The Crown's Game: The Cure for the Common YA Novel

Saturday, May 28, 2016

My name is Sarah and I am a book hoarder.

It’s basically a nice way of saying that, even if I already happen to have ten unread books patiently waiting on my shelf, I am still likely to purchase and read another one before I get to those.  Seniority apparently means nothing in my book.  And also I have no willpower.

This is essentially how I came to read Evelyn Skye’s The Crown’s Game, though I partly blame the beautiful cover on that one for drawing me in.  It features a crown boasting the Church of our Savior on Blood (colloquially known as the Church of Spilled Blood), which, although anachronous with the era in which the story takes place — Imperial Russia — is fitting because there’s more than more than a little bit of spilled blood from the characters in this book…

But seriously, Google the cover and then tell me you don’t want to read this book.  And when you try to keep telling me you don’t want to read it because “YA just isn’t really your style”…

Let me assure you that this isn’t your typical YA novel.  In a genre saturated with stories of 16-year-olds tasked with saving an entire dystopian world, The Crown’s Game is a breath of fresh air.

As I’ve mentioned, this book takes place in the early 1800s, in the heyday of the Russian Empire, and though danger lurks throughout thanks to the Game Vika and Nikolai must contend with, it is offset by the elegance of this time period, and not the desperation of a bleak future.  It’s so refreshing for such stunning descriptions of the Winter Palace, the River Neva, and other locales to be included in the place of overrun, barren, and wiped-out cities that set the scene in so many other works of modern YA fiction.  It’s a setting that certainly lends itself well to the sprinkles of magic at the heart of this novel, which, far from being used to overthrow an oppressive government, are used in attempts to overthrow each other so that one victor may emerge as the imperial enchanter and adviser to the tsar.  There’s of course a little bit of romance brewing here and there, too, because frankly it wouldn’t be a YA novel without some of that.  

On the whole, though, this novel shimmers with originality and dazzles with magic, and the characters are believably teenaged without without being beset by the angst so typical of many others in young adult books these days.  This story mesmerized me with breathless and ethereal beauty as it waltzed with me through a tale of history and enchantment, and when the dance was over, I wanted to go for another round in the ballroom of the Winter Palace, one of many locales which the author evokes with clarity as glimmering as the crystals in its chandeliers.  You’ll come for the story when you’re promised magic and romance, but believe me, you’ll stay for the scenery.

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