Girls Fight to Save the World in this Middle Grade Romp
Aru Shah and the End of Time by Roshani Chokshi
Disney Book Group: Rick Riordan Presents - March 27, 2018
Aru Shah must battle a Hindu demon, the Sleeper, embrace her demigod past lives, team up with a soul sister, and prevent the end of time!
*An advanced reader ebook copy was provided by the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review*
Last year, author Rick Riordan announced that he would heading an imprint at Disney Books to bring diverse middle grade books to a larger audience. With his hugely successful Percy Jackson series based on Greek mythology as well as Magnus Chase featuring Norse mythology, I was very intrigued by the announcement!
Riordan wrote on his website, "Basically, our goal is to publish great books by middle grade authors from underrepresented cultures and backgrounds, to let them tell their own stories inspired by the mythology and folklore of their own heritage. Over the years, I’ve gotten so many questions from my fans: 'Will you ever write about Hindu mythology? What about Native American? What about Chinese?' I saw that there was a lot of interest in reading fantasy adventures based on different world mythologies, but I also knew I wasn’t the best person to write them. Much better, I thought, to use my experience and my platform at Disney to put the spotlight on other great writers who are actually from those cultures and know the mythologies better than I do. Let them tell their own stories, and I would do whatever I could to help those books find a wide audience."
I think this is a fabulous way to approaching promoting and editing diverse middle grade books! I was even more excited to see that Roshani Chokshi, the author of the popular The Star Touched Queen, would be writing a series based on Hindu mythology.
So here's the premise: 12-year-old Aru Shah has a big imagination and a tendency for lies. To make her life and family seem cooler, richer, more important in an effort to impress snobby rich kids, Aru stretches the truth. However, one day caught in a lie, Aru is egged on my her classmates to light the cursed Lamp of Bharata, despite her mother's warnings to stay away from the lamp. Unknowingly, this releases the Sleeper - a ancient demon who sets out to awaken Shiva, the God of Destruction, and end all of time! Aru learns that she is the reincarnation of one of the Pandava brothers, the protagonists from the epic poem Mahabharata. With her new demigod status and a rampaging demon bent on annihilating the world on the loose, Aru must travel to the Kingdom of Death and prevent the Sleeper from completing his mission. All while in her Spider-Man pajamas.
I thought this book was pure fun! Chokshi seamlessly ties together Hindu cosmology, adventure, feminism, and amusing dialogue.
I particularly loved the emphasis on girl power. Throughout the book characters are surprised that she is the hero rather than a boy. Along these lines, there is also an emphasis on female friendship and sisterhood. Mini, is another reincarnated Pandava brother, and Aru's 'soul sister' who helps her on her mission. I really identified with Mini and I loved seeing their interactions together and how the fought evil together. I will never tire of see positive representations of female friendship. More, please!
Additionally, I thought Chokshi incorporated and explained Hindu mythology well. Considering that this book is targeted at middle grade kids who might not have a lot of knowledge of world cultures and religions, Chokshi explains various words and the mythology in a way that I think younger readers will be able to latch onto easily. I appreciated that there was a glossary for particular words. Again, this adds to how much I loved this as an adventure book but also a learning opportunity about a culture that's different than my own.
In classic middle grade and Riordan style, there is character depth and points about realizing that sometimes our supposed 'flaws' can be our strengths. (I'm not crying, you're crying).
I would highly recommend this to fans of Rick Riordan! I think this will be right up your alley. I think fans of diverse fiction and those looking for strong female characters for their younger readers will really enjoy this as well.
I was already excited about this series and now I can't wait to read more! Also be on the look out for Storm Runner by Jennifer Cervantes, which is about a 13-year-old boy with physical disabilities who finds out his family is connected to the Mayan gods, as well as Dragon Pearl by Yoon Ha Lee, which is about Korean fox spirits... in space! These are the next books set to come out from Riordan's imprint and they sound epic.