense tbr list as a new years resolution starting from books I added on GR back in 2017/2018/2019, and since I can't seem to do anything quietly and I'm well known for being an overachiever, I had to go and turn it into an official thing. Feel free to check out the shelf with the same name if you don't mind keeping up with this insanely over-hyped adventure I got myself into. Take it as a chance to rediscover some books from a few years ago that might have accidentally flown under your radar, or to simply share with another fellow reader your very own reading experience. Happy reading and stay penguin-y!

To Be Continued...🐧
May 9, 2020
Review in 2016:
Wow! This book was so good! I give this a 4.5/5 stars!(:

Review in 2020:
Wow I can see why I rated this four stars last time because it still holds up with how good this first book was! I buddy read this with my friends: Heather, Libby, Tiffany for our book club pick of the month for May and it was really good! Can't wait to read the sequel now!(:
Profile Image for Viktoria Winter.
107 reviews440 followers
January 29, 2016


This sounds like a mix between three of my favorite books: Throne of Glass, A Darker Shade of Magic, and Shadow and Bone! How is that even freaking possible? What is this witchery? Whatever, I want it. Like, this very second would be greatly appreciated. I feel as though I've been searching for a book like this formonthsever.

HOLY MOTHER OF MODERN LITERATURE, I NEED THIS BOOK RIGHT NOW. Also, just behold that cover art. It's rare to find an amazing cover paired with an equally phenomenal synopsis. The hype is real with this one, you guys. It's getting 5 stars for the time being.

Profile Image for Maggie ☘.
538 reviews658 followers
October 21, 2018
Everyone: Fear the deadly trials! They are mercilles and might very well be the end of you!

The Tsar: Whose birthday surprise I fancy more shall win…

The plot: Scary birthday surprise gift competition ensues. The end.

- A short summary


This was nice and all but... Where were the actual deadly trials?? It seems that no one really cared about them. Not even the tsar who was suposed to initiate them...

I enjoyed the magic and setting. The writing and switch of the POVs was nice as well (though there were some senseless metaphores included). I did like the characters somewhat, but didn't feel connected to them. As well as I felt disconnected from the romance. It was too much to fast and also love square-y (which was completely unecessary).

“Her lungs faltered. Even the mere memory of his magic was so strong. And touching Nikolai, even through her gloves and his sleeve, was like being pummeled by a stampede of wild horses. No, wild unicorns. Beautiful, wild unicorns.”



The characters were ok, if one dimensional and some of them (Pasha and the whole of non magical citizens) tad dense. The only who had some kind of common sense was Pasha's sister, Yuliana. And she was somewhat antagonized through the female MC's POV by the end.
I would've liked this book way more if there was less romance and more viciousness and dueling. Higher stakes. While, in the end, the plot focused more on the romance than the competition itself.

But I think it's more of a problem of false advertising than anything else. Both the beginning of the book and many reviews (and probably the publishers as well) promised deadly competition and, eh, that was... anticlimatic. Thankfully I wasn't expecting it from this book after neing previously warned about the direction of the book, but I get why many people would be dissapointed because of it. Sometimes the advertising that is supposed to help and promote book could more likely hurt the it than anything else. Becasue while the 'duels' were's very much exciting, I still kinda liked them for what they were - creative.

Overall: creative, beautiful magic and setting, very romance center (beware the love square), engaging writing but decidedly not dark enough (this is no Hunger Games people). Porbably for fans of Shadow and Bone, though not as good.
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Author 14 books25.5k followers
April 14, 2017
I absolutely adored this and cannot wait for the second book!
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331 reviews1,371 followers
August 3, 2016
3.25 /5 stars

Video Review: https://youtu.be/n14Lre-W30M

When I wasn't reading this book I was thinking about it and when I was reading it I was driven to read more of it to find out what was going to happen next. This book has an element of drama to it which I know people won't enjoy and even though it isn't a huge pro for me I did find myself enjoying that aspect. For some reason, this book gave me season 1 Reign vibes which was my obsession (before the awful thing called season 2 happened). Now even though I enjoyed the idea of the drama I definitely did not like the love triangle mess going on. That I found was completely unnecessary. Plus the insta love actually hurt because I was expecting the romance to be a little bit more developed. Nonetheless, I did really enjoy some other aspects.

A HUGE pro for my was the setting. I adored how passionate Evelyn Skye is about Russia and how apparent it was in this novel. The amount of research she put into it really made the setting something so special. Another pro I had was the fantastical elements involving the magic. It was easy to understand and I loved how it felt natural to the world.

Overall, I liked this book. I think the insta love/ love triangle lowered my rating for it BUT I did devour this book. I will surely be reading the sequel whenever it does come out because how can I not after that ending!
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