Review: The Crown’s Fate

Crown's FateBook: The Crown’s Fate
Authors: Evelyn Skye
Genre: YA Fantasy
Rating: 3 Stars

Basic Plot: Sequel to The Crown’s Game… Vika is the Enchanter for Pasha, the Tsarevich-soon-to-be-Tsar. And Nikolai? He has been banished to a shadow-state. But now, he’s out to snatch the crown from Pasha. A whole new duel is put into place to see who will ultimately wear the crown. And Vika is caught in the middle.

**NOTE: This review is FULL OF SPOILERS for both The Crown’s Game and The Crown’s Fate.**

WHAT’S COOL…

1) I was glad the Nikolai was dead-dead. I like how he was turned into a shadow-creature, similar to the “mask” he wore when they started the Crown’s Game in the first book. (However, at times, it was really hard because his personality is SO different from the last book. See section below…)

2) I actually liked Vika better in this book. Not that I didn’t like her in the last book. But, this book definitely made me cheer more for her. I thought the band on her arm, forcing her to be at the beck and call of Pasha, a necessary plot point. All magic in these types of books MUST have some drawback. This is Vika’s thorn.

3) Yuliana. I hated Yuliana. And then I liked her and admired her. And then I hated her again. And then I liked her. She is such a conundrum for me.

4) The Decemberist Plot. I really liked how the author was able to fit in some historical Russian events, like the Decemberist Plot. As I was reading, I was trying to figure out how she was going to make it all work out with the fictional elements.

5) The Ending: The Good. There are things I love about the Ending and things I hated. My fairy-tale-happy-ending heart was very pleased overall with this ending. Vika and Nikolai will work together as Enchanters. Yay! (Unfortunately, it’s not all good. See below…)

WHAT’S NOT COOL…

1) I was expecting a few things to play out. Like the volcano? They mention Vika’s mother in the first book in connection with the volcano, but I didn’t feel this was played out in this book. In other words, why mention it in the first place?! Let Vika’s parentage remain more mysterious. Not knowing anything is sometimes stronger than knowing it, but it never goes anywhere plot-wise. (And, no, taking us to the volcano in a dream doesn’t qualify as being important to the plot. That scene really could have taken place anywhere.) Note: Compare this to Nikolai’s backstory with his mother. Now that is key to the plot!

2) Opening scene in the Kazakh Steppe. Again, I was expecting this to somehow play out at the end. Did I miss something? Vika does this cool freeze-frame thing, but that’s it. We don’t hear about it anymore. Why???

3) After his father’s death, why is Pasha NOT considered the Tsar? In other royal circles, where it’s clear who is next in line for the throne (in this case, like Pasha, the son of the late Tsar), the heir is immediately considered to be the new monarch from the moment of the death of the old monarch. This doesn’t “wait” until the coronation. The coronation just confirms this. Now, granted, my knowledge of royal protocol comes from the British royal system. The statement announcing the death of George VI in 1952 was: “The King is dead. Long live the Queen!” The Queen, of course, being his daughter, Elizabeth II. Her coronation didn’t happen for over a year later, to give the people time to both mourn the death of their king (and her of her father), and prepare for the celebration of a new monarch. Maybe it’s different in Russia???

4) Not sure I fully believed in Nikolai’s sudden lust for the throne.

5) The Ending: The Bad. As mentioned before, there are things I love about the Ending and things I hated. I’m not sure I believed the Ending. I’m having trouble imagining in my mind the scene where Nikolai suddenly realizes what he’s done to Vika as he and Pasha rush over to her poor, unconscious body… And everybody just stands there? All 10,000+ of them? Waiting and watching as Nikolai does his thing with the hand (which made me think, Oh, so Vika’s like Luke Skywalker now!)… This time of reconciliation and forgiveness and understanding seemed to come too easily. Why didn’t this happen earlier? Why is this happening in front of a huge audience of Russians? When it comes down to it, I just didn’t believe it.

6) As I was reading, I predicted that Nikolai would not die in the end. (I was right.) But, I also predicted that Pasha would die. (I was wrong.) I primarily made this prediction based on Nikolai’s name. Because I knew there was a Nicholas I of Russia during this time period. I checked, and yes, Nicholas I does indeed succeed Alexander I in 1825. So, I was surprised that Evelyn Skye did not have this play out! All she had to do was kill Pasha. (Not by Nikolai’s hand, of course. That would have been awful!)

 

FINAL THOUGHTS

My rating is 3 Stars (out of 5) – I am probably being generous with this rating. It’s not as good as the first book, but I did find it an engaging-enough read. Since Nikolai is my favourite character in the book, I did find this book hard to read at times because he was so… different. And dark. Very dark.

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Review: The Crown’s Game

The Crown's GameBook: The Crown’s Game
Authors: Evelyn Skye
Genre: YA Fantasy
Rating: 3.5 Stars

Basic Plot: It’s 1825 and two Enchanters are being groomed to help the Tsar Alexander rule Mighty Russia. But the Tsar can only have one Enchanter. This is where the Crown’s Game comes into play… Which will pit Vika against Nikolai in a deadly duel that neither of them asked for.

WHAT’S COOL

1) I must say that I really liked both Enchanters as soon as I met them. Usually, you’re drawn to the first protagonist you meet, but somehow the author pulls this off with BOTH her protagonists. Although, if I had to pick, I think I liked Nikolai slightly more. I liked his style of magic. (Maybe it was the putting the books in order at the library that tipped the balance!) Not that I didn’t like Vika. I liked her, too!

2) I liked the contrast between the Mentors: Sergei and Galina. Sergei is definitely more likeable, but I like how Skye humanizes Galina towards the middle/end of the book. Of course, being such as she is, she still has a trick up her sleeve that serves the plot. And ultimately, she comes off as self-serving.

3) Pasha and Yuliana. I generally liked Pasha, the Tsarevich. I definitely liked the friendship between him and Nikolai. Although I thought he was a little stalkerish when it came to Vika. Regarding, Yuliana. When she first comes into the story, I thought I would like Yuliana, but her character just went downhill for me. (Which is one of the reasons we have the ending of the book that we do. So, this is not necessarily a bad thing.)

4) Very cool how Evelyn Skye was able to incorporate some real Russian history into the book. (I’m glad she put the historical notes at the end, including where she deviated. Of course, this is historical fantasy, so don’t expect things to be super historical.)

5) I looked forward to seeing how each Enchantment would play out. In fact, the closer I got to the end, I actually forced myself to stay up (past my bedtime) to finish the book. I wanted to find out what happens!

WHAT’S NOT COOL

1) Some of names I thought were a little odd. Like Renata. I’ve never heard this name in connection with Russia and, frankly, it doesn’t seem like a Russian name to me.

2) I felt there were a lot of characters to keep track of. Almost too many. I’m not sure some of them were necessary… like Renata. Or even Ludmila.

3) For some reason, I didn’t like the overt Cinderella connections in the story. Like the glass pumpkin and the bakery called the Cinderella Bakery. It was too much “in your face”. I would have preferred a more subtle approach. (The masked ball was more subtle.)

4) The Ending. As I was reading this, I thought “This is a 4-star read!” And then came The End. Sigh. I’m not sure how it should have ended but, this ending was a let-down for me. I want to like it. I like the idea of the nobleness of what happens at the end. Here’s to hoping that the second book is able to revive this rating back to its 4-star place. (UPDATE: You can read my review of The Crown’s Fate here.)

FINAL THOUGHTS

My rating is 3.5 Stars (out of 5) – This book had a bit of a Hunger Games vibe to it… albeit with an historical, Russian theme running through it… With magic, of course. I liked The Hunger Games, so this was a plus for me. (So close to being 4 stars!)

If You Like Russian Fairy Tales

Bear and the NightingaleSo… I recently read The Bear and the Nightingale by Katherine Arden.

Everybody is raving about this book. So, what can I say?

Well, I liked it. But…

I probably didn’t like it as much as you. I don’t know why, because I love Russian fairy tales. In fact, that’s the reason I read the book in the first place. I loved the premise. (And the cover of the book. I mean, just look at it. It’s enticing me. Yes, even now. It’s drawing me in…)

So… this book did not make me want to write a review of the book. (I am definitely not inspired to write a review just now. Maybe later? Instead, I decided to come up with a list of books that I recommend for those who did love the book and loved it because of the Russian fairy tale aspect of the book.

Without further adieu, here is that list*:

7973Enchantment // by Orson Scott Card

While he’s probably best known for his sci-fi (Ender’s Game ring a bell?)… Orson Scott Card does a wonderful job with this book. It mixes Russian folklore and fairy tale elements with our modern world. In a sense, it’s a Sleeping Beauty story. The story begins in the modern day with Ivan, who travels to Russia as part of his graduate studies. But then he comes across a woman sleeping in the middle of the forest and… Well, I won’t spoil it for you if you haven’t read it.

By the way, I am truly enchanted by this book. It is probably one of my favourite books outside of classic literature and have read it numerous times.


1369831Blood Red, Snow White // by Marcus Sedgwick

This book is broken up into three parts. The first part deals with the events of the Russian Revolution almost as if it were a Russian fairy tale. Actually, it’s very reminiscent of Old Peter’s Russian Tales (see below). The second part introduces us to Arthur, an Englishman who comes to live in Russia. It’s almost like reading a new book, but you begin to see how it connects with the first part. And finally, the third part shifts yet again, this time with first person POV. We continue our story, seeing Russia through the eyes of Arthur.

P.S. The Arthur in the book is based on the real life experiences of the author, Arthur Ransome. (If you don’t know who Arthur Ransome is, he wrote one of my favorite children’s series: the Swallows and Amazons books. And yes, Swallows and Amazons does get a nod in this “fairy tale”.)


old-peters-russian-tales-by-arthur-ransome-fiction-animals-dragons-unicorns-and-mythicalOld Peter’s Russian Tales // by Arthur Ransome

Speaking of Arthur Ransome… He really did live in Russia at the time of the Revolution. And he came to love Russia very much. Part of his infatuation led him to write a collection of Russian fairy tales. He created Maroosia and Vanya who live with their grandfather, Old Peter. It’s Old Peter that brings us the stories “that Russian peasants tell their children and each other.” Beautiful writing. Wonderful stories.


Honourable Mention…

The Crown's GameThe Crown’s Game // by Evelyn Skye
I just finished reading this. So, I’m not sure it even belongs on this list. It has some fairy tale elements, like Enchanters and magic. But it also seems a little like it shouldn’t quite be on the list. Probably because there are no bears mentioned in the book! (Tigers are are mentioned. But I don’t remember any bears!)  In all, I haven’t quite decided if it’s got that Russian Fairy Tale vibe. Anyway,  I liked the book, so I’m going to tag it on here for now.

City of ThievesCity of Thieves // by David Benioff
Again, this one isn’t so much a Russian Fairy Tale. It’s more of a coming-of-age story set in the time of World War II. And it’s been awhile since I’ve read it, but I remember a fair bit. It definitely has that Russian feel. It’s the story of two young men on a quest to find a dozen eggs during the Siege of Leningrad. Maybe it’s the quest that made me give it Honourable Mention status.

*Please note that none of these books are really children’s books. Although for some odd reason Blood Red, Snow White is listed as a children’s book. In my opinion, it is not. (Not that a child couldn’t read it.) In any case, the only book on this list suitable for kids is probably Old Peter’s Russian Tales. Those were meant for children of all ages. Grown-ups, too!

Got any books to add to this list? Please let me know in the comments. Because I love a good Russian fairy tale!