The Crown's Game

Book review by
Andrea Beach, Common Sense Media
The Crown's Game Book Poster Image
Captivating tale of competing magicians in 1825 Russia.

Parents say

age 12+
Based on 2 reviews

Kids say

age 11+
Based on 3 reviews

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this book.

Educational Value

Russian phrases and a song, most translated or with context clues. French phrases with context clues and some translation. Historical setting with some real people and events and cultural and historical insight into czarist Russia in 1825; inaccuracies and alterations for story convenience are explained in the author's note. Brief insight into Kazakh culture. A modern sensibility shows through sometimes and is a minor distraction from historical accuracy, such as the surly tavern keeper who makes them "bus their own table," using numbers on the spines to shelve books in a library, and getting invited by the prince to watch a polo match. But kids probably won't notice them, and they aren't important to the story or the characters.

Positive Messages

Friendship needs honesty and trust to thrive, but if a friend has made a mistake, listen to his or her side of the story and forgive. Emotions are powerful and sometimes scary because they can be used to hurt yourself and others. Trust your instincts, and your heart will guide you to do the right thing.

Positive Role Models & Representations

Vika is a powerful and resourceful young woman in a male-dominated society. Her magic draws strength from her connection to the elements and nature, grounding her in the stereotypically female realm of emotions. In contrast, Nikolai's magic relies on carefully drilled precision and study, the traditional style of men. Both feel bad that the contest they're locked in is to the death, but they each attempt to kill the other when it seems as if it's the only way to end the contest. Nikolai is an outsider because of he's a Kazakh, but he's well-integrated into high society and strives to overcome the perceived disadvantages of his background. Friends and family of each model loyalty and support. A couple of characters have negative motives such as selfishness or desire for power, but they're not entirely evil.


A passage describes a throat slitting with mild gore; otherwise blood from injuries mentioned several times but not described. Fantasy violence includes a scary zombie-like creature that rises from the grave; its horrific appearance and stench are described. The zombie forcefully kisses someone to give them a disease. A dagger plunges; blood is mentioned. A test of skill involves killing animals and is not described. Past torturing and killing animals mentioned. Mention of bodies of dead birds that were created by magic. Protagonists in peril several times from magical attacks. Main plot involves a magic duel to the death; death by magical combustion mentioned several times. A magical brand on the skin burns; the pain is described briefly.


Feelings of attraction and desire to kiss and caress mentioned a few times. The only romantic kiss includes a mention of "parted lips." A kiss from a zombie-like fantasy creature is intended to pass on typhus.


Many instances of "damn." A Russian swear word is not translated but is often used like "damn." "Merde" (French for "s--t") once or twice. "Bastard" in name-calling once.

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

A couple of extended passages take place in a tavern, where two 17-year-olds drink shots of vodka with beer chasers. Drunken behavior is shown, and hangovers are mentioned. Drunk street people mentioned. A character mentions that crazy ideas come from too much wine and cheap vodka. Drunk men urinate in public and have a "urine duel." Kvass (similar to a low-alcohol beer) mentioned a couple times; one adult drains a glass when he's upset.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that The Crown's Game, by Evelyn Skye, is a magical fantasy set in an alternative version of Russia in 1825. Readers will absorb a lot of culture and history as they go, which may foster an interest in learning more about a vast, fascinating place. They should also be encouraged to read the author's note explaining where and why she turned away from actual people and events. Although there's little negative content to be concerned about for tweens, the positive messages unfold slowly over 400 pages and several narrators, making the messages best absorbed by mature older tweens who are strongly independent readers. Most of the violence is mild and fantasy based, with a scary zombie-like creature who rises from the grave and whose gross appearance and smell is described. Blood is mentioned several times, and one throat slitting is mildly gory. Sexy stuff is very light, with feelings of attraction and one kiss where "parted lips" are mentioned.

User Reviews

  • Parents say
  • Kids say
Parent Written byahuttoLMS January 24, 2018

Great read!

This is another novel that feels like The Hunger Games in that it has an intense game that must be played and someone will be responsible for taking someone... Continue reading
Adult Written byBeclee101 February 4, 2019

A nice magical read!

This was a really good book. The underlying there is imperial Russia. Great story line and some excellent, creative magical elements. I enjoyed this book. I... Continue reading
Teen, 13 years old Written bycarley.s October 5, 2017


I thought is was amazing it really is cool to see it different perspectives of third person for each character. It being in Russia was also amazing! I really th... Continue reading
Teen, 13 years old Written byMultiverse January 8, 2021

Love it!

I really recommend it.
It was one of my favorite books of 2020.
I love it so much.
Um in review.
Violence 3 out of 5
There is a woman called Aizahna who kill... Continue reading

What's the story?

Hidden from each other, Vika and Nikolai have each been honing their magic skills since childhood with one goal in mind: to become the Imperial Enchanter. The Imperial Enchanter uses his or her magic in service to Russia by protecting the czar, helping win battles, keeping the crops growing, and doing anything else the country needs. When it's discovered that there are two enchanters in existence, the czar invokes THE CROWN'S GAME, a deadly contest designed to let each enchanter show off his or her skill and prove to the czar who will be the best. But there can be only one Imperial Enchanter, and that means the loser of the game must forfeit his or her life. Is it possible for anyone to truly win the game?

Is it any good?

Evelyn Skye brings 1820s Russia to life with rich, vivid details of the unusual setting combined with an intriguing plot, colorful cast of characters, and a healthy dose of magic. Skye evokes all the senses in her captivating descriptions of locations as varied as the Winter Palace, the Kazakh steppes, a birch-covered island, and a grungy tavern. The plot is well structured and keeps the pages turning. Character development is a bit uneven, but it's a large cast and there are plenty of characters to root for and to be leery of. Teens will especially enjoy the unfolding friendship between Nikolai and Pasha as they negotiate secrets and loyalty, and they'll root for Vika as she learns to channel her powerful emotions, trust her instincts, and follow her heart.

Author Evelyn Skye has taken some liberties with historical accuracy, which she explains in the author's note, and readers can be encouraged to explore the real history of Russia. Some language sounds too current for the early 19th-century setting (such as a tavern keeper who makes characters "bus their own table"), but it flows well and helps keep the story relatable to modern readers. 

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about historical fantasies. Why are they so popular?

  • The author's note reveals which historical details the author changed. Why change only some things? Would it be better to be more historically accurate? Why, or why not?

  • Would you rather have magical abilities like Vika's or like Nikolai's? Which of the two do you think would make the best "Imperial Enchanter"? Why?

Book details

Our editors recommend

For kids who love history and fantasy

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