The Tsar’s Guard Parade: Top Ten Tsars in Russian History

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The Crown's Game

The Crown’s Game

By: Evelyn Skye

Publisher: Balzer+Bray

Publication Date: May 17th, 2016


Vika Andreyeva can summon the snow and turn ash into gold. Nikolai Karimov can see through walls and conjure bridges out of thin air. They are enchanters—the only two in Russia—and with the Ottoman Empire and the Kazakhs threatening, the Tsar needs a powerful enchanter by his side.

And so he initiates the Crown’s Game, an ancient duel of magical skill—the greatest test an enchanter will ever know. The victor becomes the Imperial Enchanter and the Tsar’s most respected adviser. The defeated is sentenced to death.

Raised on tiny Ovchinin Island her whole life, Vika is eager for the chance to show off her talent in the grand capital of Saint Petersburg. But can she kill another enchanter—even when his magic calls to her like nothing else ever has?

For Nikolai, an orphan, the Crown’s Game is the chance of a lifetime. But his deadly opponent is a force to be reckoned with—beautiful, whip smart, imaginative—and he can’t stop thinking about her.

And when Pasha, Nikolai’s best friend and heir to the throne, also starts to fall for the mysterious enchantress, Nikolai must defeat the girl they both love . . . or be killed himself.

As long-buried secrets emerge, threatening the future of the empire, it becomes dangerously clear . . . the Crown’s Game is not one to lose.

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top ten

When it comes to Russian history, there are a lot of crazy, amazing, inspirational, powerful, and totally terrible Tsars. Some are all of the above. For our stop on the Tsar’s Guard Parade, we decided to share a list of our favorites, in no particular order. We look forward to seeing if some of these inspired Evelyn once we get our hands on a copy of The Crown’s Game.*

Catherine the Great (Catherine II)

There were a lot of crazy Tsars and Tsarinas around in the good old days. Catherine the Great was, however, one of the classiest. Born Sophie Friederike Auguste von Anhalt-Zerbst-Dornburg, she came to power in Russia after marrying Tsar Peter III. However, she quickly grew tired of him–in fact, there were rumors that they never consummated the marriage, and she as good as admitted to her mother-in-law Elizabeth that her son Paul I was not by Peter. In those circumstances, it’s not too crazy that she had her husband killed by her latest boy toy. Catherine then continued to have a long line of lovers throughout her lifetime, 22 by all counts. She died shortly before excluding her son from the line of inheritance in favor of her grandson (not that poor Paul was bitter, or had any sort of mommy issues at all).


Peter III

Poor Peter was hardly Russian at all, and probably shouldn’t have been Tsar. His father was one of the German nobility. However, he was the oldest male grandson of Peter the Great, and named heir presumptive by his aunt, Elizabeth. Of course, she was too busy running Russia to pay too much attention to him, except to marry him to a nice young German girl, who would later become Catherine the Great. His rule as Tsar was mostly characterized by his utter obsession with Prussia, a country who had been an enemy of Russia. However, before he could do anything much he was usurped by his wife Catherine, and probably killed by one of her lovers.


Elizabeth was probably meant to be Tsarina, being one of two surviving children of Peter the Great. However, she had to wait for a whole line of cousins to die out first. This she did, more or less patiently, at least until a baby (Ivan VI) was made Tsar. Then she marched on the palace and demanded her throne. She never married, due to a tricky political situation, but had a long string of lovers instead. She made her nephew Peter her heir, although she wasn’t too interested in him. Instead, as soon as her grand-nephew Paul was born, she took him and raised him as her ward, refusing to let Peter or Catherine see him, and did her best to shape him in the image of Peter the Great until her untimely death.


Peter the Great (Peter II)

OK, you just can’t have a list of Russian Tsars without mentioning Peter the Great. He became Tsar at age 10, although his mother ruled for him, and later his half-sister basically ruled in his name. Oh, and at one point he was co-Tsar with his older, mentally disabled half brother. Finally, everyone else died and Peter was finally, actually Tsar. He earned his name by revamping Russia’s entire culture so that it was more western, and also building a city coincidentally named St. Peterburg. Because his son was accused of plotting to overthrow him, and later died after being tortured, Peter the Great had no male heir when he died. Still, his legacy continued through his two daughters and a whole convoluted line of cousins.


Ivan the Terrible (Ivan IV Rurik)

Similarly, you just can’t have a list of Tsars, crazy or not, without including Ivan the Terrible. He was, as a matter of fact, the first person to proclaim himself ‘Tsar of Russia’, not just ‘Grand Prince of Moscow’. Despite this he is most known for his paranoia, temper tantrums and mental instability. He supposedly beat his pregnant daughter-in-law so hard she miscarried, and then when his son Ivan tried to intervene, fatally wounded him in the head. His second son, Feodor, was childless and possibly mentally disabled, and led to the fall of the Rurik dynasty.


Feodor I

Feodor was just kind of an unfortunate guy. He was the second son of Ivan the terrible, possibly disabled, and was in no way supposed to inherit the Russian Crown. But then, both his brother and his father died, leaving him with no choice, really. But he didn’t really like ruling, so he left all that to his twice-brother-in-law Boris Godunov. Feodor was a religious guy, who apparently liked going around and ringing church bells so much that he was called ‘Feodor the Bellringer’ in England. Unfortunately, he only had one child who died young, and so left no heir when he died at age 40. This basically led to a ten-year breakdown of all order in Russia, until the establishment of the Romanov dynasty.


Ivan V

On the line of really sad, unfortunate Tsars, let’s go to Ivan. We’ve mentioned him before–he was actually co-Tsar with his brother, Peter, who outlived him and went on to become Peter the Great. Ivan was supposed to be Tsar, being the middle child and older than Peter, but because of his infirmities he was made co-Tsar. Despite this, all the actual ruling was done by his older sister Sophia, until she overstepped her bounds and Ivan was persuaded to give Peter the power instead. Even while Peter did all the ruling Ivan remained a happily oblivious Tsar until his death at age 29.


Anna of Russia

Ivan V’s daughter, Anna of Russia, was not supposed to be Tsarina. She was supposed to be a nun, and was in fact raised to be a nun, but ended up married to a German nobleman who died several weeks after the marriage. She became Tsarina in 1730, after the death of her young relative Peter II, and crowned by people who really wanted a quiet, biddable puppet queen. Anna was not impressed, and basically ripped up the conditions they wanted and ruled however she felt. She was known mostly for her love of Germans, which involved both her peppering her court with them and also taking a German (Ernst Johann Biron) as her lover. She was also known for hunting animals with a rifle from the royal palace windows. Her heir was Ivan VI, who was promptly overthrown by her cousin Elizabeth.


Alexander I

Alexander, the son of Paul and grandson of Catherine the Great, was probably Catherine’s first choice as heir. However, he ascended to the throne after the assassination of his father, and there’s speculation he at least knew about the plot. His reign was marked by the Napoleonic wars, during which he switched sides no less than four times. After Napoleon’s utter defeat at the hands of the Russian winter, Alexander enjoyed a relatively peaceful reign despite dying in 1825. However, there were rumors that he had faked his death and become a monk in Siberia. Apparently these rumors were so prevalent that basically everyone believed this one monk was Alexander I in disguise, even the Tsar’s family.


Nicholas I

Poor, poor Nicholas was the only real victim of Alexander I’s possible faked death. He was forced into being Tsar after Alexander (possibly) died and his other brother Konstantin renounced the throne. It really might have been better had he not been Tsar–a contemporary and friend said of his reign, ‘it was all a mistake’. In a time of upheaval throughout Europe, he was an extreme reactionary. However, he’s best known for a whole series of wars, ending with the Crimean War. Although it started out as yet another war against the Ottoman Empire, it ended in Russia vs. the Rest of Europe. Also, it was in this war that the utter backwards and incompetency of his army was revealed, despite all the money he had been spending on it. He died before the Crimean War ended, leaving his son Alexander II to clean everything up.




Ivan VI

Ivan VI has to be the most unfortunate Tsar in existence. The heir of Anna of Russia, he was two months old when he was proclaimed Tsar, and was overthrown by his relative Elizabeth just over a year later. Ivan grew up a prisoner from then on–Elizabeth never dared to kill him, but she never dared to allow him access to any part of the government, or really any other human being. Even after she died, his condition didn’t improve any. There were standing orders that he was to be killed if there was any attempt to ever release him, which is exactly what happened when someone tried to use him to overthrow Catherine when he was 23.

*The information in this list was pulled from Rosi’s history major brain.

about the author

Evelyn Skye head shot high res

Evelyn Skye was once offered a job by the C.I.A., she not-so-secretly wishes she was on “So You Think You Can Dance,” and if you challenge her to a pizza-eating contest, she guarantees she will win. When she isn’t writing, Evelyn can be found chasing her daughter on the playground or sitting on the couch, immersed in a good book and eating way too many cookies. THE CROWN’S GAME is her first novel. Evelyn can be found online at and on Twitter @EvelynSkyeYA.

Find the author:  Website | Twitter |Facebook | Goodreads | Tumblr | Instagram


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