Book Reviews

Book Review – Kaikeyi

Kaikeyi by Vaishnavi Patel is the latest mythic retelling getting rave review in the bookish world. It was released at the end of April and has a glowing 4.24 stars on Goodreads as of today. I picked this up with high hopes and they all came crashing down.

Goodreads Description

“I was born on the full moon under an auspicious constellation, the holiest of positions — much good it did me.”

So begins Kaikeyi’s story. The only daughter of the kingdom of Kekaya, she is raised on tales about the might and benevolence of the gods: how they churned the vast ocean to obtain the nectar of immortality, how they vanquish evil and ensure the land of Bharat prospers, and how they offer powerful boons to the devout and the wise. Yet she watches as her father unceremoniously banishes her mother, listens as her own worth is reduced to how great a marriage alliance she can secure. And when she calls upon the gods for help, they never seem to hear.

Desperate for some measure of independence, she turns to the texts she once read with her mother and discovers a magic that is hers alone. With this power, Kaikeyi transforms herself from an overlooked princess into a warrior, diplomat, and most favored queen, determined to carve a better world for herself and the women around her.

But as the evil from her childhood stories threatens the cosmic order, the path she has forged clashes with the destiny the gods have chosen for her family. And Kaikeyi must decide if resistance is worth the destruction it will wreak — and what legacy she intends to leave behind.

My Review

I gave this one two stars, 2.5 on CAWPILE. It’s an unpopular opinion for sure but I just didn’t like this. The beginning started out so strong but the more I read, the lower my rating fell.

Kaikeyi starts off as a strong character and I thought the part of her growing up was really interesting. Then she gets this magic which also was intriguing. Then she grows up. I had two main problems as she grew up. First, her casual use of a magic that manipulated everyone around her really bothered me and it is never really addressed. It actually seems like use of this power is supposed to be a good thing based on what happens with the only people she doesn’t emotionally manipulate. That’s a big no from me in any circumstance and the fact that it was never really addressed as manipulation or in any way a terrible thing to do was disturbing. The second part is a personal thing where jumping over big parts of someone’s life leaves me a little disconnected. Huge stuff happened in her life that we never see. I am glad this book wasn’t any longer but I need a really strong story to be able to deal with those giant time leaps and this one didn’t give me that.

The other characters were fine but no one really sticks out as memorable. Since all of the narrative was Kaikeyi’s perspective and much of it done through the lens of the strength of their bond at any given time, I never felt like I got to know them. I was thoroughly sick of every character description and discussion of every scenario being through the binding plane, it was WAY over done.

The setting was well done and I liked the reminders of the setting when discussing clothes, using of some terms, talk of weather, etc. that were enough to make me never forget the setting without it being super flowery or heavy handed. Just the writing in general was really good.

I also found the quality of the plot went downhill as the book progressed. I understand this is a retelling and I don’t know the original so maybe my issue is with the original story. We start off with the story of a little girl girl not getting her prayers answered and figuring out her place in a male-dominated world. This was great and then she went off to get married and I was still totally on board. Then the frequency of praying and gods and demons showing up just skyrocketed and this type of plot is not for me. I was expecting a mythic retelling like Circe where the characters are the gods or the other mythic beings, these are stories I like. Stories of religion with people praying and gods coming to grant or thwart wishes are not my thing at all. It’s a personal preference of course but it just took that turn into more about religious people than religious/spiritual figures and that was not what I was expecting from the blurb or reviews. Then given the plot and Kaikeyi being the person who doesn’t pray or at least doesn’t have her prayers answered, nope it didn’t work for me.

Overall, not one I’d recommend for those of similar taste to mine but people are loving it and I still can see why even though it was not for me.

2 thoughts on “Book Review – Kaikeyi”

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