I received a review copy from the publishers as part of the blog tour in exchange for an honest review. It has not affected my opinions.
Genre: Fantasy Age Range: YA Star Rating: 4 stars Series: yes - first book in duology
Four siblings. A country in ruin. One quest to save them all.
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, rumoured 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 broken relationships and 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 and unwanted marriage. Kaleb, falsely accused of assassinating the former maharani, needs it to clear his name. And Riya, the runaway sibling who cut all family ties, wants the Key to prove her loyalty to the rebels who took her in.
They must work together to survive the treacherous journey. But with each sibling harbouring secrets and their own conflicting agendas, the very thing that brought them together could tear apart their family – and their world – for good.
Synopsis taken from Goodreads. Add to your shelves here.
THE IVORY KEY is a great debut that’s part messy family drama and part Indiana Jones-esque adventure, wrapped up in an Indian-inspired world.
This is a book that can best be described as an “Action and Adventure Fantasy.” After years of working in a library and shelving kids books under “Action and Adventure” where kids solve puzzles and go to abandoned sites to find treasure (particularly the “solve it yourself” puzzle books which I’d devour) but not finding a YA equivalent, I think it’s safe to say that THE IVORY KEY fills that gap.
There are lots of puzzles for the siblings to solve separately (and then together) in order to find where the key is. And then once they get to the resting place, we have a truly Indiana Jones-esque hidden temple sequence. Traps and sneaky architecture galore! (Is this the only bit I remember of the films? Yes. Am I thrilled that this is not a white bloke there to pilfer but siblings trying to save their own country? Double yes.)
It was a very rich world, and a lot of care had clearly been taken with the details. From the magic point of view, there are all sorts of little mentions of how magic affects daily life (for the rich!) from magically warmed baths to lights and prisons.
I really appreciated that, on the linguistical side, the author simply uses the actual term for the object/concept rather than using an English one that won’t be so accurate. She trusts readers without a background from the region to work it out from context. I have no knowledge of any language in that region, but I could still follow along easily. Yes, I am a nerd with linguistical world building, but it really does add depth to the world.
As for the siblings… well, there’s enough drama between them to make a soap opera writer run back to their writing desk to get their script up to the same level. Every single sibling has a rough relationship with the other three. I mean, one put another in prison and is arranging a marriage for a third. The fourth ran away from them all.
I really liked how they all had their own reasons for wanting the key that tied back to their disagreements with their siblings. It made both their personal reasons for distrusting each other and their “professional” need to keep secrets deeply interlinked. Thus them working together felt like a much trickier goal to achieve (and also more rewarding when they did.)
A lot happens at the end, setting up several interesting conflicts for the next book, which I will look forward to next year.