posted at Monday, July 11th, 2016 at 8:00 AM | Mini Reviews, Reviews, Young Adult
I received this book for free from Publisher in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.The Crown's Game by Evelyn Skye
Series: The Crown's Game #1
Published by Balzer + Bray on May 17, 2016
Genres: Fantasy, Historical, Romance
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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.
Despite the disappointing cover, The Crown’s Game was one of my most highly anticipated debut novels. This can, at times, be a dubious state because many of those fail to live up to my expectations. The Crown’s Game, however, delivered delightful Russian-set fantasy, magic, and action.
The beginning moved a bit slowly for me. The perspective changes with almost every chapter, and it took a while for the story to grab me in its sway since the scene generally changed as well. However, once the competition really got going and the characters began to interact more, the tension ramps up and I couldn’t put this book down.
I love the world building and the setting, even though the history element is (intentionally) quite limited. The Author’s Note indicates that the Tsar in the story is Alexander I, but his children have been changed, which obviously means, magic aside, that the story will diverge from actual history in a big way. I’m totally down with that tbh. The magic is awesome, and I loved the creative applications thereof that occurred during the game.
As I was reading the last bits of The Crown’s Game, I was chuckling to myself because it’s got a double instalove love triangle with bonus pining girl in love with one of the two guys. It’s a hot mess of bad romance tropes. That said, I didn’t actually really mind it, but the romance is not strong with this one to the degree that I’m not actually committed to a ship. The strongest relationships in the book are Vika’s with Sergei and his with his sister.
Vika’s my favorite character by far, because she’s so hardcore. Pasha’s character gets assassinated there at the end, but otherwise he’s really great. I’m most annoyed by Renata, the ever loyal and pathetically-in-love with Nikolai. What I find most interesting from a character perspective so far is that the villains of the book aren’t evil but resting very firmly in the gray.
The ending of this book goes totally bonkers, and there’s yet another annoying trope likely coming. But whatever I still need book two like burning.Going Rogue by Robin Benway
Series: AKA #2
Published by Walker BFYR on January 14, 2014
Genres: Contemporary, Mystery, Romance
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Being permanently based in a local New York City high school as an undercover operative has its moments, good and bad, for 16-year-old safecracker Maggie Silver.
Pros: More quality time with her former mark-turned-boyfriend Jesse Oliver and insanely cool best friend, Roux.
Getting to spend quality time with her semi-retired and international spy honorary uncle, Angelo.
Cons: High school and the accompanying cliques, bad lunches, and frustratingly simple locker combinations.
But when Maggie's parents are falsely accused of stealing priceless gold coins, Maggie uses her safecracking skills to try and clear their names.
Too bad it only serves to put her and everyone she loves in danger. Maggie and her "new team" flee to Paris where they must come up with a plan to defeat their former allies.
At this point, I’ve read all of Benway’s books but her debut novel, which I plan to read shortly. They’ve all been somewhere from really fun to totally amazing. Sure, Also Known As had totally lol plotting but they romance and characterization were on point, so I didn’t really mind. In Going Rogue, the focus is more on the plot than the characters and everything goes to shit.
I totally get wanting to experiment with genre and do something new, but mystery is not Benway’s best thing. The plot is so massively stupid that I was rolling my eyes and frustratedly sending stupid quotes to a friend.
Maggie’s parents are being investigated by the Collective, their spy organization, for possibly having stolen valuable coins. In order to prove their innocence, Maggie STEALS THE COINS from their accuser. Like their daughter having them and claiming that she took them from someone else would prove jack shit. Of course, them having the coins is a plot point later. Shocker. Paris also comes up a few times early on, and it’s like “so they’re going to Paris, then.” Shocker. They do.
And oh my god Maggie breaks into the evil guy’s house and, because of bad intel, he’s inside. She decides to carry on anyway, which okay sure fine. Except that she fucking talks to herself while she does it. OUT LOUD. SHE TALKS TO HERSELF OUTLOUD. WHILE DOING A B&E ON AN EVIL SPY. Oh, and how about the time it takes both attack by bullets and poison gas for Maggie to realize someone is trying to kill them… No shit, Sherlock.
That’s just the tip of the iceberg really but I do not have the energy to relay all of the ridiculous things that happened. Meanwhile, Jesse and Maggie break up temporarily because she doesn’t trust him with spy shit and she’s fighting with Roux, again because she wants to protect her from the spy stuff. It’s your typical Arrow episode basically. Nothing whatsoever gets resolved here; Roux and Jesse get drawn in to the spy nonsense anyway and the point is rendered moot, so people make up without Maggie’s mind truly being changed. Thanks for the pointless melodrama!
Aside from the break up, Jesse and Maggie are nauseatingly sweet together. Like, barf-inducingly. This sometimes happens with bantery couples when they get together, and I really, really hate it. Benway also has Roux instalove (in a super classic, immediate, telling way) all over this random spy guy in France. I just. I don’t know how the characterization is so bad in this book with established characters who had so much personality in the first book.
So yeah, I’m pretty massively disappointed in this one, and I’m going to pretend it doesn’t exist. If you were iffy on the spy stuff in Also Known As, you may want to stop there.