The front cover for Kaikeyi by Vaishnavi Patel. The cover is orange. There is the head and shoulders of a black woman in the middle. She is looking to the left of the page. She is wearing a lot of white and gold jewelry.

Kaikeyi by Vaishnavi Patel

Kaikeyi by Vaishnavi Patel from @orbitbooks #BookReview #Fantasy #StrongWomen

Kaikeyi by Vaishnavi Patel

Orbit, pb, £8.99

Reviewed by Mikaela Silk

The front cover for Kaikeyi by Vaishnavi Patel. The cover is orange. There is the head and shoulders of a black woman in the middle. She is looking to the left of the page. She is wearing a lot of white and gold jewelry.

When their mother leaves unexpectedly and abruptly, Kaikeyi steps up to the plate and takes over many of her duties. Behind the scenes of the bustling palace, she helps to raise her younger brothers whilst making sure her father’s guests feel welcome, and his servants feel heard. Once, when a particularly important guest praises their meal, Kaikeyi receives a nod of recognition from her father. She even advises her twin brother on what to say at the King’s Council, and in return, he trains her in fighting and chariot driving. Yet despite her successes, Kaikeyi grows frustrated by her lack of real power. Her fighting skills must be kept secret, and there is no place for a woman on the King’s Council.

When her father announces that she must marry, Kaikeyi blanches at the prospect of losing what little power she has to her husband and the two wives he already has. Yet she soon finds that her new position offers its own opportunities, and her determination is all that’s needed to take full advantage of them. Well, that and a little bit of magic to help nudge things in the right direction.

I love how the magic in this book is subtle. Kaikeyi doesn’t need it to achieve her goals, but it emphasises her naturally persuasive and tenacious qualities. The fact that she can only manipulate connections that already exist highlight her own strength in being able to create and grow these connections in the first place. Furthermore, the risk of connections being broken introduces a level of risk that keeps the magic contained and pushes Kaikeyi to use other methods as well. Overall this allows the magic to be embedded into the narrative without overwhelming it or overshadowing Kaikeyi’s character.

As a character, Kaikeyi is easily likeable. She is constantly trying to help others but, at the same time, does not let these other people influence her own thoughts and opinions. In her own climb to power, she brings as many others up with her as she can and never lets the power corrupt her. Yet she is not without the flaws required to make her character human and relatable. Kaikeyi is quick to anger and does not make friends easily in the beginning. She is also prone to letting love blind her to the faults of others, and this proves to be dangerous on multiple occasions.

This book takes us on a tumultuous journey through Kaikeyi’s life. There is success and failure, happiness and grief, loss and discovery, betrayal and support. It is these ups and downs that make her story believable and unputdownable.

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