The Ivory Key by Akshaya Raman is the first book in a new YA fantasy duology. This one was published in January 2022 and the second one is supposed to come out next year. I loved the idea that this book focused around a group of siblings, it sounded like a nice change of pace for YA fantasy. It was one of my most anticipated releases for 2022 but unfortunately, I didn’t like it and won’t be reaching for the second book.
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.
I seem to be in the minority with this one but I just didn’t like it. My main complaint is that it read so young for YA and yet at least two of the main characters are supposed to be 18 (and one I think would be in his early/mid 20s, the last one is a mystery age). Despite these ages and the YA category, you could change maybe 1% of the story and have a solid middle grade read. Especially the puzzles and action towards the end read so much like middle grade, I felt like I was reading about trying to get the sorcerer’s stone.
The characters were very one dimensional. As mentioned above, I don’t even know their ages except that one of them is 18 and one is her twin but how hard would it be to give some basic information about the characters? There were quite a few of them and I don’t feel like I know more than one or two big things about any of them. We’ve got the girl who is the ruler but got into the job too young, the sister who ran away for unknown reasons to basically be Robin Hood, a brother locked up in prison who used to deal with magic, and a brother who likes books and wants to run away also for unknown reasons (and possibly is gay, I couldn’t decide what was going on with Jay). Oh and the captain of the guard (who has a very short romance ARC with one of the other characters, how young is this captain??) who seems to think a dangerous journey for a magical object is a great idea and tags along. I didn’t care about any of them, I never even could get the two girls’ names straight.
The plot is fine but everything came a little too conveniently and even when bad things happened, they miraculously were fixed within a page or two. The stakes just seemed so low, again I didn’t care. The first 50-75% of the plot is also really slow, all of the action is at the end. This is pretty typical for fantasy but at least I’m normally getting to know the characters, magic, world, etc. and that wasn’t happening here, it was just a lot of whining and characters doing stuff I don’t remember and didn’t seem to matter.
The setting may have been able to save this one and at least get it 3 stars but it wasn’t described or really utilized. Except for the names and how clothing/weapons were described, this book could have been set anywhere. I never really got any descriptions of locations, surroundings or even what characters looked like.
So I didn’t enjoy it but I didn’t hate it either, 2 stars.