Crown’s Game #2. Author: Evelyn Skye.
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 first couple of chapters were really hard to get into, because of how stilted the writing felt. Very expository, trying to set up backstory every few sentences as the main characters go about their day. Happily, once I got further into the story that smoothed out – it was not a particularly attractive writing style for me, bland at best, but once we were firmly in the setting it stopped pulling me out of the story.
Nebulous magic is not my favorite. If you can do pretty much everything but resurrection, no boundaries to work inside or rules to hold you back, it makes for a very unformed challenge. The back-and-forth enchanter battle was amusing, with some colorful scenes, but their attraction for each other was odd, to say the least.
See, we’ve got two very nice young enchanters, ordered to kill each other. There’s all sorts of ways this could ‘go wrong’ from the adults’ point of view; they could manifest normal human decency, they could *gasp* start talking and realize they’re both real human beings and then manifest normal human decency, they could just get bored of fighting someone they could be working beside. But, no. Perhaps these ways are all too realistic, too natural? Instead it must work through their magics, which are attracted to each other, pulling the reluctant enchanters with them.
Sexual Content: Light kissing. Mention of a woman’s backstory, where she spent many nights with a soldier, and thought he was in love too, before he left her, pregnant and alone.
Language: 5 d***, 1 derogatory term, a few instances of untranslated French or Russian exclamations.
Violence: One enchanter magics hundreds of stone sparrows to attack another enchanter; she summons real birds to fight them off. One enchanter tries to seize the other with water and drown him. One tries to crush the other (invisible, magic walls closing in). One character attacks the other with lightning. One character stabs another through the heart. One enchanter drains the other to the point of death (unconsciously). Undead-thing kills several woman with her claws, and deliberately infects one character with a deadly illness.