Book Review: Kaikeyi by Vaishnavi Patel

I’m so glad we’re getting more mythology-based books that aren’t just Grecio-Roman legends. Don’t get me wrong, I love them, but something like Kaikeyi just grabbed my interest immediately. I don’t know much about Hinduism, it’s been a long time since I studied it in primary school. So I went into this book without knowing how this story would go. But I really am glad that I finally got to read this book. I was sent an early paperback copy of this thanks to Nazia from Orbit. If you’re in the UK? You should preorder now! And dear American readers, you can already grab yourself a copy of this.

Kaikeyi is the only daughter of her kingdom, and because of that, her only use is that of a bride. She’s ignored by the gods, but as her father banishes her mother, she realises she has power she’d never heard of before. She uses it to help herself at home and to make a name for herself as she leaves her kingdom to marry. Kaikeyi becomes a warrior queen, a diplomat and a champion for women even as the gods’ rage at her for things she has yet to do.

This book is a retelling of the classic tale of the Ramayana. It’s not one I know much of, just a little of the ending as it connects to Diwali. But this story isn’t talking about that. It’s a deep dive into the life of the so-called wicked stepmother, showing her life, and it explains why she decided to banish Rama. As I didn’t really know the story, everything about this felt new to me and was fascinating. I want to read more on the original now, something I’m sure many other readers will do too. With Hindusim still being a practised religion, this means that people may need to be careful. Though we’re free to discuss what the story might have been trying to say and what it meant, it’s a story that matters to living people. So though there will be plenty of resources, you should be careful what you say.

One consistent problem in this book was misogyny. Oh boy, did the girls and the women in this suffer. But Kaikeyi was determined to try and change things. This made her a likeable character as she was just trying to do her best. Yes, men control women, and they had the right to then. But she worked hard to fix that. She was a princess and then a queen, she didn’t need to bother with the poor women. But she did, and these women paid her back for this. Kaikeyi was so intelligent, and I do like that in a protagonist.

That didn’t mean that she didn’t make mistakes though. There were frustrating moments and things she could’ve done better. But she realised that. The point is that she’s only human, and humans will make mistakes. Even Rama, a god reborn, was somewhat mortal and made mistakes. Especially with the way he treated women.

If you’re looking for a book with gorgeous worldbuilding, you’ll find that here. Everything in this book felt so deep, and I was enraptured by this story. I thought that this book would take me a week to read and that it would be so slow. But instead, I read it in two days. Every time I put the book down, I wanted to pick it back up.

I highly recommend this book to those who love reading about religion and mythology. This story is one that you might not be familiar with, but it’s one that we should be. Yes, it takes a different view of it and follows a character that many would consider a villain. But it really makes you feel for and understand Kaikeyi, and I really want to read more about her.

A fascinating read, for sure.

4/5 Stars

Title: Kaikeyi

Author: Vaishnavi Patel

Genre: Retelling/Fantasy

Age Range:  Adult

Publisher:  Orbit

Release Date: 27/10/22


Amazon UK | Amazon US | Waterstones | Bookshop Org

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