The Crown’s Game
HarperCollins Publishers, 2016. 399 pages. Young Adult
In 1825 Russia, with unrest among the Kazakhs and the Ottoman Empire pressing from the South, the Tsar needs more help than his army and advisors can provide. Though few still believe in magic, Russia still has the ability to call an Imperial Enchanter. The problem is, there are currently two enchanters, Vika Andreyevna who has been training her entire life to become Imperial Enchanter and Nikolai Karimov, best friend to the Tsarevich, Pasha, but who does not know of Nikolai’s ability. Because their powers come from the same source, only one can become Imperial Enchanter and wield this incredible power. To decide who will become Imperial Enchanter, the Tsar sets in motion the Crown’s Game, an ancient duel of magical skill where each enchanter must show his or her inventiveness and strength. The victor will be declared the Imperial Enchanter and the Tsar’s most respected adviser. For the loser--instant death.
This is not just a typical duel to the death. Vika and Nikolai take turns crafting imaginative exhibitions throughout St. Petersburg to honor of the Tsarevich for his upcoming birthday. Each creation, however, also has some sort of trick to attack the other Enchanter. However, as Vika and Nikolai show their inventiveness and skill, they begin to fall in love with each other. Despite their attraction, there is no way to get out of the Crown's Game without someone dying.
Stunningly imagined, this extraordinary story has everything from vividly described acts of magic to political intrigue, romance, and drama. Reminiscent of The Night Circus, this book is atmospheric and over-the-top, but it has been one of the most enjoyable reads of the year so far.