I think it was probably a little unfair of me to go into this one with super high expectations as I almost did, thanks to the Circe comparisons, so luckily I curbed those as best I could before I actually started the book. That turned out to be a very good idea. I think going in with no expectations is probably the best way to experience this one.
I was also almost completely unfamiliar with the Ramayana before reading this book, and that held until about halfway through when I got curious about what exactly Patel’s story was playing off of. I’m actually kind of glad I did it that way, it made for an interesting reading experience. Kaikeyi is one villainous lady in the original version, and I really like how Patel turned that on its head here.
Of course, I’m saying this as someone who has no previous emotional ties to this story, and no cultural context either. For me, it’s just a story, and I liked reading it.
One of my favorite things in this book is actually how Patel uses the magic. It’s subtle and enforces the themes of the book. How Kaikeyi uses her rare abilities fascinated me each time she did it, and her complicated relationship with Rama I thought was a good central conflict in the book (besides her constant fight to give women voices and rights in her society). My other favorite thing was her relationship with the other wives. Their friendship and family dynamic was so sweet and supportive, and I’m so so glad it didn’t go the other way, with infighting and backstabbing and women hating women. That is just so tired.
I’m glad my book club ended up picking this one, even though I would have read it anyway!