The two main characters, Vika and Nikolai are Enchanters. They are in training and don't know about each other. The setting is an alternate historical Russia and the country has become somewhat unstable and the king needs an Enchanter to help him make decisions and use magic to control the people. It's very unusual to have two Enchanters, so they must hold the Crown's Game to decide which one is worthy. The other one must die.
Vika and Nikolai get to know each other during the games and begin to care for each other. The games are not the type I expected, where they compete against each other, at least not a first. They just each take turns creating magical things that please the King and the Prince, who happens to be Nikolai's best friend. But the Prince doesn't know Nikolai is an Enchanter. The creations are pleasing, but might also be deadly to their opponent.
There's a bit of a romance and even a love triangle, but it's slow and subtle and fits in nicely with the plot. The world and the magical creations are vivid and delightful.
The ending is devastating, as it must be, since we are going to lose one of our main characters. Or are we? The Crown's Game is a imaginative, well-written story. There is some tension, but not too much. Some romance, but not over the top. Wonderful characters and lots of unique elements. Too bad it's almost summer (not really) and I can't recommend this for our next book club pick. Hopefully next fall we'll choose The Crown's Game. In the meantime, I'll be recommending this one a lot.
P.S. This is my favorite cover of the year. Love it.
Published by Balzer + Bray, May17, 2016
eARC obtained from Edelweiss
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