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Publisher's Summary

"Patel’s mesmerizing debut shines a brilliant light on the vilified queen from [the Indian epic] the Ramayana.... This easily earns its place on shelves alongside Madeline Miller’s Circe." (Publishers Weekly, starred review)

“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 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.

A stunning debut from a powerful new voice, Kaikeyi reimagines the life of the infamous queen from the Indian epic the Ramayana, weaving a tale of fate, family, courage, and heartbreak—of an extraordinary woman determined to leave her mark in a world where gods and men dictate the shape of things to come.

©2022 Vaishnavi Patel (P)2022 Redhook

Critic Reviews

"A powerful examination of a woman maligned by myth and men. Patel’s imagination takes a hammer to the image of a stonehearted villainess and reveals the woman within, whose choices sparked immortal legends. Compulsively readable and infinitely compassionate, this is the story I’ve been yearning for all my life." (Roshani Chokshi, New York Times best-selling author of the Aru Shah and Gilded Wolves series)

"Patel’s mesmerizing debut shines a brilliant light on the vilified queen from the Ramayana…. Readers familiar with the source text will be wowed by Patel’s reimagining, while those new to the story will be won over by its powerful, multilayered heroine and epic scope. This easily earns its place on shelves alongside Madeline Miller’s Circe." (Publishers Weekly, starred review)

“The novel is compelling and rich, drawing on the source material while furnishing its characters with new complexity and motivations. Fans of Madeline Miller's Circe will fall hard for this story about a woman determined to do what’s right for her kingdom and its women, walking the fine line between rebellion and convention.” (Booklist, starred review)

What listeners say about Kaikeyi

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A feminist reimagining

From the second I saw this announced I had to have it. That cover! And then the fact that Book of the Month was teasing it long before the month reset…it was a done deal. This is feminist reimagining of the Hindu epic, the Ramayan. Truthfully I 100% knew nothing about it, so I only researched the original after finishing this one. I will try my hardest to compare them little, as it would only be spoilers.

The author does such an incredible job in this novel with characters and their interactions. Parents, siblings, husbands, in-laws, children, all read as so fresh and real it was a pleasure to read. The way they interact is so real at times and pure that I actually smiled at some of their exchanges, like Kaikeyi with her siblings, or her with her husband and children. When the interactions are negative, or fights, you feel it all too, and that’s impressive to me.

The novel follows the life and exchanges of Kaikeyi (as you’d imagine), and it is entirely in her perspective. This grounds her choices throughout her life in a way that for the most part makes a lot more sense then I’m guessing the Ramayan does, as she’s the villain or evil person or wrongdoer. She is blamed for everything that happens, and even though she is certainly the pinnacle for it in this one too, her choices are all grounded in what she perceives around her. Whether right or wrong, she is simply reacting and doing what she thinks is right.

I did the audio for this one and the narrator does a great job with all the names, but they did this throaty airy voice that read as really robotic and it was hard to take.

12 people found this helpful

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Good effort but dissappointing

Pros - Kudos to the author for taking on this project. The binding plane idea was fresh, innovative and excellent way to navigate the story. The two stars are for that.

Cons - Author's attempt to portay Kaikeyi as a strong woman falters. It comes across as a woman constantly self-doubting herself, blaming everything and everyone around her (mostly the men) for her fate and basically playing the victim of circumstances.

I was expecting to see the gray character portrayal of Kaikeyi but feels like the author instead has gone lengths to portray her as a Ms. goody-goody with never even having a single negative thought!

Another disappointment was the crude portrayal of the Goddesses. I kept hoping for the Goddesses to step up eventually. Which is so at odds with a story built on main character being a feminist in a setting where Goddesses are worshipped yet shown to be ruthless and powerless compared to their male God counterparts. The story would have had a much stronger impact if the Goddesses had a bigger part to play. The small role of Goddess Nidra doesn't do it justice.

Then there is also absolutely NO mention of Bharat or Shatrugna's wives, which feels conveniently left out.

The people who will enjoy this book are people who have absolutely no background of Ramayana or the Hindu religion. Unfortunately for them it also casts the Hindu religion as based on super sexist school of thoughts with no rights for women. For those interested in actually learning about the religion, I highly suggest doing your own research on the stories mentioned in the book and keeping an open mind.

10 people found this helpful

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Couldn’t get through that strong accent

Please please ask narrators to become familiar with the pronunciations of the words and names. This was such a mistake. I am going to ask for a refund!

7 people found this helpful

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Engrossing view of a famous epic

This book was recommended to me by audible and so I pre ordered it. Kaikeyi did not disappoint, Patel’s spinning of the life of Rama’s mother who banishes him and Sita is just… great. I was engrossed, exhilarated, fascinated. The characters are relatable and thought provoking, the discussion of women in society is so well done. It was just great. I can’t wait for Patel’s next book!

6 people found this helpful

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if you love Circe, try Kaikeyi

great story - Kaikeyi is strong, smart, and bold heroine seeking to build community and empower women inside a system that doesnt value the contributions of women. this story redeems and explains the actions of the ultimate mythological wicked stepmother. Wonderful writing and performance

5 people found this helpful

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best book of 2022 so far!

this book is the best one I have read so far in 2022. I love the world, characters, and mythology. I am so sad that it is over.

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Horrid narration

I'll never buy another book narrated by this woman. Every sentence she utters ends as if she is a nervous teenage girl asking a question instead of sounding like a strong woman. Horrible.

3 people found this helpful

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Beautiful

Transported into a beautiful retelling of Ancient Stories with a unique perspective. Perfect narrator! This story had so many levels to it, it is just amazing!

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started slow but wow

I was hesitant at first. it was a bit slow, but a few hours in I was hooked.

2 people found this helpful

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Loved the story

Loved the story… but the narration was so slow. It was great sped up… a lot.

2 people found this helpful

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  • Oz
  • 08-01-22

Story abit different

I’m not Indian and don’t know much about Indian mythology. But I was wondering was ram not exhiled for 14 years. And I’m sure sita was not raavans daughter. Also there was no war between kosla and kaikaya. I’m just abit confused of all the different perspectives.

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  • Aishah
  • 05-13-22

She has beautifully turned the story on its head

Gripping story. the author has taken an old story and given it new life and perspective. an in riching tale of a strong women who fought against the odds.

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  • craftlyn
  • 08-22-22

Refreshing

Th Thoroughly enjoyed this moving refreshing novel. There was laughter there were tears and a real sense of fullness at the end. Highly recommend