(Incidentally, Niko’s maid is in love with him, but that little love triangle doesn’t count for anything, she’s a girl and not nobility.)
The rest of the book is a LOT less predictable.
Problem: There Can Be Only One [tm]. The Tsar invokes the Crown’s Game, in which the 2 find out who wins and who dies. If one kills the other, that settles the game, but can two strangers kill each other? Not really. The magic of the Game will kill the loser after each has 5 moves.
Then, the hidden enemy shows up, and the enchanters have to actually protect the Tsar while continuing their game – uh oh.
The twists and turns of the plot are very enjoyable