Gods of Jade & Shadow – By Silvia Moreno-Garcia

Gods of Jade & Shadow – By Silvia Moreno-Garcia

  Genre: Magical Realism, Folklore, Historical fiction   Gods of Jade and Shadow by Silvia Moreno-Garcia is an interesting mashup of magical realism historical fiction and folklore. If you are not familiar with magical realism, it is a fantasy written in the style of prose or classic literature. Garcia weaves a tale of a young girl, our heroine Casiopea, who wants to be loved and treated fairly, instead she is used and abused by those closest to her. A small act of defiance starts her on a path that could either kill her or change her life forever. When the Mayan god of death and usurped lord of Xibalba Hun-Kamé conscripts Casiopea as his champion to regain his stolen throne, she will learn the real meaning of sacrifice and the nature of men and gods, but will she be able to choose her path? Gods of Jade and shadow is an artistically written novel. Every word is deliberate and extremely direct in its descriptiveness. Garcia writes in a way that leaves nothing to chance, holding a tight grip on the reader’s imagination, leading with a tether that forces you to follow the outlined path. Gods of Jade and Shadow is not a book that leaves much to individual interpretation; it’s written with a level of purpose that leaves no room for argument. I enjoyed the book; I enjoyed the intellectual use of language, which strayed far from everyday nouns, verbs, and pronouns. I enjoyed the originality of the story and the strength of purpose. Gods of Jade and Shadow is genuinely an excellent book to read.
Dread Nation (Dread Nation, #1) By Justina Ireland

Dread Nation (Dread Nation, #1) By Justina Ireland

Title: Dread Nation (Dread Nation, #1)
Author: Justina Ireland
Published: April 3rd, 2018
Length: 464 pgs.
Format Read: Ebook
Genre: YA, Fantasy, Historical Fiction
Publisher: Balzer + Bray
Rating: ★★★★★ 

Dread Nation is in the first in a new series By Author Justina Ireland. The books is a YA, Fantasy, Historical fiction; taking place in the Civil War era, America Dread Nation ask the question what if?

Ireland answers it realistically. What if the Zombie Apocalypse happened during the civil war? I think we could all imagine some very different outcomes as a result. And that’s just what Ireland has done with her book Dread Nation.

How would our white counterparts have treated us if the zombie apocalypse occurred during the civil war? The current state of race relations in our country today tells me Irelands book gets it right. Dread Nation covers many of the injustices faced by African Americans during that period in history with an undead twist.

Loopholes in the 13th Amendment, allowed free negroes to be forced back into slavery after the civil war. And the cruel experimentation on negroes for the advancement of white society. The school of thought that blacks were not of the same species as whites. Using religion to justify slavery, and passing for white and the flipside dynamic to have skin which is “passing” light. Ireland dug into the historical Archives. There’s even some mention of the Native American boarding schools. Irelands fantastical take on slavery and racism during the Civil War era is as accurate as it is refreshing, interesting, and tasteful making Dread Nation an engaging and enlightening read.

In this version, of the civil war era United States; the Native and negro re-education act led to Negroes and Native Americans children aged 12, and older being rounded up and sent to boarding schools. At the schools, they were trained to fight zombies and eventually become servants for the whites who could afford to “employ” them upon graduation. The story hints that most of the Native Americans ran away from the schools. Still, a native American character does get a good bit of screen time in the book.

There are two factions at odds in the book Egalitarians & Survivalists. Survivalists believe negroes to be inferior to whites. Egalitarians don’t believe negroes to be inferior to whites. Mayor Carr & the Survivalist act as the villains in this tale, who makes a better Villain than a politician? Mayor Carr’s beliefs and political aspirations come before the safety of his constituents.

Born the biracial daughter of the richest white woman in Haller County Kentucky during the Civil War era; Jane Mckeene is the main character and heroine of the story. Two days after she was born the Zombies rose at the battle of Gettysburg and changed the course of her life forever. Because of Janes lineage, she was able to be sent to one of the ”upper-class” boarding schools.

Jane attends Miss Preston’s School of Combat for Negro Girls in Maryland. Miss Prestons houses, the negro girls whose parents have the money to ensure they end up in the better schools, mostly biracial children.
Janes is a troublemaker she and the rules have a complicated relationship. I love Jane Mckeene’s Character. Jane is mouthy, independent, resourceful, and too intelligent for her own good. And as such, has an arch Nemesis that is the cliché do-gooder tattletale, Katherine Deveraux.

Katherine Deveraux is Passing Light. And perfect at everything thus Jane can’t stand her. When Jane and Katherine uncover a plot by the mayor that’s detrimental to the city she and Katherine are shipped off to a survivalist town. They’re in big trouble, and it’s up to Jane to get them out of it.

At the beginning of the book, these two characters clash, but it isn’t long before circumstances force them together. It’s during this time that we get to see each character’s true mettle. Both girls have secrets. Both girls hide the truth of who they are. By the end of the book, I’m thoroughly impressed by the real Katherine and shocked by Jane’s secrets.

There are some references to intimate moments between characters but no scenes of a sexually graphic nature. There is violence, and murder so if your sensitive to that kind of thing this might not be the book for you. But I think this book is pretty PG 13 and suitable for readers from YA to Adult.
I give this book five out of five stars. I love the premise. I loved the accurate and evocative historical references. And I loved that the main character looks like me. Dread Nation is a great book with a strong female lead of color, written by a woman of color. I highly anticipate the release of the second book.

His Majesty’s Dragon (Temeraire #1)  By Naomi Novik

His Majesty’s Dragon (Temeraire #1) By Naomi Novik

TITLE: His Majesty’s Dragon HMDAUTHOR: Naomi Novik
GENRE: Historical Fiction, Fantasy
PUBLISHED: March 28th, 2006
RATING: ★★★★☆

Discovering His Majesty’s Dragon was something of a happy accident for me. Having come across Throne of Jade (Temeraire #2) in a desk drawer at work I was immediately interested in the book because of the Dragon on the cover. It was obviously a fantasy novel about dragons. After reading the blurb I knew I wanted to check the series out, but I didn’t read the book right then. There was a listing of books in the series on the first page and I was easily able to determine there was a book preceding this one that I would need to read first.

I have been intrigued by books about dragons and riders ever since I read the first book of the Inheritance Cycle, Eragon by Christopher Paolini back in August of 2008. The closest I ever came to finding a novel similar to the Inheritance Cycle series was in 2013 when I came across the Eon series by Alison Goodman, but Goodman’s series is only two books; although I really enjoyed those books the series ended way too soon for me.

His Majesty’s Dragon is a historical fiction novel based on the Napoleonic war, with a slight emphasis on the escapades of Villeneuve. The premise of the novel is an alternate reality where Dragons are real and are used as an important battle tool during the war.

There are two main characters, Captain Will Laurence and his Dragon Temeraire. Captain Laurence is a Naval Captain who takes pride in his duty to his country as an Officer in the King’s Navy. Captain Laurence has a strong sense of honor that seems to be fueled by his dysfunctional relationship with his Father Lord Allendale.
Quote:
“Lord Allendale looked at Laurence’s coat with heavy disapproval and said nothing to his son at all. “

“It is an old quarrel at heart,” he said. “He would have had me go into the Church, like my brother; he has never counted the Navy an honorable occupation.”

“But truly, he has never approved my choice of career; I had to run away from home as a boy for him to let me go to sea. I cannot allow his will to govern me, for I see my duty differently than he does.”

Then Temeraire is hatched, and although Captain Laurence was not the one who had drawn the short straw, the Dragon chose him and a strong of honor and duty led to a set of circumstances that tore Captain Laurence away from his beloved job as a Naval Captain and thrust him into His majesty’s Aviator Corps.
Quote:
“So if a hatchling let you put it into harness, duty forever after tied you to the beast. An aviator could not easily manage any sort of estate, nor raise a family, nor go into society to any real extent. They lived as men apart, and largely outside the law, for you could not punish an aviator without losing the use of his dragon.”

Temeraire is a character you’ll love instantly from his first words to Captain Laurence after his hatching ( I mean who doesn’t love talking Dragon’s). Novik’s use of anthropomorphism brings Temeraire to life, aside from the human characteristic of speaking and an uncanny intelligence Temeraire experiences a wide range of human emotion, sadness, happiness even jealously. At heart Temeraire is a sweet, Logical, inquisitive being ready to take on the world with an intense hunger for knowledge and a strong sense of independence.
Quote:
“Temeraire’s quick perception and the concern in his voice were like a tonic for his weary unhappiness, and it made Laurence speak more freely than he meant to.”

“I have never met the King; I am not his property, like a sheep,” Temeraire said. “If I belong to anyone, it is you, and you to me. I am not going to stay in Scotland if you are unhappy there.”

“No, Laurence, I cannot promise such a thing,” he said. “I am sorry, but I will not lie to you: I could not have let you fall. You may value their lives above your own; I cannot do so, for to me you are worth far more than all of them. I will not obey you in such a case, and as for duty, I do not care for the notion a great deal, the more I see of it.”

“Laurence is my captain,” Temeraire said, the smallest hint of belligerence in his tone, and an emphasis on the possessive”

“Come now, what is this jealousy?” he said softly.”

Laurence and Temeraire don’t exactly take the aviator corps by storm, however Laurence’s unorthodox ways definitely set some of the ingrained practices in regards to Dragons on a tale spin. Laurence regards Temeraire the respect due to any intelligent being, and doesn’t see him as an animal or tool but a creature with feelings and intelligence.
Quote:
“Laurence finished swallowing and said, “Yes, sir; you have the advantage of me.” “Berkley,” the man said. “Look here, what sort of nonsense have you been filling your dragon’s head with? My Maximus has been muttering all morning about wanting a bath, and his harness removed; absurd stuff.”

“Damned foolish idea if you ask me, dragons swimming; great nonsense.”

I am no history major, so I used Google to do a bit of research into the authenticity of the historical references. Accuracy of historical events, such as Villeneuve at Toulon and proper usage of what I will refer to as “terms” or “phrases” of the time such as Clodpole a noun referring to a stupid or foolish person, or Scrub a noun referring to a contemptible person (Not the 90s slang term made famous by the singing group TLC) and Bluestocking which refers to an intellectual or learn individual, a term derived from Elizabeth Montagu’s Bluestocking society. There’s even an appearance or two by Miss Montagu herself. These things all lend authenticity to Novik’s tale as a fantastic work of historical fiction.
Quote:
“Villeneuve and his fleet have slipped out of Toulon under cover of an aerial raid against Nelson’s fleet; we have lost track of them.”

“Austria is mobilizing; she is coming into the war with Bonaparte again, and I dare say he will have to turn his attention to the Rhine instead of the Channel, soon enough.”

“It is not to be borne! An Imperial in the hands of some untrained Navy clodpole—”

“I have to tell you how very sorry I am. I know I have been playing the scrub.”

“You would be quite astonished at how much of a bluestocking I am become, Mother; he is quite insatiable.”

“Oh, I am sorry to hear it, my dear, but we are very happy to have you even briefly,” she said. “Have you met Miss Montague?”

Novik’s writing is direct and purposeful, yet warm and inviting. Though I am far from an expert in literary devices I find His Majesty’s Dragon to be an excellent example of fictional prose. Novik writes in such a way that the meaning of words is made clear by the context in which they are used while managing to use words such as auspicious, congenial, and henceforth without the tale becoming boring and monotonous making the reader feel relaxed and at home in the world she has created.

Novik’s imagination gives us an original take on dragon riding; her take on dragons in general is refreshing for me because it was unexpected. And her talent for writing grants the tale an air of reality.

The Crown’s Game (The Crown’s Game #1) By Evelyn Skye

The Crown’s Game (The Crown’s Game #1) By Evelyn Skye

The Crowns Game

TITLE: The Crown’s Game (The Crown’s Game #1)
AUTHOR: Evelyn Skye
GENRE: YA, Historical, Fantasy Romance
PUBLISHED: May 17th 2016
RATING: ★★★★☆

Read It!!

Warning: This review contains spoilers

The Crowns Game is a wonderfully executed work of literary art. Set in 18th century Russia and loosely based on the life of the ruling Tsar of that time, The Crowns Game is an engaging YA Historical fantasy romance. Author Skye’s words will enchant you, and pull on your heartstrings. A wondrously imagined tale… of love, magic, and duty, the author takes readers on an enchanting tour of Russia. When I think of Russia I envisioned a cold grey snowbound land but Skye paints a transfixing and vibrant picture of a beautiful country. Her descriptive talents transform Russia into a magical land, showcasing some of Russia’s most beautiful attributes. Laced with artfully imagined scenes of magical splendor you will be enchanted until the last page.

Quote:
“he wanted his daughter to grow up truly Russian—hiking through birch forests, playing the balalaika, and having an almost religious zeal for buckwheat kasha with mushrooms and fresh butter. It was why they lived on this rural island, rather than in the imperial capital, because Sergei swore that living on Ovchinin Island kept them closer to the heart of their country.”

“Vika spun in a circle in the middle of the promenade, looking at all the benches behind and in front of and around her, each with a different plaque and a different, subtle mist about it. “It’s a dream tour of the wonders of Russia,” she said aloud.”

“They followed the path and entered the boulevard of trees. Everywhere they looked, there were larks and wrens, peeping a melody that sounded almost like an old Russian folk song. If Nikolai listened too closely, the song disintegrated into random notes, but if he softened his focus, the tune came back together again, like the whistling of panpipes and the strumming of a balalaika. “This is a wonderland,” Pasha said.”

“Then, like a watercolor, a new scene filled in. She stood along the Arbat, the main thoroughfare of Moscow, surrounded by opulence. Corinthian columns and intricate mahogany veneers adorned the houses, and women in fashionable gowns strolled arm in arm along the street. The entire city had been rebuilt after its citizens had burned it down to prevent Napoleon from pillaging it, and here Moscow was, shiny and proud and new. It was like being in a dream. Vika could scrape her boots against the dirt, feel the autumn chill upon her skin, even take in the rich smell of mushroom and meat pies wafting in the air. And yet, for all the reality of the scene, the people on the Arbat couldn’t see her. When she said hello, they did not greet her. She strolled away from the Arbat and continued walking until she came to Red Square. She marveled at the white Kremlin walls and paused to admire the red brick and the cupolas of St. Basil’s Cathedral, built to resemble a bonfire rising to the sky. Vika had never been to Moscow, but it was beautiful to behold.”

All her life Vika has been training with her father Baron Sergei Mikhailovich Andreyev, to master her enchanter abilities and become the Tsars enchanter charged with the protecting of Russia during treacherous and tumultuous times. Vika wants this more than anything; this is her life’s dream the most important thing she will ever do.

Quote:
“Two more years, she thought. Two more years of training, and my magic will be powerful enough to serve the tsar and the empire.”

Nikolai has also been training to be the Tsar’s enchanter orphaned at birth, he’s never known real family and has been trained by his mentor, the cold-hearted Countess Galina Zakrevskaya. Nikolai knows he’s not the only enchanter the countess has been grooming ever since she found him in a rural village in the Russian Kazakh Steppes, and bought him from his village in exchange for 2 horses and 2 sheep. Although provided room and board he’s mostly had to fend for himself the assistance provided by the countess…..his magical training. Nikolai has nothing and his only opportunity to change his lot in life is to win the crowns game and become the Imperial enchanter bringing him and his best friend Pasha even closer. Pasha is the only family he’s ever known, and he will win the crowns game even if he has to kill to do it.

Quote:
” The clothing he tailored was, of course, necessary for life in the heart of the capital. There was always an invitation to lunch or to play cards or to go to the countryside to hunt. But Nikolai had had to fend for himself in every one of these realms, for his mentor and benefactor, Countess Galina Zakrevskaya, was not about to spend a kopek on him for new boots or a proper rifle for shooting grouse, and certainly not for dance lessons, even though Galina’s friends deemed it fashionable to invite her charity case to their balls.”

“But becoming Imperial Enchanter was about much more than wealth and power to him, unlike what Galina was suggesting. It was also about becoming closer to Pasha, who was like a younger brother to him, and closer to a family of some sort, even if it wasn’t Nikolai’s own. Because, needless to say, Nikolai had no real family. He was, and always had been, alone.”

A Black sheep by anyone’s standards, Pasha is the heir to the Russian empire but he just wants to be an ordinary young man, but is unable to escape his destiny to become Russia’s next Tsar. He’s soft hearted and earnest, and often misunderstood by his family…

Quote:
“How glad I am to be out of the palace. I think when I inherit the throne, I shall abdicate immediately.” Nikolai perched on the log next to him. “You’d do no such thing, and you know it.” “Ah, but I can dream.” Pasha opened his eyes.

“He turns seventeen tonight,” the tsar scoffed. “The time to grow into his position has long since come and gone.” He turned to Pasha. “You have already been inside the ballroom, haven’t you?”

“There are rules governing with whom you interact and how. Your sister has never had a problem comprehending this. And yet, after seventeen years, it has somehow still not been impressed upon you that the conventions and ceremony of the tsardom matter.

“It is a masquerade for all of them.” The tsar flung his hand in the direction of the ballroom doors. “But it is an imperial state function for you.”

Pasha and Nikolai are best friends, Pasha is ignorant about magic and knows nothing about the crowns game. A whole new world is opened up for him the day he and Nikolai meet Vika on Ovchinin Island rising from flames like a phoenix reborn in a storm of fire and lightning. Both Pasha and Nikolai are immediately intrigued by Vika even though they have no idea who she is, Nikolai however knows what she is and that they will meet again. Pasha’s thought are consumed with thoughts of Vika he searches for and eventually finds her. A love triangle commences.

Quote:
“Then, as the blaze devoured the remaining length of the trees, lashing its way out to the edge of the circle, a small figure rose from the center, itself engulfed in flames.”

“But Nikolai didn’t need her to tell them who she was. He already knew. He had never seen the girl before, but she had to be the one. The other enchanter in the Game”

“But back to the girl. Pasha began to pace the well-worn groove of the carpet again. “She rose as if the fire were nothing . . . no, as if she were part of the fire.

Fate throws a curve ball. Vika learns’ she not the only enchanter. Vika and Nikolai must compete in an ancient competition called the crowns game. A competition of skill between enchanters, but like one of my favorite TV shows Highlander at the end there can be only one. At the end of the game the losing enchanter dies drained of magic, so that the winning enchanter can receive all Russia’s magic, giving them the strength enough to defend the Russian empire against hers foes.

Quote:
“The Crown’s Game.” Vika did not even bother to inflect her tone upward this time, for everything now was a question mark. She was beyond using punctuation. “I don’t know what that is.” “I didn’t think there was a need for it. . . . I thought you were the only enchanter. But you’re not, and that means there will be a . . . a test. A competition.”

“When I declare a winner, the Game’s own magic will eliminate the other enchanter. Even if, for some reason, I did not declare a winner after you had each taken five turns, the Game would make the decision for me and extinguish one of you. Russia will have only one Imperial Enchanter to wield the full force of its magic. Understood?”

“Each country’s wellspring emits a finite amount of magic at any given time. It is not without limits. So the number of enchanters must be limited as well.”

And so the crowns game commences and here we have the opportunity to benefit from the beauty of Skye’s writing she makes the magic happen. I didn’t read the scenes, I envisioned them, the artfully written scenes allowed for no less…

Quote:
“The Jack and ballerina continued to twirl around the sky. The music soared louder and louder. It crescendoed to a furious trill. And then it suddenly broke off into silence. Every muscle in Vika’s body tensed. The Jack and ballerina halted their dance, as if they, too, were startled. The crowd gasped then and pointed at the ballerina’s chest. Although she hadn’t heard Vika’s earlier warning, the ballerina heard the audience now. She looked down at the bodice of her dress. A red silk handkerchief blossomed from where her porcelain heart ought to be. “I knew she couldn’t trust him,” Vika said. The ballerina’s painted mouth formed a devastated O. She glanced at the Jack. He looked not at her, but at a cloud near his feet, his wooden mouth set in a grim straight line. Then the ballerina went limp and plummeted from the sky into her box. The Jack hung his head. The ballerina’s lid lowered and latched with a click”

“Her ordinarily red hair was pale blue tonight, and the black streak had been transformed to silver, like a sliver of mercury. On her face, she wore a mask made of birch wood, rough white with flecks of gray. But it was the gown that had triggered the silence, for it was unlike anything the guests had ever seen. The bodice appeared to be carved from white ice, reflecting the light from the chandeliers on its polished surface, and yet it hugged the curves of her frame and moved with her as if made of water. The skirt was similarly frosty, an endless eddy of snowflakes, like a blizzard erupting from the ice above. Even the air seemed to chill around her. This was not from Nikolai’s Masquerade Box. This was far beyond his tailoring and imagination.”

The commencement of the Crowns games leaves our enchanters conflicted they’re not killers, but one of them will die just the same. Nikaloi’s mentor pretty much orders him to end the game quick, kill Vika and get it over with but he doesn’t think there’s any other option any reason to draw out the games when one of them will die either way. Vika is honorable she doesn’t enter the game planning murder he intends to win solely based on the merit of her magical skill. But often times the best laid plans get washed away.

Quote:
“Use your magic to kill her and end the Game yourself. Don’t give the tsar the chance to choose anyone but you.” Nikolai’s limbs liquefied. Or at least he felt as if they had. “I have to kill her?” “Did you think the losing enchanter would simply get to live happily ever after?” “I . . . Well, what else was I supposed to believe? You never even hinted at it before.”

Neither of our characters are coldhearted murderers, they make meager attempt’s on each other’s lives only to be relieved by their failure. And their feelings on the game change.

Quote:
“The girl still lived. The Game continued. But at least he wasn’t a murderer today.”

“He reached the shores of Vasilyevsky Island, on the other side of the Neva, before Vika could use the water to reel him back in. Not that she had the stomach to do it again. Her conscience was still waterlogged from the first attempt to drown him.”

“She stopped walking. “Are you glad for the Game?” she asked.”

“No, I am not at all glad for the Game. Are you?” Vika chewed on her lip as she considered. Finally, she said, “Yes. I’m glad for it. I both love it and hate it. Which, I think, means I both love and hate myself. I am the Game, and the Game is me. This is what my whole life has led up to, and this will determine the rest of it.”

The magic within Vika and Nikolai draw them together like a moths to a flame. I know the author intended for a love triangle conflict but Pasha never stands a chance. As different as Vika and Nikolai are no one can understand them like they do one another. No matter how hard they try they can’t stay away from each other.

Quote:
“Nikolai’s magic. She wanted to be closer to it. Needed to be closer.”

“He needed to be closer, to feel her magic, to touch . . . her. He trembled at the thought. And he took a step in her direction.”

Pasha is in love with Vika, and so Is Nikolai while Vika shows a little interest in Pasha Her heart warms with Nikolai is around.

Quote:
“I like you,” he said. “More than like you.” She shook her head slightly, but more to herself than to him. “I don’t want to like you.” “But you do?” Pasha went to run his hand through his hair, but caught himself before he gave his nerves away. “Doesn’t everyone?” “I’m only asking about you.” Vika focused on a deformed crystal of syrup on her thumb. “I’m not in a position to fall in love. With you, or with anyone else.”

“Oh. Heaven help her. Nikolai was more striking than she remembered, and the darkness in his eyes was more dangerous than she recalled. He was a poisonous autumn crocus: deadly beautiful with no antidote. She wanted the flower anyway.”

“Vika didn’t even bid farewell to the imperial family. She certainly did not look back at Nikolai. For it was too cruel of life to bring him to her now, only to remind her that one of them would soon be taken away.”

I must wonder whether Pasha’s infatuation with Vika is in part because of his mother’s insistence that he find a wife.

Quote:
“The pressure is not only from my father these days. It’s also my mother. She thinks it urgent that they find me a wife.” “I know more than a few who are willing.” Nikolai nudged the prince with his boot. Every girl in the Russian Empire would sell her soul to be the tsesarevich’s Cinderella.”

“You know I want more from a wife than a girl fawning at my feet.”

As Pasha continues his investigation of The Crowns Game, searching for a way to help ensure Vika’s victory it becomes increasingly hard for Nikolai to keep his secrets. Ironic that Nikolai hopes to become closer to Pasha the only family he’s ever known, and when he finally reveals himself to Pasha as the other enchanter and confesses his Love for Vika’s it destroys their relationship.

Quote:
“Nikolai snapped his fingers, and a needle and thread appeared. They dipped down to Pasha’s shirt and began stitching the tears the broken glass had left. “You’re the other enchanter,” Pasha whispered.”

“I love her, too,” Nikolai said quietly as he sank back into his seat. Pasha, however, did not sit. He towered over Nikolai. “So you lied to me about that as well.”

“Pasha—” “Why do you have to steal Vika?” Nikolai sat up again. “What? I’m not. I said I love her, not that she loves me.” “She’d choose you over me, though. You’ve always had everything, and now you have to take Vika, too.” Pasha stabbed a knife into the center of the loaf of bread.”

“You’ve had years to explain. It’s too late now. From this moment on, I want nothing to do with you or your kind. Keep your magic to yourself.”

Nikolai’s recently resurrected mother kills the Tsar as revenge for abandoning her. An unexpected plot twist leads to the revelation to Nikolai, that he and Pasha are in fact brothers.

Quote:
“Tell me who you are.” “I will. That I also promise. But first, would you like to know who your father was?”

“Your father was the tsar.” Nikolai stopped in the middle of the street, in front of a small church. “Pardon?” “You heard me right. Your friend the tsesarevich is your half-brother.” “That’s impossible.” “Is it? I think I ought to know. The tsar took me as his mistress during a month long visit to his army on the steppe. I was young and beautiful then, and we spent every night in his tent. Eight months after he left, I bore him a son, whom I named Nikolai.”

Pasha becomes Tsar. Still reeling with feelings of betrayal, anger, and jealousy. Pasha orders the Enchanters to duel to the death using their loved ones as pawn to ensure their cooperation.

Quote:
“The tsar ceased his attempt to escape from the tent. What was he thinking, anyway? There was no way he could run from her. He sagged onto the edge of his bed. “Nikolai Karimov is your son?” he asked. “Yours, as well.” “Mine . . .” “He does not yet know. But I shall tell him soon.”

“I won’t survive? What have you done?” Aizhana shrugged. “Given you a parting gift, a token of my affection. However, you may not see it as such. You may see it as typhus.”

“The tsar tumbled out of the carriage, and Death swung his scythe. It took the tsar’s life just as he made it into the tsarina’s arms. Death took the tsarina soon afterward.”

“Pasha closed his eyes. He exhaled deeply as he sagged into the throne. Then he nodded. I will be tsar. Because it’s the only thing I have left.”

“I propose a classic duel to determine the winner,” Pasha said. “What do you mean, a classic duel?” Nikolai’s eyes narrowed. “A fight à l’outrance, to the death.” Icicles hung off Pasha’s voice.’

“What if we refuse to duel?” Vika asked”

“My Guard has taken custody of your loved ones,” Pasha said. “Ludmila Fanina and Renata Galygina have been placed under lock and key in an undisclosed location. They will be comfortable during the remainder of the Game, but should you not carry out my wishes, there shall be consequences. Your duel shall take place on the new island, beginning at dawn tomorrow”

“Perhaps it’s not the Pasha of the past, but I have no choice. I am to be tsar. This is me now.”

I enjoyed The Crowns Game; it is a fantastically fun read. The author has a gift for writing enchanting scenes. Scenes that play in your mind like a movie. The author’s adept use of imagery gives a wondrously voyeuristic feel, it’s like you there watching it all unfold. While you read this book you’ll feel alive inside, and feel a sense of loss when it all ends; the book will amaze and enchant you. Even knowing there can be only one enchanter, the ending will still shock and surprise you. (There is a mouth-open, chin-hanging plot twist.) There will be no duel Nikolai knows what he must do, and his mentor knows him too well she’s has already ensured his victory whether he cooperates or not, who would’ve known? The events that unfold won’t be anything you expect.

The Crowns Game might be categorized as YA but is an enjoyable read for all readers, no matter their age.