Several years ago, I had a 4th grader named Maria, who was obsessed with Imperial Russia. The fiction she wrote was always set there. She was a dramatic student, but I always enjoyed reading what she wrote. I thought about her as I read Evelyn Skye’s The Crown’s Game.
Publisher’s Summary: 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.
I liked this because of the setting. It was just real enough to feel authentic; just magical enough to feel unique. It includes all the romantic and dramatic things my former student loved about Imperial Russia: high court drama, St. Petersburg at its most glorious, and secret machinations behind the scenes.
The Crown’s Game is a wonderful place to lose yourself for a few hours, or a few days. Maria is a 7th grader now, but I hope she’s picked this one up.