I found this novel through a bookish subscription service and IT WAS THE BEST NOVEL of my whole year. It was the book of the month for OwlCrate’s January 2022 subscription book (which I reviewed here) and I cannot express just how much I love this book.
So, without any delay here’s my review:
Colourful bangles were stacked up her arm, and even her ankles hadn’t been left bare, encircles by bell-ladden anklets that jangled with every step. But she couldn’t remember the last time she’d laughed so much.Chapter 27, Riya
This novel follows a family of four estranged royal siblings brought back together by magic. Literally. In Ashoka, magic is a resource but it’s running out and Queen Vira needs to find another source before neighbouring countries invade. The only way she can solve her problems is by finding the mythical Ivory Key which could give her access to a new source of magic. But she needs to reunite with her siblings to find the key.
Ronak wants the key to sell it for a good price so he can get out of a political marriage arrangement and run away with his best friend/partner.
Kaleb was falsely accused of killing the previous queen (maharani) and needs the key to clear his name once and for all.
Riya is the trouble-child who ran away from her royal family and needs the key to prove her loyalty to the rebels who want the nobility’s power taken away from them.
These four siblings need to work together to find the key but along the way, they’re also coming to terms with their own secrets and problems that could very well destroy their already fragile family.
So, I absolutely loved the writing style, plot and world-building in this novel. The world-building somewhat reminded me of ancient Indian civilisation with a YA Fantasy aspect included. I’ve been reading and discovering more Indian-inspired novels so this was something I was really excited to read. The plot was also very reminiscent of your classic (slightly) dysfunctional Indian household. The writing style was also lovely and colourful; the descriptions of some of my favourite Indian foods were mouth-watering.
The characters are also brilliant. Usually, when I read novels with multiple characters, there’s always one character that I don’t care about but that was not the case here. I loved reading about all of these characters. Vira is a maharani trying to be a ruler her mother could be proud of. Kaleb is feeling betrayed by Vira because she threw him into jail for being a possible suspect in their mother’s death. Ronak hates royal life and wants out of it. Last but not least, Riya is torn between alliances with the rebels and her royal family. All of their stories felt fleshed out and compelling. So, even though we’re going through multiple main characters, I think there was a good amount of content and development given to us so we can properly understand these characters. I enjoyed reading and getting to know these characters, so, simply put, I think all their characterisations are done perfectly.
And OH MY GOODNESS the relationships in this book had me in a chokehold. This is where I fan girl over Vira and Amrit specifically. I loved the dynamic and the slow-burn relationship between these two characters. AND THE FINAL FEW CHAPTERS RUINED me. I desperately need the sequel to this series. I need to know what happens next to them (a sequel is coming to us in August 2023 so yay!). I also want to mention that we do get LGBTQI+ representation with Ronak and Jay although at the moment this relationship is a little bit vague and up for interpretation. Hopefully, we’ll get more clarity in the sequel.
Also, I just wanted to mention how amazing it was to read a fantasy novel that is inspired by Indian culture. We get Indian main characters in a setting which is reminiscent of ancient India. We get Indian words included throughout the novel, Indian food and traditional clothing. It’s great Indian and South Asian representation basically. This is part of the reason why this book is such a favourite of mine because I don’t often come across novels with great Indian representation in mainstream publishing so, I will never stop raving about this novel.
Overall, it was a brilliantly written novel and I absolutely cannot wait to review the sequel, so you can expect another Akshaya Raman review to be published in the future. Until my next review, thank you for reading and I hope you have a lovely day.