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Kaikeyi: A Novel

Kaikeyi: A Novel

by Vaishnavi Patel

Narrated by Soneela Nankani

Unabridged — 17 hours, 22 minutes

Vaishnavi Patel
Kaikeyi: A Novel

Kaikeyi: A Novel

by Vaishnavi Patel

Narrated by Soneela Nankani

Unabridged — 17 hours, 22 minutes

Vaishnavi Patel

Audiobook (Digital)

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“With a graceful, measured elegance” (The New York Times), this lyrical novel reimagines the life of the infamous queen from the ancient epic the Ramayana, giving voice to an extraordinary woman determined to leave her mark in a world where gods and men dictate the shape of things to come.

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 legends 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 tales threatens the cosmic order, the path she has forged clashes with the destiny the gods have chosen for her family. Kaikeyi must decide if resistance is worth the destruction it will wreak-and what legacy she intends to leave behind.


"A powerful, feminist retelling of the epic...Patel resets the balance of power, creating an unforgettable heroine who understands that it isn't necessarily kings or gods who change history." -The Washington Post

"Easily earns its place on shelves alongside Madeline Miller's Circe." -Publishers Weekly (starred review)

"Utterly captivating from start to finish." -Genevieve Gornichec, author of The Witch's Heart   

"Brave, compassionate and powerful." -Tasha Suri, author of The Jasmine Throne  

"A lyrical and evocative retelling, full of power and grace." -Ava Reid, author of The Wolf and the Woodsman  

"Compulsively readable and infinitely compassionate." -Roshani Chokshi, author of The Gilded Wolves   

"A thought-provoking, nuanced new look at one of humanity's most foundational stories." -Shannon Chakraborty, author of The City of Brass


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Editorial Reviews

Library Journal - Audio


Patel's debut novel reimagines the life of the infamous queen Kaikeyi from the Ramayana, the Sanskrit epic poem that's a key legend of Hinduism. Patel's portrayal of the brave but flawed queen more sympathetically examines her entire life and what compels her to exile her stepson Rama from the kingdom. As a child abandoned by her mother, Kaikeyi discovers scrolls filled with magic and develops her own power: she can enter the binding plane to view the strength of her connections to people around her and send psychic suggestions through them. As an adult forsaken by the gods, Kaikeyi uses her abilities to gain influence in the kingdom of Ayodhya and leverages her position to make a better world for women—until her plans clash with the gods' destiny for her family. The audiobook is long but will fly by; narrator Soneela Nankani keeps the pace up and delivers has nicely accented pronounciations of Hindi names. VERDICT Patel's reimagining takes listeners on a fantastical journey and introduces them to gods.—Laura Trombley

From the Publisher

"Mythic retelling at its best: entrancing, troubling, and complicated. Kaikeyi is marvelous."—R. F. Kuang, #1 New York Times bestselling author of Babel

"A thought-provoking, nuanced new look at one of humanity’s most foundational stories."—Shannon Chakraborty, national bestselling author of The City of Brass

"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 bestselling author of the Aru Shah and Gilded Wolves series

"Utterly captivating from start to finish. I was immersed in Kaikeyi's world from the moment I opened Vaishnavi Patel's stunning debut, and whether or not you already know how the story ends, there is so much here to enjoy. Kaikeyi truly shines."—Genevieve Gornichec, author of The Witch’s Heart

"A lyrical and evocative retelling, full of power and grace, which brings forward a traditionally maligned woman of myth. Kaikeyi's life is rendered with richness and nuance, yielding a story that feels both novel and classic. A spellbinding debut."—Ava Reid, author The Wolf and the Woodsman

"Patel shines an elegant, incisive lens on an ancient epic and the vilified queen tangled within it. Brave, compassionate and powerful, Kaikeyi is a novel that will live in my head and my heart for a long time to come."—Tasha Suri, author of The Jasmine Throne

"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)

"[A] bold reimagining....Even readers unfamiliar with the ancient Indian epic will find a lot to love in Patel's spellbinding details."—Bookpage (starred review)

"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)

"A glorious tapestry of a novel. This book is a deft and heartrending portrayal of a family torn apart and of the sacrifices we demand of each other, written with great depth of feeling and hope for brighter times. I adored it."—Lucy Holland, author of Sistersong

"Kaikeyi is complete with powerful women, court intrigue, magic, war with humans, fights with supernatural beings, familial and political tensions of the time when the world was composed of princely states. This will be a cherished addition to the Hindu mythology and retelling section in my home library."—Nerd Daily

Kirkus Reviews

As mythological women like Circe and Ariadne find their ways onto the bookshelves, here comes a reimagining of Kaikeyi, an interesting antihero.

She was one of the most despised queens of Indian mythology, pitting herself against the gods in the epic poem the Ramayana. A pivotal character, Kaikeyi demands that Rama be sent into exile to delay his ascent to the throne. Patel recasts the Ramayana as a power struggle between women who want to participate in politics and public service and men who would rather they stay home, obedient and subservient. Patel begins her novel with the wrenching moment when young Kaikeyi, only daughter to the king of Kekaya, wakes up to find her mother has been banished with no explanation. In her absence, Kaikeyi decides to develop herself as a warrior. We feel her pain when her twin brother, Yudhajit, tells her she's more a brother than a sister to him: “Don’t take offense. It’s a compliment. Who wants to be a woman?” Soon it's time for her to marry, and her father, who rarely speaks to her, demands she wed the childless Dasharath, king of Kosala, who lives far away in the city of Ayodhya. She agrees to take her place beside Dasharath’s two other wives if he promises that it will be her son who will ascend to the throne. As she comes of age, Kaikeyi learns in the palace scrolls that she has magical powers of connecting to others in a Binding Plane. There, she uses invisible strings to deepen her bonds with her husband. Then, through an intervention by the gods, the three queens give birth to four sons, Kaikeyi’s own being Bharata. She develops close relationships with each boy, including the true heir to the throne, the great Rama, who calls her ma. The young prince is immature, confused by his own divine powers and the conservative stewardship of a holy man. Kaikeyi's desire to teach him the consequences of youth and patriarchy leads to a showdown between them. Patel’s Kaikeyi is not a spiteful woman who wants to place her son Bharata on the throne for her own power. Instead, she is afraid of the growing influence of godmen in her kingdom. She is a revolutionary who attempts to be an equalizing figure, trying to find a balance for her citizens in a patriarchal kingdom.

With spellbinding twists and turns, this is a political novel and very much a feminist one.

Product Details

BN ID: 2940176388343
Publisher: Hachette Audio
Publication date: 04/26/2022
Edition description: Unabridged
Sales rank: 867,414

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