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Magic, a prized resource, is the only thing between peace and war. When magic runs out, four estranged royal siblings must find a new source before their country is swallowed by invading forces. The first in an Indian-inspired duology.

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.

384 pages, Hardcover

First published January 4, 2022

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Akshaya Raman

6 books288 followers

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Displaying 1 - 30 of 1,093 reviews
Profile Image for megs_bookrack.
1,605 reviews10.7k followers
July 22, 2023
The Ruler. The Rebel. The Prisoner. The Unhappy Brother?

The Ivory Key is a lush and exciting Indian-inspired YA Fantasy that took my breath away. I absolutely loved this and highly urge every YA Fantasy Reader to give it a shot.

The story is set in the kingdom of Ashoka where magic is a key resource. It's used for many things, but one of its most important functions is protecting the kingdom from outside forces. It literally courses through the walls at their borders; shielding them.

As magic begins to run low, Vira, the young maharani of Ashoka, is barely holding it together trying to keep the kingdom from war. It seems their neighbors can sense weakness and are just biding their time before they make their move.

Vira needs to find a new source of magic. Their known mines are dry, although she isn't officially telling anyone that.

Vira believes the answer may be to find the Ivory Key, a mysterious object of legend, that is said to hold the secret to a new source of magic.

Vira can't do it alone, however, so she pairs up with her three estranged siblings, Ronak, Kaleb and Riya, for the search.

That's right. We have a quest. There's a map, hidden artifacts, dangerous enemies and cut-throat sibling rivalries. It has everything.

It was hard not to think a bit of Indiana Jones while reading this. That's how fun it is. I loved the relationships among the characters. I felt like even though the story had a ton of action, I really got to know the characters as well. It had a nice balance.

From the very start I was hooked into this story. I loved how Raman introduced the Reader to all of the characters and built the world. The kingdom and its magic system are well laid out, but the narrative never felt info-dumpy.

The stakes for this story are high, with each character having their own interests and motivations. I never once lost interest in where this was going or what was going to happen.

I cannot wait for the continuation of this story. I am sort of sad that I'll have to wait so long, but the good news is, I'll have time to read this one again before the second book releases.

Oh yeah, it's that good. Don't let this one pass you by, y'all. Get your copy today!!!

Profile Image for Bhavya .
479 reviews901 followers
June 17, 2022

Content/Trigger Warnings-

Finished. 5 stars. Objectively it might be a 3.5 or 4, but prioritizing my reading enjoyment this time. I loved this book so much. As an Indian, as a South Indian, reading a book inspired by South India meant a lot. The fact that such a book even exists means a lot. Thank you to the author for writing it, and making me feel at home. Review to come.

Here is my Spotify book playlist. Its a mix of English, Hindi, Telugu, Tamil and Kannada songs. There are more of English, Hindi & Telugu though, as I know those languages. https://open.spotify.com/playlist/1qk...


7/1/2022: Started this! Hoping its a 5 star.

14/11/2021: I am so happy with the number of #ownvoices Indian-inspired fantasy releasing next year! So excited.
Profile Image for Elle.
587 reviews1,399 followers
January 21, 2022
An inventive fantasy of hidden secrets, betrayals and, of course, ✨magic✨, I was thrilled to get my hands on a copy of The Ivory Key. Especially with a cover like that?!? I’m going to kindly request more abstract, colorful designs on fantasy covers going forward please.

Vira is the maharani, queen of Ashoka, and her brother Ronak has refused to take up his place as her mayaka. With a sister, Riya, who’s run away from their family and another brother, Kaleb, currently imprisoned, there’s a lot that these four are going to have to work through if they want to restore magic to their people. But after the murder of Vira’s betrothed and the discovery of something that could lead the siblings to a long lost power source, it’s up to them whether or not they can put aside their competing agendas and save their home.⁣

I liked the dynamic between the four siblings in this book the best. They had distinct personalities and motivations, with often conflicting points of view. Akshaya Raman did a good job shifting between their four perspectives and providing context for most of their choices. I’m not sure if writing four equally weighted voices created the strongest or most cohesive narrative, but I understand why she made that choice. Focusing on one over the others could bias the reader towards that perspective, and that’s not the story she was trying to tell.

I think I was expecting more of an overall adventure vibe, like a magical treasure hunt through unknown lands. That does happen ~eventually~, but you have to get almost two-thirds of the way into it before they leave the palace grounds. (And even then, it wasn’t so much Indiana Jones as it was a drawn-out game of Cluefinders.) Up until then it’s a lot of sneaking around the palace, stealing things from one another, not trusting each other, and the like. Yet even after all that time spent alluding to the fact there was political discord, we hardly got to see any. Instead, Vira would go into the Council room and the story would immediately cut away like a closed door romance scene.

The magic of The Ivory Key was interesting, but kind of confusing. It keeps their country running, so it’s a power source. It’s also mined by hand, making it a natural resource. The premise of the book is that it’s a nonrenewable resource as well, which is why the siblings are out looking for more. The “raw magic” pulled from the mines is a dust you can hold in your hands, but it’s sometimes also intangible? You put it in gadgets to make them work, it can power lanterns, it can pass secret messages, it can stop currency from being forged, walls can be built entirely from it. Essentially it can do and be anything the author dreams up, and that’s a little too broad for me to conceptualize.

So in a way, The Ivory Key is both too short and too long. It’s filled with unnecessary repetitive sequences—royal court rumors, solving the one thousandth puzzle in a row, etc—but I also think Akshaya Raman may have held too much back for her second novel in the duology. What are the Council’s motivations? What are the Lyrian plans for the magic? What is the Kamala Society? How did the siblings’ mother die? And for the love of god how does this extremely valuable and vague magic work????? The world (me) may never know.

I think there’s a good chance the second book will answer these questions, but I should feel like I have a strong foundational understanding of the first in the series, and truthfully I’m a little shaky. I’m also afraid it will be difficult to get back into after waiting for the follow-up. But I’ll wait and see how it plays out before issuing a final judgement for the series, though as of now I will hold on to my reservations.

*Thanks to Clarion Books for an advance review copy!

**For more book talk & reviews, follow me on Instagram at @elle_mentbooks!
Profile Image for Fanna.
992 reviews533 followers
Want to read
January 3, 2022
10.03.2021 i know I'm late but oh my god, THAT COVER. i mean the blurb coupled with this gorgeous cover means the ivory key is going to be an absolute favourite.
21.08.2020 the author said she researched about all this: "indian martial arts styles & weapons, the golconda fort, latin squares, snake bites, shift ciphers & dravidian temple architecture"... YES I AM EVEN MORE EXCITED NOW.
24.04.2020 An indian-inspired world? well, that is absolutely enough for me to be excited! Oh, wait, there's magic and royals too? OMG! this is going to be amazing.
Profile Image for Robin.
327 reviews1,806 followers
January 21, 2022
↠ 4 stars

In a world where magic is all but a coveted resource, four estranged siblings will reunite to search for a fabled object said to unlock a new source of magic, before their enemies surpass them entirely. Vira is the Maharani of Ashoka, tasked with maintaining a country on the brink of war and upholding her predecessor’s legacy. Behind the walls, magic is the only thing keeping Ashoka’s enemies from completely overtaking them, but its source is nearly spent. The only solution is the legendary Ivory Key, an ancient relic said to be capable of unlocking the magic that was previously sealed away by a once-revered secret society. In order to pursue and retrieve the key, Vira and her siblings must reunite to piece together lost clues that will have them journeying deep into enemy territory. Amidst shifting agendas and continued harbored secrets, this treacherous quest is no easy undertaking and may be the thing that finally tears apart their family and the world that they love for good.

With complicated family dynamics and intricate puzzles to solve, The Ivory Key is an artful love letter that pays homage to Indiana Jones and National Treasure with its central quest. As a longtime fan of elaborate sibling dynamics, what first caught my eye here was the core focus on four estranged royal siblings that are forced to reunite and work together to save their country. In turn with my love for quests, hidden clues, and lost relics, The Ivory Key peered deep into my heart and promised it all. Beyond these various layers to the plot, the world that Akshaya Raman has created within is so vivid and vibrant it fully came alive inside my mind. Grounded in a myriad of distinct cultural elements from India and South Indian architecture, it’s clear that Raman poured a part of herself into this world and its foundations. Hearing about all the different foods that were described at length specifically, only served to make me hungrier than I was when I began. The Ivory Key promised angst between siblings and boy did it deliver. No doubt my favorite part of the entire book was the differing agendas and fractured relationships that came into play with the quest for the key. Each of the characters had been on separate paths that had to be reconciled with who they had become and what they were trying to save. My only real setback with this was the timeline for everything. The first half of the book was devoted entirely to set-up and drawing the siblings back together, and while that was interesting, it left less time to execute the search for the treasure. Once the quest was underway, I was completely swept up in the clues and mysteries being unlocked. There were some clever twists here and there that reminded me of past treasure movies and made me all the more excited to reach the end. In combining secret societies, hidden temples, and ancient treasure, Raman has drawn together an immersive world that I am not so quick to leave. At its heart, The Ivory Key examines the bond between siblings and the identity that can be found with family and on one’s own and how those can be reconciled.

Trigger Warnings: blood, violence, death, murder, death of a parent, grief, alcohol consumption
Profile Image for gauri.
195 reviews456 followers
December 12, 2021
after looking forward to an indian inspired ya fantasy, i really hate that i didn't like this better. my main issue is that there's not a lot happening in the story. it didn't pick up until at least 60% when the quest finally starts and the end of the book becomes interesting. but by that time i'd lost interest in the characters, their motivations fell flat and the tension between these estranged siblings just didn't hold.

that being said, i really liked the magic system and the worldbuilding inspired by ancient india. secret societies, lost temples, hidden secrets, all of them formed a solid foundation for the story. and as always i felt so good to read about a world with elements familiar to me. i will be looking out for the sequel to see what's in store for the characters!

i do think the younger audience would be invested in the book. though, please feel do check out this south asian fantasy 2022 debut, it might not be for me but it *could* work out for you! especially if you like a decent multi-pov story, about siblings on an adventure.

thank you to netgalley and hot key books for the arc!
Profile Image for Patrice Caldwell.
Author 4 books555 followers
August 1, 2020
I've read nearly every version of this book and it's fucking fantastic. Yes, she's also one of my best friends. But also, I read a ton of fantasy and this one of the best books I've ever read. The ANGST will kill you, get ready to meet these siblings who can't stand each other but also have to work together to literally save their nation. Also, the worldbuilding is divine, and it's a masterpiece on a sentence level. More on all this closer to publication. Add it to your TBRs.
Profile Image for Amy Imogene Reads.
967 reviews849 followers
July 29, 2022
4.5 stars

Four siblings with secrets. A kingdom built on magic now struggling desperately to maintain itself. A whispered myth about an Ivory Key that can fix each sibling's problems—for four different reasons. Drama. Intrigue. Familial complexities. This was a fantastic debut.

Concept: ★★★★
Plot/Pacing: ★★★★ 1/2
Characters: ★★★★★
Enjoyment: ★★★★★

When you read a lot of young adult fantasy, it's easy to fall into the middle of the pack with a lot of very similar-feeling stories. The chosen one trope. The plucky girl with way too much magic. The found family with issues. The basics, really.

But every once in a while, a story comes out that just knocks my socks off because it feels new.

The Ivory Key is one of those fantasies, and I am gearing up to talk about this one to everyone for a long time.

In the kingdom of Ashoka, four siblings grew up as the children of the ruling maharani, A.K.A. their mother. One is meant for the throne. One is meant to be the magical leader. One is doesn't have a clear path besides political marriage. And one has an unclear place.

When the maharani is assassinated, the four siblings fracture.

Vira is thrust into the spotlight as the new maharani with little to no support and a nest of unsolved problems left to her by her mother.

Kaleb, the siblings' half-brother with a non-Ashokan mother, is charged with treason and exposed as supposedly the mastermind behind the maharani's assassination. Imprisoned, he waits for sibling assistance that doesn't seem to be coming.

Ronak, Vira's twin brother, has several grudges against his twin and the ruling system and just wants out of the situation—no matter the cost.

Riya, the daughter with too much fire for her mother's expectations, ran away from her role in the maharani's court and took up with a Robin Hood-esque clan of robbers and thieves intent on taking down the ruling class. Her hypocritical place in their camp has a time limit on it, whether Riya likes it or not.

When the myth of the magic-wielding Ivory Key seems to have more truth than fiction to it, the four siblings converge for the first time in years and have to work together to locate it for Ashoka. They might not be telling each other the truth, but their motivations temporarily align and they're making the most of it in the twisted court of their birth.

Will their blood ties overcome their personal desires by the end?


This was so. much. fun.

With alternating chapters on each of the four siblings points of view, I never got bored with the plot. The pacing was perfect. Even though some of the siblings' drama fell into some clichés and semi-predictable dramas, I was invested at each step and couldn't stop myself from reading on.

Engaging, extremely well written, and lushly described, The Ivory Key is perfect for fans of The Gilded Wolves, Indiana Jones, and anyone interested in sibling relationships.

Also, I really appreciated that this novel did not hinge on romance—it had romance, but the plot didn't require our investment into the romance element and it was clearly the backburner to all of the other pieces. That's getting to be rare in young adult these days.

I highly recommend this one!

Blog | Instagram
Profile Image for Avani ✨.
1,637 reviews342 followers
February 3, 2022
The Ivory Key by Akshaya Raman, the first book in the debut duology by the author. The Book is a Desi fantasy set in the Indian culture and I was reallllyyyy looking forward to reading the book. Set in the kingdom and lands of Ashoka.

Vira, Riya, Ronak and Kaleb - the four siblings who have to find their way and save the kingdom where magic no longer exists and they only have their father's (papa) journal notes to get through. The Ivory Key, rumored to unlock a new source of magic.

I loved the concept of how we have letters and puzzles which are solved by the siblings which made an added element in the plot. I loved the characters, I loved the family dynamics and also how we get to see friendship, love and get to understand family relationships through these characters.

The Indian elements and culture added in this book made me feel the characters are very real and I am also living in this same kingdom as them. Ronak and Riya definitely have to be my favourite amongst all others. Kaleb, being the accused has to clear his name from the crime of killing the maharani.

I absolutely cannot wait for the next part of the duology which is the final installment. I absolutely loved the National Treasure movie and this book reminded me of the same. Love Indiana Jones? You'll love this too. Hence, go in blind and definitely pick up this amazing desi fantasy by Akshaya Raman.
Profile Image for Akshaya Raman.
Author 6 books288 followers
February 18, 2021
Hi everyone! I’m not active on Goodreads at all but since we’ll have ARCs soon, I wanted to take a moment to share a few things.

First of all, you can find content warnings here: https://akshayar.wordpress.com/

THE IVORY KEY is my take on the classic “princess must bring magic back to a world” story, but with a few twists: magic is a physical resource, and in order to get more, four dysfunctional royal siblings must piece together and follow ancient clues left behind by a secret society. I filled the book with a lot of what I love about India: ancient forts, regional food, traditional art forms, and extravagant celebrations. And while the book doesn’t follow the cultural or mythological traditions of any one specific state, the temples are largely inspired by South Indian architecture where my family is from. Ultimately, it’s my love letter to the complicated family dynamics of shows like The Originals, as well as the clever puzzles and ancient mysteries featured in movies like Indiana Jones and National Treasure.

Hope you enjoy reading!!
Profile Image for Meags.
2,175 reviews410 followers
March 12, 2023
4 Stars

The Ivory Key is the first book in an Indian-inspired YA fantasy duology, which follows four royal siblings, who must band together despite their differences, to go on a mythic quest to bring magic back to their ailing kingdom of Ashoka.

With four main characters comes four distinct POVs and four driving forces in wanting to find the fabled Ivory Key.

Vira, the ruling Maharaja, is striving to be a better leader than her ancestors. She knows magic (a physical resource in this world) has all but run out in Ashoka and she’s hoping that finding the Key will lead her to new sources of magic, to sustain her kingdom and keep her people safe from potential war and ruin.

Riya, the runaway sister, needs the Key to prove her loyalty to the rebels who took her in and opened her eyes to a vastly different life than the one she was once living, sheltered in the palace.

Ronak wants the Key to trade to the highest bidder, hoping that he can escape his rigid life in the palace, where he’s expected to give up his hopes and dreams for the good of the already broken kingdom.

Kaleb, the older half-brother, has spent years imprisoned for a crime he didn’t commit. He simply wants his freedom and his family back, and figures that finding the Key may bring him some of the answers he seeks.

The first half of the story is slow-paced but necessary in setting the scene and adequately introducing all the players involved.

The second half picks up the pacing considerably, as the siblings embark on their dangerous quest for the Ivory Key, attempting to solve mind-bending riddles and diverting life-threatening booby-traps, all while facing off against vicious mercenaries and foreign armies that stand in the way of their already challenging success.

I enjoyed this story a great deal. There’s action and adventure, and deception and betrayal—all of which kept my attention rapt throughout. It spoke to my love of all things magic, folklore and mythology, blending the fantasy elements really well with the great sibling dynamics, which were constantly at play and at the true heart of the story.

I liked all of the characters, not just the main siblings, but I personally loved Kaleb the best—which is unsurprising because he’s the queer character of the bunch and I always feel a pull towards those characters, like a moth to a flame. Notably, Kaleb’s kind, thoughtful, soulful nature, and his longing to belong, made it all too easy to care for his plight slightly more than the rest.

Although this first story had very little in the way of on-page romance happening, it planted the seeds for a few potential pairings that I’m eager to read more about in the sequel, The Crimson Fortress, which I now have to painfully and impatiently wait for until 2023!


Lastly, it must be noted (for my own fangirl-y sake) how much I adore the cover art for the hardcover of this book. The online images don’t do it justice, with the glitter infused cover shining when held in natural light. I could stare at it for hours. Although I simultaneously read a library copy and listened to the audio version (also awesome!), I was so in love with the physical copy that I just had to buy my own for my collection before I was even halfway done.
Profile Image for sam.
385 reviews599 followers
Want to read
October 11, 2021
thank you to the author for sending me a signed arc of this book

I swear I can’t stop staring at it
Profile Image for Fadwa (Word Wonders).
547 reviews3,524 followers
January 22, 2022
I was sent an eARC of the book from the publisher through Netgalley in exchange of an honest review.

Content warnings:

THE IVORY KEY follows four different siblings, with four different paths and as a consequence, clashing motivations on the surface. The whole concept of the book hinges on the fact that Ashoka’s -the country- wellfare is intrisicately dependent on its magic. A magic that is running out. A magic that needs saving if Ashoka has any hope to not fall to its enemies. What intrigued me most about the book and kept me wanting to find out more, its the magic system and the way it was portrayed. It was mesmerizing start to finish. So much of it was cloked in mystery that I couldn’t help but want to unveil bit by bit. It’s a mystery to even its people. It’s dwindling and no one knows why. Their only hope is to find a mystical key to quarries that hold most of the country’s magic, sealed 500 years before to allegedly protect the country. The Ivory Key.

As the story progresses and the scene is set, the siblings as well as the readers discover that the key might not be so mystical after all. When flimzy clues start to form a map leading to it, each siblings sees in it an opportunity to get what they want. And this is when the story turns into a fun sort of treasure hunt.

Full review on my blog Word Wonders
Profile Image for Natasha Ngan.
Author 7 books3,391 followers
December 30, 2021
Complex family dynamics meets Indiana Jones in this Indian-inspired fantasy offering from fresh new voice Raman. A must-read for all lovers of diverse SFF YA.
Profile Image for charlotte,.
3,222 reviews871 followers
December 23, 2021
On my blog.

Rep: Indian-coded cast & setting, gay mc, lesbian side characters

Galley provided by publisher

The Ivory Key is a solid YA fantasy, centering on an Indiana Jones-esque quest and a group of estranged siblings. You would, therefore, think that this book would be perfect for me. And I did enjoy it when I started! But as I read (and as the plot slowed down), my enjoyment waned a bit. And hence, three stars.

The story follows four POVs, each of the siblings. Vira, the maharani, is floundering as her country’s source of magic has been depleted, and finds herself chasing fairytales to replenish it. Kaleb, locked away in the dungeons, is accused of the murder of the previous maharani on account of his Lyrian heritage. Ronak, Vira’s twin, is doing his best to get Kaleb free, including going so far as to ally with a criminal enterprise to do so. And Riya, the runaway princess, finds herself sent back to the palace to infiltrate her sibling’s quest.

Let’s just take as read that I liked the basics of the book, that is, the characters, the worldbuilding, and the plot (for the most part). I won’t go into too much detail, but I did like them. I never struggled through the book in that sense. But I also never really loved it.

First of all, there was the pacing (and this is kind of a more general point regarding pacing that I dislike in YA, I suppose). Given that this book is compared to Indiana Jones, I’m sure I’m not alone in expecting that quest to take up the bulk of the plot. It does not. They don’t solve a single puzzle until just gone halfway. They don’t even leave the palace on the quest until 60% in. What were they doing before this, you ask? I actually couldn’t tell you. I don’t think there was anything of note that happened in that first 60%. It was about establishing the situation, the characters, the motivations, sure, but. I just felt like that could have been done perhaps while questing. Because I was expecting this quest to be a more major plot point. By the time it got going though, the plot had lost any real drive to it and never really got that back.

And then there was the second half of what I was promised: angsty estranged siblings. There was a lot of the reader being told what people felt, being told what they’d thought, but I never really felt what I was supposed to be feeling. All I could think of was that, if you want estranged family angst, you might as well just read Melina Marchetta. I suppose that’s a high standard to hold any author to, let alone a debut author, but that was the case for me.

This lack of feeling what the text wanted me to feel extended to the main characters’ romantic relationships too (which, there’s one major one, one hinted at). I couldn’t bring myself to care about either of them all that much (I was marginally more interested in Riya and Varun, though). And that’s probably what led to the ending missing the emotional impact it should have had, along with the fact that it’s a duology, and I’ve started to be primed for the way first books in YA duologies end.

That being said, I want to end on something I liked about the worldbuilding here, and that’s the fact that, not only is there no homophobia, but it also normalises same-gender relationships. There’s a character who casually mentions her fiancee, there’s another who mentions relationships she’s had with other women, Ronak tells Kaleb they’re going to find a nice boy for him… When I say it’s not enough just that there’s no homophobia, this normalising is what I’m looking for, so I loved that here.

Overall then, I’d say this is a solid debut, a book I did like, but perhaps not a book which I feel all that compelled to read the sequel of.
Profile Image for a foray in fantasy.
280 reviews287 followers
January 10, 2022
Queer-norm, Indian-inspired fantasy!!!! Be still my heart.

There was a section that was literally copied out of Indiana Jones. Do I care? Not really. I was just here for the complex familial relationships that are truly lacking in YA fantasy. There’s usually one other family member, if that. With all of the siblings getting a POV, I could sympathize with their complex motivations.

A fantastic debut (probably one of the strongest YA fantasy debuts I’ve ever read)!
Profile Image for Ishika .
198 reviews539 followers
Shelved as 'on-hold'
January 12, 2022
I really tried to like this book but I'm just too bored. I'll pick it up later someday.
Profile Image for Ayushi (bookwormbullet).
500 reviews910 followers
December 16, 2021
Thank you so much to Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Children's Book Group for providing me with an ARC in exchange for an honest review.

THIS BOOK WAS AMAZING! When Akshaya Raman first announced that she was writing a high Indian-inspired fantasy YA duology following four South Asian siblings on a magical quest, I was immediately hooked. This book won’t be released until January 2022, but I was extremely fortunate to have read the ARC for this in advance. I literally devoured this book in less than a day. The characters, magic system, and storytelling was so well done and after that ending, I desperately need my hands on Book 2! If you’re a fan of The Tiger at Midnight or We Hunt the Flame, or The Gilded Wolves, you’ll love this book!

The Ivory Key follows four estranged siblings living in the Ashokan empire:

- Vira, the newly crowned maharani of Ashoka after the murder of her mother (the previous maharani of Ashoka)
- Ronak, Vira’s twin brother and raajkumara of Ashoka
- Kaleb, Vira & Ronak’s half brother falsely accused of assassinating of Vira & Ronak’s mother
- Riya, Vira & Ronak’s sister and raajkumari of Ashoka who fled from her family two years ago and joined the Ravens, a rebel group who wants to strip Vira of all her power.

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, she can barely protect her citizens from the looming threat of war. Vira’s only hope is to find a mysterious object of legend: the Ivory Key, rumored to unlock a new source of magic. But each of Vira’s siblings have something to gain from finding the Ivory Key as well: Ronak plans to sell it to the highest bidder in exchange for escape from his impending political marriage, Kaleb needs it to clear his name, and Riya wants it to prove her loyalty to the Ravens. The four siblings are forced to work together to survive the treacherous journey to retrieve the Key, 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.

The main aspect I enjoyed the most in this story was the sibling dynamics between Vira, Ronak, Kaleb, and Riya. Seeing how each character interacted with one another was so interesting and the fact that each of them had their own motives and reasons for wanting the Key made the story so thrilling. I truly believe that above all, this is a story about the bond of siblings and that arc was really heartwarming to see. Even though these characters had their differences at the beginning of the book, it’s evident that they would do anything to protect one another. The multi-POV storytelling was also amazing. Each sibling had their own POV chapter in the book and there was never a moment where I was bored with any of the POVs. Each chapter offered unique insight into their backstories and I was thoroughly invested in all of them. With the first plot twist at the end of the book, I had a feeling that the siblings would be pushed even closer together to bond over what they experienced, yet the second plot twist pulled a 180 on me, and now I’m so intrigued to see how it will affect the siblings’ relationship in Book 2.

The world building and magic system was really well done too. I enjoyed reading about the history of Ashoka and how its conflict with Lyria influenced so many of Vira’s actions as maharani. I liked how the siblings’ father’s legacy also influenced them to go on the journey to retrieve the Key in the first place and how that was a point of bonding for all four of them. The puzzles that were dispersed intermittently throughout the novel were also really cool to follow along as well!

I liked the ending for this book, but I do wish we got to see more of Riya’s interactions with the Ravens because there didn’t seem like there was a definitive conclusion to Riya’s status as a rebel. I think overall this book also seemed like it was mainly setting things up for the big finale in Book 2, which is why I didn’t feel like I got enough closure towards the end of the novel. This is probably why I would rate it 4.5 stars instead of 5. Nevertheless, I can’t wait for The Ivory Key to be released early next year and for everyone to read this amazing fantasy!
Profile Image for queenie.
131 reviews47 followers
January 17, 2022
“He was right. Papa had been too obsessed. Amma had been too busy.
They’d done their best to prepare their children to face the world, but in the end, they’d left the four of them largely alone.”

Rating: 4/5

Well, it wasn't bad.
Given all the hype surrounding this book, it kinda disappointed. But as a debut author, Akshaya Raman definitely did her best and that shone through the pages.

The pacing was off until you reached the middle. But after that, it was tense and interesting. I didn't really see myself caring for the characters until a certain point, especially because of all the secrets and betrayals. But that definitely set up tension and angst.

The Ivory Key—being one of my most anticipated releases of this year—revolves around the story of a broken kingdom and familial relationships. Vira, the queen of Ashoka struggles to hold her crumbling kingdom together as the magic is slowly decreasing and the troops at Lyria would take any chance for an invasion. On the night of her betrothal's seeming murder, she discovers something only from legends—the second piece of the map leading to the ivory key. With the newfound hope that she can might finally be able to save her people, she must reunite with her siblings and take off on a perilous journey.

One of my favourite aspects of the book was the world. Ashoka is inspired by the Indian subcontinent and Lyria, by the West; Greece/Rome to be precise. And the magic system in the world was so unique.

The plot was great, especially in the second half. The puzzles, mysteries and revealing of secrets were all equally astonishing. The only lacking aspect were the characters, who were sometimes insufferable in making decisions.

Though I'm sad this couldn't be a 5 star, I'm invested in the world, and would readily pick up the sequel—especially after that cliffhanger and I hope it would be a lot better than its predecessor.

That being said, I'm sure many of you might enjoy this book, save for the pacing. I'd definitely recommend this to fans of YA fantasy especially if you love diverse settings and own voices.
Profile Image for Brittany (whatbritreads).
642 reviews1,079 followers
February 28, 2022
*Thank you to HotKeyBooks for gifting me a copy of this to review!*

If you like fantasy but often find yourself getting confused by convoluted and overly complicated plot lines and world building, I think this will be the perfect read for you. With enough substance to sink your teeth into but light enough to follow, this was perfectly balanced.

The family element really made this book for me. It was such an interesting spin on the usual fantasy perspectives. It added really interesting dynamics to the narrative and I enjoyed it. Despite there being four points of view (which usually only serves to confuse me) I found it easy enough to follow. They all had interesting individual storylines that complimented the main story arc perfectly. The change of perspective kept the book interesting and I found myself flying through it.

It was well written and fast paced, the small font intimidated me initially but this was such a quick and easy read. I liked the mystery elements a lot and uncovering secrets along with the characters. The ending especially was really fast paced and fun, the plot twists coming out of nowhere and taking me by surprise. I liked that romance also took a complete back seat, it allowed for us to actually focus on the story. Don’t get me wrong I love a good romance in my fantasy books, but sometimes the romance aspect can completely overshadow the point of the book and it’s refreshing to see something different.

My main pet peeve with this book was the lack of what felt like actual danger or difficulty. Especially in a fantasy novel, I want some suspense and to see the characters struggle to overcome the issues they face. In here, everything almost felt too easy. Puzzles were solved almost instantaneously and there was no severity to their situation, or at least it didn't feel that way. It was predictable in the sense you knew it was going to be fine, and it always worked itself out pretty much straight away. It frustrated me a bit. I wanted more tension.

I can’t wait for the sequel to this, it’s going to be great.
Profile Image for Dannii Elle.
2,063 reviews1,473 followers
October 10, 2022
Actual rating 4.5/5 stars.

Everything about this synopsis had me like:


And am I just absolutely ancient now, or does anyone else get these vibes from the cover:

I adored my time spent within these pages and closed it already wishing for the next instalment, so beloved did these characters immediately become. I loved every one of the four perspectives and found their voices unique, their adventures well executed, and their plights easy to empathise with, despite them often opposing those of another that I also intimately sympathised for. Their world was richly crafted, their politics intensely focused on, their abilities uniquely created, and their adventures tensely fast-paced. This all combined to ensure this one of the strongest first fantasy series instalments that I have had the pleasure of experiencing, in quite a while.

I received a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. Thank you to the author, Akshaya Raman, and the publisher, Hot Key Books, for this opportunity.
Profile Image for Mallory.
1,246 reviews124 followers
August 7, 2022
I was very intrigued when I read the description for this book. I liked the world building and use of magic a lot. I also really liked the way that you got to see the story from all of the four siblings perspectives. I did think the story started way too slowly and didn’t pick up until after halfway through. The “quest” portion of the story was pretty good even if I think it was heavily inspired by Indiana Jones it was a fun time to read. Vira, Kaleb, Ronak, and Riya are siblings but they haven’t been much of a family in years. Kaleb is imprisoned for killing his stepmother and his siblings mother. Riya ran away years ago. Vira has taken over as ruler for her mother and is left with nothing but desperate choices to make for her people. Ronak is desperate to be free and free his brother and in his desperation makes some questionable choices. The four of them have a lot to learn about family, but I liked their interactions and felt they were really realistic.
Profile Image for bookishcharli .
645 reviews105 followers
January 13, 2022
Four estranged siblings reunite to search for a fabled object which is supposed to unlock a new source of magic, which sadly has been a depleted resource for a long time in their lands, before their enemies can get to the object before them. The country of Ashoka relies on magic to ensure that it does not fall to their numerous enemies and one of the four siblings, Vira, is tasked with upholding the legacy of this wonderful city filled with magic. So what exactly is this object that the siblings are trying to find? It’s rumoured to be an ancient relic capable of unlocking magic that has been sealed away for years by a secret society, and is known by the name of ‘The Ivory Key’.

Vira and her siblings must reunite and work together to find this key and unlock the magic that’s been sealed away for so long, but their journey is filled with chaos as they travel deeper into enemy territory. So will the four siblings be able to complete this quest and save their country, or will this be the final nail in the coffin and drive their family apart, ensuring that their world and magic falls apart too? You’ll have to read the book for yourself in order to find that out!

This book is wonderfully fast paced and some incredible characters throughout. The author really portrays the hardships of the estranged sibling relationship so well throughout the book and you really feel sorry for all of them, because at the end of the day, the familial bond is one of the strongest bonds we have. I loved trying to solve all the hidden clues right alongside the siblings as they tried to solve the quest for the key, but what I loved even more was the incredible world building in this novel. I haven’t read many books with such great Indian cultural significance and this really shines through in the book, you can tell the author poured her heart and soul into this one and I think that made me love it even more.

Thank you so much to Hot Key books for sending me a copy of this wonderful novel and having me on the blog tour.

TW: death (including murder of a parent), alcohol, grief.
Profile Image for nidhi .
99 reviews
October 28, 2021
Thank you to HMH Teen for sending me a physical review copy of this title in exchange for an honest review!
2.5 stars
It breaks my heart to rate this book so low as it was one of my most anticipated reads of 2022. I received an ARC a while ago and I finally got around to pick it up last week and it was so disappointing. As an Indian and heist lover myself, I was really looking forward to this and I wish there was more in the book.

To me, the story and the characters fell so flat. When it came to characters, I didn't find myself caring about them at all. They felt very two-dimensional and just when I started caring about them a bit, starting to get to know them better, the POV would switch and all would be forgotten by the time I reached that character again. Their dynamics didn't feel really that tense to me, they had their issues with each other but it felt so easily resolved and there was hardly much build-up.

As for the conflicts, there were barely any. Whenever the characters came across a problem, it was solved SO EASILY by one of the siblings, it hardly felt like they were in trouble. It was very convenient and without any stakes. Because of the easy resolving, it didn't have the impact it would've conveyed.

I really really wanted to love it, but I didn't find myself engrossed or compelled by the story. It just didn't work for me, although I do believe that if I were younger, I might have liked it.

That being said, I need to say that it was a pretty easy and quick read. I finished it in 4 days while I usually struggle a lot with fantasy. I feel like it wasn't for me, and this book is more aimed at teenagers? Especially those in the age range of 12-15, if I were that age, seeing people like me in the mainstream definitely would've worked.

I also need to point out that I received a very early ARC, I got it months ago, hence I think there will be a lot of changes until it gets published. I really hope someone else finds comfort in the story, and I'm sad that I couldn't.
Profile Image for akacya ❦.
1,033 reviews171 followers
October 6, 2022
this follows four royal siblings who have gone on different paths. vira, their mother’s successor, is doing her best to get out of her mother’s shadow and keep her people safe. but with the looming threat of war and a diminished supply of magic, she quickly realizes the only way to avoid conflict is to find the ivory key, which means teaming up with her siblings.

if there’s one thing i love to read about it’s complex families! i really enjoyed getting to know each of these characters through the multiple points of view and through their relationships with each other.

i highly recommend to high fantasy fans :)
Profile Image for kashvi.
121 reviews126 followers
Want to read
December 8, 2021
i really hate to do this but i'm dnf-ing this book for now. personally, this story is not working for me right now— the characters are hard to connect with and the plot is not super engaging for me.

i really do hope someone finds comfort in this book— this is everything a desi reader could want!! i wish akshaya raman the best and i'm curious about any other books she writes.
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