Genre: Fantasy (modern mythology) Age Range: MG Star Rating: 4 stars Series: yes - first book in series
Twelve-year-old Aru Shah has a tendency to stretch the truth in order to fit in at school. While her classmates are jetting off to family vacations in exotic locales, she’ll be spending her autumn break at home, in the Museum of Ancient Indian Art and Culture, waiting for her mom to return from her latest archeological trip. Is it any wonder that Aru makes up stories about being royalty, traveling to Paris, and having a chauffeur?
One day, three schoolmates show up at Aru’s doorstep to catch her in a lie. They don’t believe her claim that the museum’s Lamp of Bharata is cursed, and they dare Aru to prove it. Just a quick light, Aru thinks. Then she can get herself out of this mess and never ever fib again.
But lighting the lamp has dire consequences. She unwittingly frees the Sleeper, an ancient demon whose duty it is to awaken the God of Destruction. Her classmates and beloved mother are frozen in time, and it’s up to Aru to save them.
The only way to stop the demon is to find the reincarnations of the five legendary Pandava brothers, protagonists of the Hindu epic poem, the Mahabharata, and journey through the Kingdom of Death. But how is one girl in Spider-Man pajamas supposed to do all that?
Blurb taken from Goodreads. Add to your shelves here.
I sat and stared at a blank screen for a while, wondering what to say about this book. It was a lovely read, relatively short compared to the books I’d read recently – which was a boon.
The thing I was struggling with was that this felt exactly like a Percy Jackson book to me – in the best way possible. Yes, I know it’s from his imprint – diverse mythology from around the world brought into the modern day, using the platform he built with his Greek, Roman, Egyptian and Norse series to promote other authors rather than appropriating their cultures.
And this book fits in perfectly alongside them. It is a Percy Jackson book, but with Indian mythology and a different cast.
The mash of mythology and the real world is surprising and wacky. A supermarket chain doubling as an mythological market. A demon who takes people’s beauty pretending to be a hairdresser. It creates a really fun layer of adventure to think that the world outside (or America) could be hiding these dangers and magical places if only we could see.
There are bizarre (in the best way) action set pieces. Wander into the belly of a whale shark? Make it vomit. Confronted by the dogs guarding the way into the land of death? Play catch! The scenarios are so strange and, of course, the only way out is to think up something even weirder. It’s fantasy that does not care for rules, conventions or common sense – just there for a fun ride and to make you laugh.
Between the situations and conversations, I was giggling frequently.
The banter between Aru, Mini and Boo (yup, their animal sidekick is a despairing pidgeon) is brilliant, their different quirks meaning they react in such different ways. Aru is sarcastic and dropping film references, Mini is health conscious and knows too much for her own good, and Boo is sure the world is doomed if the girls are its heroines.
A great start to the series, and I look forwards to the next installment.
Read my reviews of other books by Roshani Chokshi:
Pandava (this series):
- ARU SHAH AND THE SONG OF DEATH (#2)
- ARU SHAH AND THE TREE OF WISHES (#3)
- ARU SHAH AND THE CITY OF GOLD (#4)
- ARU SHAH AND THE NECTAR OF IMMORTALITY (#5)
The Gilded Wolves:
- THE GILDED WOLVES (#1)