The Ivory Key

Clarion. (The Ivory Key: Bk. 1). Jan. 2022. 384p. Tr $18.99. ISBN 9780358468332.
Gr 8 Up–Eighteen-year-old Vira is cracking under the pressure of her new role as maharani of Ashoka, appeasing a skeptical Council, suffering from a defeat by an encroaching enemy, raising taxes on a restless population, and desperately hiding that Ashoka’s quarry of magic has run dry. So when the assassination of her betrothed reveals a missing piece of the map to the legendary Ivory Key, Vira seizes the chance to save Ashoka and reunite her estranged siblings—Ronak, Kaleb, and Riya—all with their own reasons to seek the key. Deeply immersive with lush imagery, tense political intrigue, intricate puzzles, and BIPOC and LGBTQIA+ representation, this Indian-inspired fantasy asks whom can you trust if you can’t trust your family when they are not around for you to lean on. A slow-burn setup to the treasure hunt gives each sibling room to grow through alternating POV chapters and allows for worldbuilding so impressively detailed that the moving parts are occasionally difficult to keep track of. The scattering of the main characters, the promise of new destinations, and the unexpected transformation of the magic system in the final hour will have readers eager for the sequel.
VERDICT A complexly layered and vivid story, traversing themes of family, trust, duty, hope, and the price of both safety and progress, this coming-of-age adventure quest is a must for the fantasy shelf.

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