Friday, October 26, 2018

Aru Shah and the End of Time - Roshani Chokshi

Summary: 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? (summary and picture from goodreads.com)


My Review:  I love learning stories from other cultures, and so I was excited to pick up Aru Shah and the End of Time.  This book was a fun romp into Indian folklore and mythology, which has some pretty fantastical stories, many of which Aru gets to delve into.

I love stories about stories.  Aru has been taught Hindu mythology since she was a little girl, and I love how as she goes on her adventure, she's able to recall certain stories that let her know which deity or demon she's dealing with, and how those stories can help her get past the trials she's faced with.  And if you know me, I love when stories can help you survive.

Aru herself was a snarky, sarcastic character and it was enjoyable to go on the adventure with her.  She had a sly wit, which was fun to read.  She has serious flaws too, which made her well rounded in my opinion. Her friend Mini took a little getting used to (and at times I felt she sounded a little too old for 12), but her character was also unique and I liked to see how the two went from complete strangers to sisters.

It was also delightful when they met the ancient gods and demons, to see how they've evolved from ancient times to now (for example, the night bazaar is located inside a Costco).  It's fun to think about how these folkloric beings have carried on over time, and thinking how they could be right there on another plane in our world.

But on that note, (and this could totally be a personal preference) I'm not a fan of pop culture references in stories.  I can take one or two, especially if it is thoroughly explained and has context and meaning for a character, but if there are too many references, I feel it dates a piece.  There were quite a few pop culture references in this book.  I'm fine with things taking place in a modern setting and hearkening back to old folklore, just many of the things Aru talked about or referenced made me think how in the future her references will fall flat.

I understand this is also going to be a series, which I'm fine with, but that being the case, I don't think the last several chapters were needed.  The main problem was (mostly) sorted (obviously open ended for future adventures), but then it started to carry on as if it were a whole new book.  Those last few chapters felt like the start of book two to me, out of place at the end of this cool adventure.

Overall, I recommend this book.  It's fun to venture out and learn about others' cultures from the people who live and have heritage in that culture, because stories open our minds, hearts, and imaginations.

My Rating: 3.5

For the sensitive reader: There are some fantastical and sometimes scary moments in the story, but Aru always manages to keep it light with her sarcasm, which was a fun twist and helped to keep it from getting too dark or scary, but didn't undermine the seriousness.

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