22 April, 2023

Kaikeyi - A Novel by Vaishnavi Patel - Book Review

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Book Details:

Title: Kaikeyi: A Novel

Author: Vaishnavi Patel

Genre: Fantasy, Fiction, Mythological Fiction

Publisher: Redhook

Print length: 496 pages


“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 worthy. Yet she watches as her father unceremoniously banishes her mother, and listens as her own worth is reduced to the marriage alliance she can secure. And when she calls upon the gods for help, they never seem to hear.

Desperate for independence, she turns to the texts she once read with her mother and discovers a magic that is hers alone. With it, Kaikeyi transforms herself from an overlooked princess into a warrior, diplomat, and most favored queen.

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.

The unforgettable tale of a woman determined to leave her mark in a world gods and men dictate the shape of things to come. "Patel's mesmerizing debut shines a brilliant light on the vilified queen from the Ramayana"
(Publishers Weekly, starred review).

My Review:

Kaikeyi is a novel about the character 'Kaikeyi' in Ramayana. Kaikeyi is the third wife of King Dhasaradh, ruler of the Kosala kingdom and the mother of Bharatha. This story is not the representation of Valmiki Ramayana which is popular and widely known by most in India. 

This novel is a fiction/ fantasy and an imaginative interpretation of the author. The story is based on her research of the other versions of the Ramayana.

Being an Indian and having deep respect and belief in the epic Ramayana, it becomes tough for me to read this book. It's disappointing to read the character of Rama in a negative shade. 

Authors can take liberty with their imagination and show us more context and details regarding a certain action of the character but they shouldn't tweak the epics favoring a negative character for a good story. 

This book does exactly the same. It shows Ravana as a good person with good intentions which I cannot imagine. This seems like retelling Ramayana in a completely different way which hurts the readers' feelings. This also talks about Rama as a mortal human with follies. Mind you, I am not talking about minor follies but jealousy, anger, abuse, and so on.

I wanted to stop reading this book many times in the middle but I only completed it as it's not right to opine on the book without reading it fully.

I gave a rating of 3 due to the above tweaking of the Epic in a way hurting readers' sentiments but when it comes to the writing, I will rate it 4/5. It is a really good book with a great narrative. It is interesting to read Ramayana from a woman character's perspective. The book cover is really amazing. The design is eye-catching. Being a debut novel from the author, she proved she is one of the good writers and has a long way to go.

On a final note, if you know Ramayana already, you might not like this book and even you might feel bad completing reading it. If you don't know Ramayana, you might like it as a good mythological fiction.

Purchase Link:

My Rating :


About the Author:

Vaishnavi Patel is a law student focusing on constitutional law and civil rights. She likes to write at the intersection of Indian myth, feminism, and anti-colonialism. Vaishnavi grew up in and around Chicago and, in her spare time, enjoys activities that are almost stereotypically Midwestern: knitting, ice-skating, drinking hot chocolate, and making hotdish. Kaikeyi is her debut novel.

Until next time,

07 April, 2023

White Sands National park and Carlsbad Caverns National Park - A Travelogue #FridayReflections

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Hello again! This is the continuation of our trip to Big Bend National Park.

You can read Part 1 and Part 2 here. 

Here is the map of the places we visited:

We started from Big Bend National Park around noon and drove through Marfa to Elpaso. 


Marfa is a small desert town and is also an art hub. 

Outside the town is a viewing platform to see the mysterious lights in the sky - sometimes red, white, and blue that appear randomly at night. The source of these lights is still a mystery. Marfa is famous for this unexplainable phenomenon. We couldn't see these lights as we traveled in the noon and couldn't stay in Marfa.

On the way to Elpaso, we can watch the Prada store on US-90 which lies in an isolated place and is a fun stop. It is a permanent art installation around 26 miles northwest of Marfa.

Prada Store

Locks for Good luck?

Elpaso :

Elpaso is the sixth largest city in Texas. 

Casa De Azucar (Sugar House) is a fun place to stop by. We missed it as I didn't note down the place name while planning the trip. Don't miss it if you are driving through ElPaso. 

We planned to drive to the scenic overlook in Elpaso, but couldn't due to lack of time. I read from many blogs that this drive is worth the time.

We reached Las Cruces by evening that day and stayed there for the night. 

New mexico

White Sands National Park:

The next day morning, we drove to White Sands National Park which is around 53 mins from Las Cruces.

This is our second visit to White Sands. Here is the old travelogue. 

White Sands National park

Sledding fun

White Sands is the world's largest Gypsum dune field. The sand is very soft and white. We had many hours of fun sledding through the sand.

It's good that there are restrooms and picnic areas at many places in the park. The visitor center is great too with exhibits and info on how the dunes are formed. There are restrooms and a gift shop inside the visitor center. 

Entry to the park is $25 per vehicle. The Dune drive is 8 miles loop with many places to stop at and sled. 

We did an easy hike of 0.4 miles which is called 'The Interdune boardwalk'. It's a good introductory hike in the park.

I heard Alkali Flat Trail is the best hike in the park. It's a strenuous 5-mile round-trip hike. We couldn't do it with kids. Someday we might do this trail. 

We started our drive to Carlsbad which is 3.5 hrs. We reached by the night and we stayed at Whites city cavern inn in Carlsbad.

The location is great as it's just 6.8 miles from the caves.

Accommodation near Las Cruces:

Carlsbad Caverns National Park:

Carlsbad Caverns in New Mexico is unlike any other caves. These caves were formed 20 - 30 million years ago in the Guadalupe mountains. Around 110 caves were formed with stunning formations due to the mineral-laden water seeping through the fractures of ancient limestone sedimentation.

Carlsbad Caverns National park

Carlsbad Caverns National park

Here is my old travelogue to Carlsbad Caverns. Last time, we booked King's Palace tour and I highly recommend it. The guided tour is 1.5 hrs and it's very interesting and informative.

This time, we just did a self-guided tour through the Big Room trail which is 1.25 miles. We spent some time in the visitor center watching the exhibits and learning more about how caves are formed. We took an elevator to the caves.

Carlsbad Caves

Cave Formations

Last time, we entered the cave through Natural Entrance Trail. This was the toughest trail then but completely worth it. This trail is 1.25 miles taking us down to 750 ft.

We had great lunch in the national park cafe. I highly recommend eating there. My kids completed their junior ranger program and got their badges.

By the time, we came out of the caves, it was around 4 Pm. We drove to Guadalupe Peak in the Guadalupe Mountains national park. 

Accommodations near Carlsbad:

Guadalupe Mountains National Park:

Guadalupe Mountains National Park is only 34 mins from Carlsbad, so don't miss it if you can. 

We didn't have much time and were tired after the caves, but wanted to see Guadalupe Peak and cover El Capitan Overlook.

Guadalupe Peak

Guadalupe Mountains National Park

We just covered those two and returned to our motel in Whites City. 

3.8 mile Devil's Hall trail is very popular in Guadalupe mountains national park. It takes 3 to 4 hrs to finish the trail and it starts from pine springs campground. This trail gives beautiful views of canyons and geological formations.

Some easy trails recommended by other bloggers and friends are:
  • The trail from dog canyon campground to Marcus Overlook
  • McKittrick Canyon to Pratt's cabin and on to Grotto

We couldn't do any of these trails due to the lack of time.

The next day morning we started our return journey to Austin. 

That was our best South Western Texas and New Mexico trip. How did you like it?

Please let me know in the comments. 

Until next time,

Pin it for later!

Linking this to #FridayReflections hosted by Corinne

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