Book Review: The Crown’s Game – Evelyn Skye


Title: The Crown’s Game (2016)
Series: The Crown’s Game – Book 1
Author: Evelyn Skye
Genre: Young Adult, Fantasy
Extent: 399 pages
Release Date: May 17, 2016
Rating: ★★☆☆☆

Goodreads Description

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.

As long-buried secrets emerge, threatening the future of the empire, it becomes dangerously clear… the Crown’s Game is not one to lose.


I’ve been looking forward to reading The Crown’s Game ever since I read the blurb. Magical duels are something I’m interested in by default, and when the stakes are high, I love it even more. This book, however, was rather underwhelming and ended up being much more of a romance story than a fantasy story, which is a terrible, terrible shame.

I actually quite enjoyed the first few chapters of this book, but not much else thereafter. I liked getting to know Vika and Nikolai, their family, their history, their magic… but once the Game actually started, the plot just falls into pieces. Gone was the anticipation and the horror of what might come; what was in place was pretty much child’s play.

“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.”

The biggest issue of The Crown’s Game is that despite its title and blurb, the Game failed horribly to deliver. This was no ‘ancient duel of magical skill’, because what Vika and Nikolai performed were simply facelifts of Russia: the making of a new island, the designing of an impressive ball gown made out of ice, the creation of new bridges and benches. Hardly ‘the greatest test an enchanter will ever know’, really. Not once in this book was I worried for either of their livelihoods, because it just wasn’t dangerous.

I was also extremely, extremely confused by how the Game chooses the winner. Every person gets five turns, but how do you decide when a turn ends, or what constitutes as a ‘turn’? Nikolai’s and Vika’s powers were also very different, and I don’t see any way they could be fairly compared. These loopholes could be solved if they were addressed at all, but all the characters just accept it and don’t question it at all. :/

The characters weren’t anything special, and the main three actually struck me as more immature than anything else. Vika was somewhat spoiled and brash, and Nikolai her broody, angsty love interest. Pasha, Nikolai’s best friend and the tsarevich, is irresponsible and honestly kind of annoying, mostly there just to add to the love triangle. I actually liked some of the minor characters — Renata, Ludmila — but they don’t appear nearly as much to make me actually care about them either.

Pasha knocked on Nikolai’s head. “Then if you’re not asleep, talk to me. You’re my best friend. I think I love her, and she might die.”

Nikolai peered up from the table. “You cannot love her. You hardly know her.”

Pot calling kettle black, Nikolai, because honestly, the insta-love in this book is actually painful. The moment Pasha spots Vika, he’s immediately besotted with her. For Nikolai and Vika, it took several sights and a single touch — certainly not enough substance for a healthy, long-lasting relationship. All three characters probably have at most five conversations with their love interest before they decided they’re in love (and it’s love, not lust), and frankly, it’s just ridiculous.

The setting in The Crown’s Game is modelled after Imperial Russia. Now, I haven’t been there and don’t know enough to speak on its accuracy, but this review here highlighted some of the things that Skye didn’t get right. Accuracy aside, however, I did think that the writing style lends to some very vivid, colourful imagery to play out in my mind’s eye, so I don’t have many complaints about that.

Overall, though, this book was quite a disappointment. While I enjoyed Skye’s writing style, both the world-building and the plot were very thin, with not much to work with. The characters were bland, and the insta-love didn’t help either. It’s really too bad. 😦

45 thoughts on “Book Review: The Crown’s Game – Evelyn Skye

  1. I’ve seen so many people with very similar opinions to yours. It’s really disappointing, but I’m so glad that people are sharing their reviews because this was a book I was planning on buying soon after it came out. Based on all the negative reviews though, I think I’ll just wait and see if my library gets it and borrow it instead of spending my money on it. Great review!


    • It’s really too bad, because the concept could’ve been so amazing! But that just made it all the more disappointing, haha. I think waiting for a library copy is a great idea – looking forward to see what your thoughts are if you ever get to it. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Wow after all the hype I was ready to order this and even pay for INTL shipping. Glad I read your review first. Since her writing style is good maybe she’ll come up with something better next. Let’s keep our fingers crossed.


      • I’m starting to get very wary of hyped books these days. Which is probably why I haven’t read cinder yet despite having had the copy for ages. I’m afraid to get disappointed.


            • Hmm, I usually read Goodreads reviews on books I’m not sure about (like Cinder) and the negative ones were what stuck in the end. One of my coworkers actually just read Cinder and absolutely loved it, though, so I guess it depends on what you’re looking for. 🙂

              Liked by 1 person

              • Let’s see. I’m still new to YA and making my way into the genre very gingerly. I liked A Monster Calls but the more popular ones don’t really appeal to me. I do hope I like t though. The premise sounds awesome


  3. So sad to hear this was such a disappointment – you’re not the first one I see being a bit disappointed by this title. I don’t think I’ll read it, because despite the writing style being good, the insta-love and bland characters probably just won’t do it for me :/


  4. It’s so disappointing to hear everyone say how underwhelming this was. I was really excited because it seemed like it was going to be so exciting and interesting! And ugh at instalove – why do writers keep doing that!? I already have the ebook so I’m still probably going to read this, but I’ll definitely be prepared now to seriously lower my expectations. Brilliant, honest review Reg!


  5. I’ve heard that the Game wasn’t dangerous or that exciting, which is quite disappointing. I’ll still give it a go though as I’ve the writing is lovely. Great review! 🙂


    • The Game was more like a… interior design competition, almost. Nothing life-threatening or dangerous at all, just two magicians playing dress-up with the city, haha. I hope you enjoy this one more than I did. 🙂


  6. I’m sorry you didn’t enjoy it as much as you though you would. I have been a bit reluctant about this book from the start and now I think I won’t be picking it up anytime soon. Nonetheless great review!


  7. Your thoughts of this book were pretty much the same as mine, and yeah it’s really disappointing because I think this book had a lot of promise it just failed in too many places for me to love it. I am sorry you didn’t enjoy this one though because I know it was one you were looking forwards to.
    I was really disappointed with the actual game because I expected some kind of high stakes battle to the death with epic displays of power and instead they just redecorated Russia :/
    And that’s saying nothing of the love triangle/insta-live aspects of it all!
    Still great review Reg!


    • I know! The setting was so weak, the magic was underwhelming, and the insta-love permeated pretty every page from the moment the characters met, haha. I was expecting really high stakes too with the duel but it really wasn’t anything life-threatening or dangerous. :/

      Thanks, Beth! ❤

      Liked by 1 person

      • I loved The Night Circus so I was expecting something more like that when they mentioned a magic battle, instead it felt so much less than that and I was really disappointed. It would have been a better book without the insta-love but even removing that wouldn’t have saved this book I don’t think.
        That’s all right ❤


        • Ahh, I actually haven’t read The Night Circus yet – I tried and I found the writing a bit overly descriptive, though it may be that I just wasn’t in the right mood for that kind of thing. I’ve heard of the similarities though – I wonder when this kind of thing becomes an act of ‘copying’ instead of like, ‘inspiration’?

          No, definitely not. I think what would save this book is if the Crown’s Game was actually terrifying. And removing the insta-love would surely help as well. 😛

          Liked by 1 person

          • Possibly. I really loved The Night Circus, mainly because of the magic and the world building. It’s one of my favourite books but I do think you have to be in the right mood to actually enjoy it. I think it’s a thin line to walk but if you think about it authors must take inspiration from other works all the time, especially with retellings and the like.
            Like more brutal kinds of magic, spells where you wonder if the other character will make it out alive, yeah I completely agree with that, and definitely get rid of the insta-love as well!


            • Ahh yes, I’ll keep that in mind! There are certain books you need to be in the right mood for before reading. 🙂

              Brutal magic would be awesome! I never worried about the characters in The Crown’s Game, simply because the magic isn’t all that scary. 😛

              Liked by 1 person

              • Yeah The Night Circus is definitely one of them, I wonder if I would have enjoyed it as much if I hadn’t been in the mood to read it when I did, luckily I loved it though! 😀
                Exactly, and even when they did use the magic to try and attack one another it didn’t seem like a real threat you know, I never thought they were actually gonna kill one another!

                Liked by 1 person

  8. I’ll definitely be giving this book a miss. It doesn’t sound interesting at all. I’ve yet to read a glowing review that actually points out some good reasons to read this. I’m getting tired of reading about instalove – can we just have realistic portrayals of love now?
    I studied Imperial Russia too, and the author’s superficial research would really bother me. If you are going to write about a historical period, you HAVE to make sure you put extra research in. Simply using Russian names is not enough. I’ve spent months researching (and I’ll continue to do so) and I barely feel as if I’ve touched the surface. That just sounds disappointing.
    But this is an amazing review!


    • Yeah, I wouldn’t recommend it, haha. I can’t actually comment on the authenticity of the setting (like I mentioned in my review), but it does seem like Skye’s research didn’t quite reflect the Russia that most people have in mind. It’s too bad, because her writing was quite lovely and the setting was quite vividly described. Perhaps if she didn’t try to market it as ‘authentic’ Russia, an instead an ‘alternate’ or ‘imagined’ Russia, it would’ve been better.

      Thanks, Fatima! 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  9. I almost bought this book when it first came out. And after reading all of the 1 and 2 star reviews, I’m glad I didn’t. I don’t think I’ve read a review over 2 stars yet. It’s a shame. This book seemed to have promise. Another case of hype, I guess.


  10. I completely agree. The instalove and the lack of depth to the characters definitely bothered me too. 😦 Sorry it wasn’t your cup of tea either. Thanks for sharing though and, as always, fabulous review! ❤


  11. All the issues you listed were why I took this book off my TBR. While I tolerate insta-love in contemporaries, I don’t like it in fantasies. The hype was so real for this book and I’m so thankful for all the negative reviews because I would’ve been so mad if I wasted my time reading this. Great review, Reg!


  12. Such an excellent review! I love your comparison of the feats the magicians performed to a facelift of Russia; that sounds exactly right.

    Thanks for linking to Katerina’s review on Goodreads; I’ve been wanting to read a critique of its cultural and historical accuracy, and I couldn’t have hoped for better. 🙂

    Not a book I’ll be reading, for sure. Enjoyed your review of it, though!


  13. Aww. It sucks that you didnt enjoy this book as much as you thought. There is nothing worse then reading a hyped book and then being disappointed by it. I think I might hold off on this book now


  14. I’m so sad to hear you didn’t like this book. I heard many people with the same opinions as yours about The Crown’s Games, and even though it is one of my most anticipated books this year… I’m beginning to feel letdowm even before picking it up.
    Still, when it finally comes out, I’m going to give it my best shot and see for myself whether I’ll like it or not (:

    My blog:


    • I’m sorry to hear that! I do think reviews have been more negative than positive, but hey, some people really loved it and you could be one of them – even more now that your expectations are lowered, haha. I hope you do like it, though; I thought the premise was interesting so I was sorely disappointed with the execution as it wasn’t what I imagined, but hey. 🙂

      Thanks for the comment! I’ll be checking out your blog once I’m back from vacation next week. ❤️


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s