Book Review: ARU SHAH AND THE CITY OF GOLD by Roshani Chokshi (Middle Grade Monday)

Title in white on blurred yellow and blue image
Genre: Fantasy
Age Range: MG
Star Rating: 4 stars
Series: yes - book 4

*SPOILER ALERT: contains SPOILERS for ARU SHAH AND THE END OF TIME, ARU SHAH AND THE SONG OF DEATH, and ARU SHAH AND THE TREE OF WISHES*

Blurb:

Book cover for ARU SHAH AND THE CITY OF GOLD: title in white above a girl with a lightning bolt on yellow

Aru Shah and her sisters–including one who also claims to be the Sleeper’s daughter–must find their mentors Hanuman and Urvashi in Lanka, the city of gold, before war breaks out between the devas and asuras.

Aru has just made a wish on the tree of wishes, but she can’t remember what it was. She’s pretty sure she didn’t wish for a new sister, one who looks strangely familiar and claims to be the Sleeper’s daughter, like her.

Aru also isn’t sure she still wants to fight on behalf of the devas in the war against the Sleeper and his demon army. The gods have been too devious up to now. Case in point: Kubera, ruler of the city of gold, promises to give the Pandavas two powerful weapons, but only if they win his trials. If they lose, they won’t stand a chance against the Sleeper’s troops, which will soon march on Lanka to take over the Otherworld.

Aru’s biggest question, though, is why every adult she has loved and trusted so far has failed her. Will she come to peace with what they’ve done before she has to wage the battle of her life?

Blurb taken from Goodreads. Add to your shelves here.


Review:

For some reason, there tends to be long pauses between me reading the various instalments of this series. However, that does mean that I forget just how delightful the series is, so get a lovely surprise every time I return to it. I get this warm feeling from the sheer joy of the characters who are children saving the world with really authentic voices.

They’re young and feel that way – full of what might feel like inappropriate jokes and spats with one another. They’re so brave, but the author doesn’t shy away from just letting them be kids, and that makes them feel more real than some other MG characters who are so old and serious. Some kids are more mature, but not all of them are, and this reflects that in the range of “grown-up-ness” of the characters. These are kids, but they’re also heroes – they don’t have to be one of the other. The market across children and YA has been aging up for years, both in terms of characters at their heart and who the market is selling to. This book feels like a rejection of that, showing that there is still a big, broad appeal in books without grim, serious protagonists.

There’s no other word to describe this series than fun. It’s light hearted and epic and all about family and so indulgently full of current pop-culture references (and thus I actually get them.) It’s exuberant and celebrates life and Hindu mythology.

The author’s note at the start explains that, as Hinduism is a living religion still, she picked to use the myths from the era that some scholars consider a precursor to classical Hinduism, rather than using the deities of the modern. I know very little about Hinduism, I didn’t know there were are distinct phases with different myths, so I really liked the inclusion of that note. It didn’t have to be in there, but it gave me a greater appreciation of how these myths in the book fit into cultural and religious history.

It turns out that there this quartet is no longer a quartet and will contain at least one more book! It potentially looks like that one will be the last.

I will say that the ending of this book feels a bit like it was originally, when the series was planned, meant to be a quartet and then later altered. The final battle feels a bit like the planned fight-to-end-all-fights which was later altered as it felt too epic in set up for what it ended up being. Like the author realised part way through writing this book that another entry was needed, but had already set up too many things so this battle had to go ahead.

This also plays into the denouement that feels a bit like the end-of-a-series “it’s all over and we won” for a bit (except they haven’t beaten the baddie) and then it all goes bad. It’s the only part of the book where the pacing and tone feels a bit choppy, and overall doesn’t detract – but it’s interesting to look at it through the lens of a series extension.

Regardless of this, I am looking forwards to the final book. (And I’m really hoping the UK cover will be orange, and it’s gone purple, blue, green, and then yellow so far, which is very satisfying.)


Read my reviews of other books by Roshani Chokhi:

Middle Grade:

The Pandava Quartet (this series):

Young Adult:

The Gilded Wolves:

2 thoughts on “Book Review: ARU SHAH AND THE CITY OF GOLD by Roshani Chokshi (Middle Grade Monday)

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s