This is a book I was lucky enough to get the ARC of at the bookstore where I work. I had been very intrigued by it after all the promotional posts going on from the author, as well as on other blogs. Overall, I was pretty pleased with the book! And I think I’m glad for it to be a series, as I don’t know that I’m thrilled with how the book ended, although it did end well enough.
We have two main characters, Vika and Nikolai. Both are enchanters, Vika uses nature and the elements mostly for her magic, whereas Nikolai is better making or using man made things for his magic. When the tsar decides that he needs a Royal Enchanter to help keep his country safe, he must initiate the Crown’s Game. In this, the two enchanters will have to duel, and only one can win, which also means only one will be left alive. Either one of them will kill the other one, or the tsar/game will kill the loser.
Vika has always lived away from everyone, on an island with her father, where he has trained her all of her life to be the enchanter. He doesn’t know that there is another one out there, and so when the game begins, he must figure out the best way to help his daughter.
Nikolai was an orphan, and taken in by a woman who had been training him not only to be an enchanter, but also to win the Crown’s Game. Nikolai is also best friend with the tsar’s son, Pasha. Now he must keep the game a secret, and so he cannot tell his friend Pasha about it. But one day he and Pasha had been out on Vika’s island, and they had seen her do magic in the forest. Seeing her caused Pasha to be intrigued by this girl, and want to know more about her, as well as magic. Nikolai on the other hand, now had a bit of an advantage over Vika, knowing who she was before the game begins. You see they put wards around themselves to keep the other from knowing who they are, to try to keep the other from being able to kill them. The tsar has asked the two enchanters to make their feats of magic something to impress his son before his birthday. They begin with making the buildings colorful and beautiful. Then the water is made to do very neat things. Nikolai does try to kill Vika, sort of, with stone birds. But other than that, they soon become friends, somewhat. And Pasha starts to figure things out about the game, not realizing that it isn’t just Vika.
When something terrible happens to the tsar and his wife, Pasha must hurry up the ending of the game, and this leads to Vika and Nikolai having to make heavy decisions. Will they choose to save their own life by taking the other enchanter’s life? Or will they try to figure out a way to not hurt the person they have come to know. The ending is sad, very suspenseful, but sad. And as I mentioned at the beginning, I’m very intrigued to see what will happen next in the story. I also liked how the author gave us some factual information about Russia during that time period. I love when authors do that!