I was surprised when I read the premise of The Crown’s Game at how similar it sounded to a book I read a couple of months ago called The Night Circus (see review here). I loved The Night Circus and I was interested, and a bit worried, to see how The Crown’s Game by Evelyn Skye would compare.
My verdict is this: The Crown’s Game is much too-familar if you have read The Night Circus, but you will still find an enjoyable story that interweaves new elements into setting, character, and plot. It felt like a younger version of The Night Circus with a heavier emphasis on character relationships.
In The Crown’s Game, two enchanters, Nikolai and Vika, are pitted against each other in a deadly game to see who will be the Tsar’s Imperial Enchanter. As the two young enchanter’s try to outdo the other in magical feats, they find themselves irresistibly drawn to each other even as they fight to the death.
I loved the premise of course, but I also enjoyed the elements I wasn’t expecting. The setting in particular was something that set it apart as excellent. I loved the idea of placing a magic duel in Imperial Russia. The magic fit perfectly into an alternate and idealized version of such a place. It provided just enough newness to the story that I was held in wonder for the magical place Skye had created that was so new to me.
I loved the magical elements, and the characters too. Unlike Morgenstern’s The Night Circus, The Crown’s Game delved more deeply into helping the reader get to know the main characters. I loved the relationships between said characters and the attention Skye paid to help the reader feel, and not just observe, the love, jealousy, friendship, and disgust between them.
There was no clear villain in this story, something else that I enjoyed. I find that some of the best stories are like life: they are complicated, messy, and have no true villains. Instead, every person has elements of good and bad, and cycle somewhere in-between, often in shades of gray.
While I am disappointed that The Crown’s Game was so similar to something I’d just read (and I do prefer The Night Circus overall), I was pleased with the execution of this story in the YA fantasy genre with a rating of 8/10.