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,

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