I liked this series starter, but quite not as much as I was expecting given the hype I read before starting it. My favorite parts were the friendship between Nikolai and Pasha, Vika’s vibrancy and boldness, and the enchantments, especially the later ones.
4.2 stars on Amazon
3.81 stars on Goodreads
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The Crown’s Game Series
#1 The Crown’s Game
Point of View
This book is written in third person from a variety of points of view, predominantly Vika’s and Nikolai’s.
This book is set in an alternate Russia in the 1800’s.
– Vika Andreyev – a magical girl raised and trained by her father on the remote Ovchinin Island to become the Imperial Enchanter when she turns 18
– Nikolai Karimov – an orphan boy with magical skill who was raised and trained by Galina since he was seven; long-time best friend of Pasha
– Pasha Romanov – prince/future tsar of Russia
– Sergei Andreyev – Vika’s dad
– Galina Zakrevskaya – Nikolai’s mentor; Sergei’s sister; a countess
– Yuliana Romanov – princess of Russia; Pasha’s ruthless sister
– Ludmila – runs a bakery on Ovchinin Island; Vika’s friend
– Renata – a servant of Galina’s and a friend of Nikolai’s; reads tea leaves
***** Everything below is a SPOILER *****
What happened in The Crown’s Game?
Vika’s lesson is to summon dry lightning to fell a tree. She does so. It is connected via electrical wire to 50 other trees. They go up in flame and topple toward her. She conjures an ice shield to protect herself. It absorbs the blows, and she emerges five hours later. In seven seasons, she’ll be 18 and summoned to serve the tsar.
Nikolai is magically working on a suit for himself. He knows another enchanter has been born and they’ll eventually compete. Galina takes him to the national library at 2 AM for a lesson. She wants him to re-shelve books to find five misslotted ones in 3 hours. He succeeds and is exhausted.
Pasha has arrived home, and Yuliana forces him to interrupt a meeting between their parents with news. He learned the Khazak locals are unhappy with the Russian reforms. They’re preparing to revolt. Yuliana asks her father to present the Crown’s Game during Pasha’s birthday to prepare to protect the kingdom. The tsar agrees.
Nikolai suggests he and Pasha go to Ovchinin Island to hunt. They leave their group to explore the forest. They hear a huge clap of thunder. Lightning explodes around them. A girl screams. They rush to save her. The girl is in the center of blazing trees and is on fire. She snuffs it all out. She hears the boys. She freezes their feet so they can’t chase her. Nikolai knows she’s the other enchanter.
Sergei is stunned to receive a note saying there is another enchanter his daughter will have to battle. He can’t believe his sister kept her pupil’s existence from him.
Renata read Nikolai’s tea leaves long ago; he’s lonely and death follows him. He tells her about seeing his powerful opponent during the hunt. He’s nervous.
Pasha tries to figure out what he saw in the forest. Nikolai won’t talk about it, so he does research in the royal library.
Sergei tells Vika about the Game and that they leave tomorrow.
Galina fills Nikolai’s room with wild animals and tells him to kill them as practice for when he has to kill his opponent.
Vika and Sergei arrive for the Game oath. She shrouds herself with invisibility. Galina and her prodigy arrive. Nikolai is also invisible. Vika trips. Nikolai reaches out to steady her. She can see his real appearance for just a second. The king arrives, commences the game, and disappears.
They follow the king into the enchanted mountain. He explains the rules of the game. They take their oaths. Flaming scars of crossed wands appear on their chests. Scars burning will indicate their turn. Their mentors give them a parting gift before being banished. The tsar wants them to impress Pasha for his birthday as their theme.
Aizhana has raised from the dead. She has been fighting her way back and wonders who finally allowed it to happen.
Pasha investigates the storm and looks for the girl. The ferry captain sends him to the bakery for gossip on where to find her. Ludmila tells him it’s Vika. She just left on a trip with her father.
For his first move, Nikolai decides to change the facades of buildings on the main thoroughfare. Vika awakes to her scar burning. She sees Nikolai has changed the buildings. He added small stone birds, and they attack as soon as Vika steps outside. She summons her own birds in defense and lays a trap to kill all the stone birds at once. A stone bird lands on Nikolai and relays to him what just happened. He’s relieved and disappointed.
The royal family is touring the city. A disgruntled citizen yells at the group and is struck by a guard. Pasha asks for medical attention and his pardon. His father realizes how soft he is and how much he will need an Imperial Enchanter.
Vika enchants all city waterways for her first task. Crowds gather to watch the impressive fountains. She has the water grab Nikolai and jerk him into the water. Her energy runs out. He survives. She dyes the waterways in the colors of the rainbow.
Pasha discusses the odd happenings. Nikolai confirms magic exists. Pasha plans to invite the fire girl to his birthday ball.
Sergei and Galina are sequestered at a cabin in Siberia. They argue continually. Galina reveals she knows Vika isn’t Sergei’s biological daughter.
Aizhana walks into a village and asks where her child is. She looks and smells like a corpse. No one recognizes her. She tells them about a faith healer from their tribe who fell in love with a Russian soldier. He leaves without a goodbye. She later gives birth to a son. He almost dies at birth, but she saves his life. She almost dies but is put into an ante-death state for years. Her son was taken away 11 years ago by a Russian aristocrat because his power was too strong. Aizhana kills the women and uses their energy to strengthen.
Vika is lonely and invites Ludmila to stay with her. Ludmila has known about Vika’s magic all along.
Two boxes delivered in front of the palace contain a life-size jack-in-the-box and ballerina. They come out and dance around the room. Vika becomes trapped in the ballerina’s box. She changes the walls to steam and vaporizes the box.
Vika conjures a storm the next night when jack and the ballerina should be dancing again. The crowd runs for cover. Nikolai conjures a shield. Then lightning starts to strike all around him. Vika doesn’t harm him because of the sadness in his eyes. It’s his turn once again.
Pasha visits the new life-size glass pumpkin like the small one he sent Ludmila. She sells magical confections. She’s amazed by Pasha’s true identity. He asks about Vika and sends an invitation with Ludmila to the royal ball.
Nikolai sent Renata to work at the pumpkin bakery to watch for Vika. She tells Nikolai that Vika’s invited to the ball.
Two huge armoires are delivered that evening. Vika asks tailor shop patrons about the armoire. You insert an old outfit, and it pops out a new one that’s perfect for the ball. A similar armoire sits outside Vika’s apartment. A note from Nikolai appears explaining it is an Imagination Box. It carves her thoughts and words on the front door. She decides it’s not safe to interact with it anymore because Nikolai is her enemy. Ludmila tells her how Pasha’s been searching for her. They agree to go to the ball.
Nikolai arrives and starts watching for Vika and Pasha. Renata is working as a servant to help with surveillance. Nikolai magically changes her clothes, and they dance together. Pasha sneaks up and cuts in. Pasha joins his family and enters the ball as the guest of honor.
Vika arrives in a gown of ice and snow. Pasha asks for a dance. The tsar knows who she is. Someone cuts in after one dance, and Pasha reveals it’s Nikolai. When they touch, there’s a power and connection between them. She doesn’t know the dance but Nikolai charms her limbs. They dance at a maddening pace. He speeds up the orchestra to accommodate them. Vika knows she shouldn’t trust him but feels a like he’s her other half at the end of a string.
Sergei is weak. He rejects food. Galina asks if he charmed the bracelet he gave Vika. He did and is weak because he’s giving her his energy through it.
Nikolai slept a whole day after draining his energy at the ball and awakes to his scar burning. A beautiful island was created. Nikolai rushes to meet Pasha there. He tells Nikolai that Vika slipped and said there are two enchanters. Nikolai feels Vika is inviting him to collaborate with her on the island.
Renata has set up a stand next to Ludmila’s bakery to sell tea and read leaves. Vika asks for tea and a reading. Renata sees love will always come with suffering for Vika and death by a knife is near. She only tells her the latter.
Aizhana is lurking in the bridge below the girls. She hears their whole exchange. She learns her son is in a contest in which only one enchanter will live. She vows to kill the tsar.
Pasha asks Yuliana if Vika likes him. She says Vika is below him. He thinks it will be lonely to be tsar.
Nikolai sneaks to the new island late and exhausts himself making a large dock, lit paper lanterns, and benches along the pathway. He falls asleep on one of the benches.
Vika awakes to her scar burning. She evanesces to the island because her magic has been stronger. She sees Nikolai’s creations and sits down on one of the magical benches. It transports her to Moscow. All the benches are wonders of Russia. She finds a bench dedicated to Ovchinin Island.
Vika approaches the last bench and finds an unconscious Nikolai on it. She is worried and touches his cheek. She’s sucked into another dream. They are in the Kazahkan steppe. Nikolai explains this is his birthplace. He takes her to the village he lived in during his younger years. They discuss the Game, and Nikolai gets agitated and wakes up. Vika evanesces him home to rest.
Renata brings charmed snacks from Ludmila to Nikolai. She tells him she read Vika’s leaves and death is coming to one of them. She confesses her love even though she knows he loves Vika. He says no one should love him because of the game.
Pasha’s parents are heading south for the winter because of his mother’s health. She asks Pasha to take care of his sister and the realm in their absence. He goes to the island that night to try the benches while nobody’s there. He is pleased to find Vika there. He tries to make a move on her. She says she isn’t in a position for a relationship.
The tsarina isn’t doing well at all. The tsar calls for Nikolai and Vika. He asks them who can get them south the quickest. Vika’s evanescing can.
Siphoning power to Vika has finally done Sergei in. He asks Galina to tell Vika the truth about him and that he loved her. He dies.
Vika passes out cold while walking with Nikolai. He brings her to his house and wakes her. He begins having lustful thoughts about her, and his entire room shakes.
Aizhana hears of the tsar’s departure and heads to him.
Vika receives a letter from Galina about of Sergei’s death and his dying wish. He was her adopted father. He found her on a volcano, abandoned by a nymph.
Pasha shows Nikolai the book describing the Game. He tells Nikolai he likes Vika, almost kissed her, and wants to help her win the competition. Nikolai is jealous but says Pasha cannot interfere with the competition.
Ludmila tells Pasha about Vika’s father’s death and asks him to distract her from her grief. He summons a carriage to take her to his family’s summer home. She falls asleep on Pasha’s shoulder. He sees the edge of the glowing scar on her shoulder and knows the Game he’s read about is true.
Pasha talks about Vika and the game, and Nikolai eventually performs magic and tells him he’s the other enchanter. Pasha feels betrayed. Both boys admit their love for Vika. Pasha says he wants nothing to do with Nikolai or magic ever again.
Vika is still sad and is furious the Game caused Sergei to die. For her fourth task, she sends rats, cats, and moths into Galina’s house to destroy everything and then kill Nikolai. She realizes he’s just a pawn in the Game, too, and admits her feelings for him. She calls the creatures back and doesn’t complete the task.
Nikolai returns home hungover and injured after a night of drinking and brawling to find the house in disarray. He knows whose work it is and attempts to repair the damage.
Aizhana is in the tsar’s tent. He doesn’t recognize her. She reminds him who she is and says Nikolai is their son. Aizhana kisses the tsar and transfers typhus to him. He soon dies. The tsarina passes soon, too.
Pasha and Yuliana are in mourning. Pasha is now tsar. He lost his parents, best friend, and hope at love. Ruling is the only thing he has left. Pasha ignores Nikolai’s every attempt to contact him.
Yuliana asks Pasha to end the game to have an Imperial Enchanter to quell unrest and show a solid front to the world. Pasha calls Vika and Nikolai to him and says the Game needs to be finished. He doesn’t want to choose a winner and calls for a fight to the death on the island the following day at dawn. This is Yuliana’s idea. Galina tells Vika she killed her father by sucking his energy through the bracelet.
Nikolai tries to talk to Vika, but she creates a snowstorm and leaves the castle. Nikolai’s mother approaches him. She tells him that tsar was his father. She resurrected herself after many years to find him. He believes her but wants nothing to do with her because she murdered the tsar.
How did The Crown’s Game end?
Pasha is weak and throwing up on the morning of the duel. Nikolai arrives on the island and finds Renata and Ludmila in cages. Renata tells Nikolai she loves him again. Vika sees Nikolai kiss Renata as she arrives. They go to the other side of the island for the duel. Vika asks about the kiss, but Nikolai says Renata’s just a friend. His fifth move is because he loves Vika. He stabs himself with the magical knife from Galina. The wound goes into Vika’s chest instead. Galina knew of Nikolai’s compassion. She made the knife to kill the target she intended, not him. Nikolai scrambles for a way to heal Vika. He siphons his energy into her to let her do the healing. It begins to work. Nikolai’s strength is draining. He begins to feel very cold.
Pasha is still ill. He hears the quill writing. He sees Vika’s name as winner and sobs. Pasha holds an elaborate memorial service for Nikolai. Vika doesn’t attend. She can’t seem to cry about Nikolai’s death even though she’s incredibly sad. She feels his magic lingering. She goes to the bench of the steppe. Pasha joins her in this vision. She is still furious and short with him. He looks awful and says he knows he’s made a horrible mistake. After Pasha leaves, Vika sees a shadowy figure on a horse off in the distance. She feels the familiar tug at her heart. The rider is Nikolai. He tips his hat, even though no one in the visions should be able to see her.
There you go! That’s what happened in The Crown’s Game, the first book in The Crown’s Game series. Book 2 will likely be released in spring 2017!
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