Special thanks to Clarion Books for providing an ARC in exchange for an honest review!
Goodreads: The Ivory Key (The Ivory Key Duology #1)
Publisher: Clarion Books
Publish Date: 04 January 2022
Genre: Young Adult Fantasy
Magic, a prized resource, is the only thing between peace and war. When magic runs out, four estranged royal siblings must find a new source before their country is swallowed by invading forces. The first in an Indian-inspired duology.
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.
TL;DR: My journey reading this was quite an experience! Although it was a bit of a rough first half, I ended up enjoying this Indian-inspired fantasy and the characters plus the strong focus on family and sibling relationships. We get several POVs but the author does a great job in creating distinct voices for each sibling. The second half was so full of Indian Jones-style mystery adventure and I sped through it so quickly! With the surprising twists and baby-cliffhanger ending, I’m excited to know what happens next and how this duology concludes.
CW/TW: graphic description of dead bodies, death of a parent (recounted)
I have to admit that while the first half of this book wasn’t a pleasure cruise for me, I did appreciate the world-building and character establishment. Raman paints a very rich and vivid Indian inspired fantasy world that thrives on magic. I thought the magic was interesting and I liked that it was a valuable resource that this world could potentially run out of—it wasn’t overly complicated and was easy to understand. The story begins in the city and palace where the focus was mainly on the politics and complex relationships in the set-up for the second half, which is really where the action and adventure kick in. I loved the cryptic puzzles and Indiana Jones-style adventures through temples and ruins to discover the key. The secrets we learn are thrilling and the major twist had me SHOOK because I didn’t see it coming at all!
Although the Ivory Key does have a solid plot, I feel like it’s very much a character-driven story and it’s told from the perspective of the four siblings: Vira, Riya, Ronak and Kaleb. There are obviously pros/cons of having to read from so many POVs, but I think the author did a great job creating distinct voices and personalities for each sibling. I really enjoyed how family and sibling relationships were given such a strong focus in this book and while I didn’t come to love every sibling, I thought their dynamic was very relatable and by getting to know them through their perspectives, I came to empathise with them. Family and sibling relationships are not always easy to navigate and while they might have banded together for their own personal reasons, they come to rely on each other in a way they haven’t in years. It was heartwarming to see their bond grow stronger as they learn how to trust each other again and how to essentially be siblings again. Kaleb was probably my favourite from the start but I think Vira experienced the most growth. I didn’t like her much at the start and couldn’t understand how she justified her actions but she learns from her wrongs and finds the courage to forge her own path.
Though I struggled to get into this, I’m really glad that I pushed through because the second half really brought the rating up for me and I loved it, so if this had been better paced it probably would’ve held my attention more! However, the unexpected twists and the set-up for the next book has me eagerly anticipating how everything is going to play out. This isn’t the most brutal of cliffhangers that I’ve read but I’m excited at the thought of what’s to come, I’m hoping it’s going to be a better-paced journey! Can has next book, pls?
Have you read The Ivory Key or is it on your TBR?