“Raman’s Indian-inspired fantasy debut is a dream for seekers of character-driven stories.”
NO MAJOR SPOILERS
Akshaya Raman lives in America but has relied on her Indian roots to put together this fantasy adventure of four siblings divided by politics but united by a magical quest. The book opens with a death the way a murder mystery does and a young maharani in a forgotten forest. One by one Vira’s siblings materialise in the story, each with a chapter to themselves and each taking the story a step further through their different agendas and their individual likes and dislikes.
The fact that Raman is not an Indian comes through in her descriptions of things like paan where she confuses areca leaves and betel – though she is aware that Indians spit it and stain walls and pavements. Or in her country names – Ashoka and Lyria. Her fantasy heroes and heroines are dressed in the richest of Indian attire and exist on kachoris and other rich fare.
Gradually divisions between the siblings, all young royals but seemingly unaware that a maharani cannot be a dictator riding rough shod over her Council. The rajkumaaras and Riya, the rajkumaari – with extra ‘as’ in their titles -finally come to terms with their differences and come to learn each other’s strengths and weaknesses better.
Raman has an interesting magic mining concept where raw magic has side effects on those who mine it, rather like uranium and require protective clothing, extra thick kurtas and dupattas. Magic as a political tool too, is a way to induct young adults into the complexities that capitalism and fossil fuel economies evoke in different communities. When it comes to the end of the book, there is a strong streak of Indiana Jones to it, with collapsing temples, lethal statues that come to life and invisible bridges that require leaps of faith.
Though her style is stiff and her descriptions of jungles cinematic, the story creates enough wonder to keep the reader going curiously to the final page, despite second guessing much of it. Raman has made a promising start with her debut and the sequel to the Ivory Key is bound to be eagerly anticipated by her fans.
Added 23rd February 2022