Title: The Crown’s Fate
Author: Evelyn Skye
Publisher: Balzer + Bray
Release date: May 2017
Привет (privet)! Enchanting to the end, The Crown’s Fate follows up on Vika who continues her duty as Imperial Enchanter and Nikolai, who is dealing with the aftermath of his death. He manages to leave limbo and return to the world but as a shadow. In order to take solid form and set his revenge on his best friend and future Tsar Pasha (who ended the Game in the first book which led to Vika’s almost death and Nikolai’s), Nikolai absorbs heaps of energy even dark energy to become powerful.
Nikolai becomes a dangerous threat to Pasha and the empire, and Vika has to stop him. But she faces a tough decision: should she save Nikolai or kill him?
From the beautiful writing to the character development, I enjoyed everything from this book. It wastes no time in building up the plot and stakes. The only things I disliked were: the final battle which was short and even though I loved the inclusion of Russian folklore creatures, their presence was limited (I get that would interfere with the plot). I hope there’s some spin-off or short story where Vika and Nikolai deal with these creatures’ threats.
There were also references to The Nutcracker which I went all heart eyes at. The magic was hauntingly beautiful and did give off a Russian vibe – and something to be scared of.
Having Nikolai as the villain, twisted by dark magic and his undead mother, hooked me in. Despite the trope, I found it refreshing and a little worrying since Nikolai is the only poc character besides his mother. I was hoping for a redeeming resolution.
The relationship between Nikolai and Vika tore me apart. I liked how they both wanted each other but their goals/duty came first. I found Pasha kind of useless and annoying, but I did eventually warm up to him. Towards the end.
The ending was satisfying and I cried that it was all over. Duologies don’t really suit me, but The Crown’s Fate is a шедевр, a masterpiece.
A Mini Spotlight on Russia
Since I was little, I have a special spot for Russia and its culture. I love how diverse the culture and people are – something most people don’t know about. Traces of European and Asian cultures are fused together. The Russian language is beautiful, but challenging. I only know the basics. The clothes and the Romanovs remain fascinating subjects for me.
I love that The Crown’s Game duology explores Russia and its culture beyond what we westerners already know. Ethnic groups, in particular the Kazakhs (Nikolai is one) have a presence. The books don’t sugarcoat the tension or the oppression these people face and that shapes Nikolai’s character. Russia being an Eurasian country and home to many ethnic groups including non-Slavic ones is one of my interests, so I’m glad that the books acknowledge these people – though I wish there were more underrepresented groups besides the Kazakhs.
Russian folklore has always enchanted me with its haunting-ness and beautiful, mesmerising scenes. It’s quite different from the fairytales and mythologies I grew up with. My favourites include Vasilisa the Beautiful, The Three Kingdoms, Golden, Silver and Copper and of course every tale that has the Firebird.
Books I recommend
If you love or interested in reading Russian books, I recommend War and Peace by Leo Tolstoy. It’s a lengthy and popular one but worth the read. There’s also Eugene Onegin by Alexander Pushkin and The Slynx by Tatyana Tolstaya.
If you’re looking for a Russian fairytale retelling, I recommend Vassa in the Night by Sarah Porter. It’s a modern Vasilisa and Baba Yaga retelling filled with beautiful weirdness and an evil talking doll as the main character’s companion. There’s also Leigh Bardugo’s Grisha series which is set in a Russian-inspired world and has several mythical elements including the Firebird.
Спасибо за прочтение!