The Ivory Key by Akshaya Raman – Book Review!

Vira is desperate to get out of her mother’s shadow and establish her legacy as a revered queen of Ashoka. But with the country’s only quarry running out of magic–a precious resource that has kept Ashoka safe from conflict–she can barely protect her citizens from the looming threat of war. And if her enemies discover this, they’ll stop at nothing to seize the last of the magic.

Vira’s only hope is to find a mysterious object of legend: the Ivory Key, rumored to unlock a new source of magic. But in order to infiltrate enemy territory and retrieve it, she must reunite with her siblings, torn apart by the different paths their lives have taken. Each of them has something to gain from finding the Ivory Key–and even more to lose if they fail. Ronak plans to sell it to the highest bidder in exchange for escape from his impending political marriage. Kaleb, falsely accused of assassinating the former maharani needs it to clear his name. And Riya, a runaway who cut all family ties, wants the Key to prove her loyalty to the rebels who want to strip the nobility of its power.

They must work together to survive the treacherous journey. But with each sibling harboring secrets and their own agendas, the very thing that brought them together could tear apart their family–and their world–for good.

Susan and I are back with our buddy reads & we’ve started 2022 off with a book that we loved… kinda. Vira is keeping a secret, Ashoka is running out of magic, something that has kept the Kingdom safe for centuries. Her only hope is to find the Ivory Key, rumoured to unlock a new source of magic. The only issue, her siblings are looking for it too, but they all have different goals in mind. They know they must work together to survive the dangerous journey to get the Key, but the question is will they come back re-united as a family, or will their own goals get in the way.

There was a lot about this book that I loved, one of the main things being the characters. The Ivory Key is told from the four siblings POVS. Vira is the Maharani, the person now in charge of a Kingdom that has nearly lost all its magic and this, it’s only hope of protection for invaders. She comes across as harsh and unfeeling, when in reality she is desperate for the support of her family. She wants to live up to her mothers rule, but before long she will realise that there is a strength in being different, in being her, and she will need to rely on that to make it through the journey alive.

Riya ran away from home years ago after an argument with her mother and found herself living amongst the Ravens, a gang of outlaws who steal from the rich to give to the poor Robin Hood style. After an unlikely event finds her and Vira re-united, she decides that her best chance to help the Ravens is to return to the Palace and try and steal the magic from within. But the more time she spends there, amongst her friends and family, the more she realises that not all is as it seems, and before long her loyalty to both the Ravens and her family will be put to the test.

Ronak just wants to escape. To free his brother, leave the Palace and never look back. Only, that isn’t as easy as it seems and, before long he finds himself entangled with an extremely dangerous person, someone who wants the Key, no matter the cost. He knows that he will have to work with his siblings to find the key, but he is determined to go through with his plan, no matter the cost nor whether his brother actually wants saving.

Kaleb is stuck in prison, after being wrongly accused for the death of his mother thanks to his ancestry, he longs for freedom, to have his name cleared and finally return to his family. So when Vira asks him for his help finding the Key he uses his only bargaining chip to request his freedom, but the family he returns to isn’t the one he left. The siblings are filled with tension, none willing to trust each other, but if they are to find the key, he knows they are going to have to start working together. There are plenty of side characters, some who play a larger part in the story than others, but they are all pivotal to the story in some way.

The world-building in the book was just phenomenal. I couldn’t get enough of learning about the history of Ashoka, and it’s surrounding kingdoms. But if I had one little sticking point, it would be the magic system. It just wasn’t developed enough for me, just when I thought I had my head round the rules, something else popped up that seemed to defy them, so I just constantly struggled to determine what exactly it did, how it was used, where it came from etc. I also felt that the Ravens, the group that Riya joined after leaving the Palace just kind of dropped off the map for no reason. They play a pretty large role in the first half of the book but, as soon as the siblings set off on their journey, are never heard from again.

Now that I’ve talked about the bit’s I didn’t love, lets get onto the bits I did. I really enjoyed the pacing of this book. It had a slow start, but that gave us time to acquaint ourselves with the characters as separate entities, learning their plans, hopes and wishes so, when they started on their journey in the second half, we had a good idea of who everyone was. The second half of the book was significantly faster paced, filled with danger, a little romance and plenty of Indiana Jones style traps and clues the siblings had to work their way through. I loved how well the action scenes were written, they really dragged you into the story and made sure the stakes stayed high for our characters. It’s an incredibly easy read, I read it in two sittings but could have easily done one if I wasn’t buddy reading it.

There’s a little bit of romance in this book, less than I expected from the first few chapters tbh, but I enjoyed that the author focused more on the sibling relationships than the romantic ones. We know, before they start on their journey, that they each have their own plans for the Key, but the longer the spend together, the more they come to realise that their want’s don’t really matter. What matters is keeping the Kingdom safe. Some of them are a little brattish, but Raman portrays sibling relationships so well. They have no love for each other, no understanding of each other, but when it comes down to it, they would risk their lives for each other, no questions asked.

The Ivory Key ends on one hell of a cliffhanger, in fact it’s more a multitude of lots of little twists that just make for one epic ending. I saw one of two coming, but there were a few that completely took me off guard, and I can’t wait to see them getting developed more in book two. Overall, this was an incredibly easy read, filled with well written characters and some impressive world-building. I just hope we get a better understanding of the magic system in the second book.


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