‘The Ivory Key’ Is An Exhilarating Debut – Review
Magic is everything in Ashoka. Vira, the Maharani, has been left with the impossible task of saving her country, which means saving its magic from the neighbouring land of Lyria – a secret society with mercenaries and internal politics. If being the new young Maharani wasn’t hard enough, Vira must fight for (and with) her family. The journey to save Ashoka will be one that will push her and her siblings to the edge.
In Akshaya Raman’s Indian-inspired fantasy duology, she takes us on an exhilarating adventure; a hunt for a magical key that will solve Vira’s problems. However, Vira isn’t the only one who can be saved by the titular Ivory Key. The story weaves together four perspectives, including Vira’s. Joining the hunt for the Ivory Key is Riya, the sister who escaped the castle, Ronak, the brother who wishes he has escaped already, and Kaleb, the half-brother locked up for a crime he didn’t commit. These royal siblings have a myriad of problems, and with each step bringing them closer to the key, the more trouble they seem to get into. The story is beautifully woven to create a complicated tapestry of great characters, devious plots, a dangerous treasure hunt, and political drama. At the heart of the story is the power and magic of familial bonds, as these royal siblings feel the pressure and support of their deceased parent, and the legacy they are meant to contribute to.
Raman’s writing is precise and to the point. The novel reads like a very effective pitch for an epic film or TV series. Her writing transports you to Ashoka with descriptions that not only give you a sense of what the environment looks like, but what each character feels at any given moment. Raman’s words breathe life into every room and every character. There is a vibrancy to the way Raman crafts the story that gives readers the feeling that they are experiencing this journey with the characters, literally. Raman’s writing in one word is: energetic. There is no moment of rest; you feel compelled to keep reading ahead to see what twists and turns Vira, Riya, Ronak and Kaleb will face next.
While Raman has written a truly enthralling first part of this epic duology, the one slight complaint I have is that the characters could use a bit more fleshing out. The story is told in the third person and while Raman leaves no detail behind as she crafts these very engaging protagonists, there lacks that connective tissue that gives us insight into what they are actually feeling and experiencing internally. With four central characters and points of view, it could be too much to include their first-person perspective, but with the writing being overwhelmingly thrilling and exciting, the added layer of personal narration and perspective would have further strengthened an already excellent book. However, as I am more prone to liking first-person narratives, I do see the benefit of Raman’s choice here. With so much to work through and the family dynamics always shifting, Raman manages to balance effective character building, world-building and an epic adventure. It is a feat not many can accomplish, especially in their debut work.
The Ivory Key is stunning. An epic adventure with equally brilliant and engaging characters and world-building. There is nothing The Ivory Key promises that it does not fulfill, it is in every sense of the word, magical. Raman’s inspirations are vividly realized, her vision is uncompromising and her ambition is deeply felt. And with the final chapters and epilogue setting us up for a truly devastating and riveting conclusion to the duology, the anticipation feels well worth the wait.