A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this book.
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.
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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?
Themes & Topics
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