Thursday, December 21, 2017

Book Review: Aru Shah and the End of Time (Pandava Quartet #1)

Release Date: March 27, 2018
Author: Roshani Chokshi
Publisher: Rick Riordan Presents
Length: 368 pages
Source: NetGalley Review Copy

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? 



Protagonist: Aru Shah is a liar. To fit in at school she will stretch and manipulate the truth, but when her lies catch up with her, in order to save face with a few of her classmates, she lights a cursed lamp in her mother's museum and unwittingly unleashes the Sleeper, a demon hell-bent on awakening Shiva, the God of Destruction. After the dust settles Aru learns that she is the reincarnation of one of the legendary Pandava brothers and in order to save the world from destruction she must team up with another newly awakened Pandava and travel through the Kindom of Death, super easy right? I loved Aru, she's snarky and the ways in which she stretches the truth are astonishing. While it took me a little while to get used to her as a protagonist, once I did she was fantastic, she adds a lot of great humor to this story without making feel like an outright comedy. Aru's journey through this story, at least internally, allows her to really grow into herself and blossom into a character to root for. Aru is a very sympathetic character, in fact, her feelings of inadequacy with her classmates were very relatable to me, as is her vivid imagination and her penchant for twisting the truth. I loved seeing how she would react to things because even if she surprised me her motives always felt like they had some sort of tie to who she is a where she came from. Aru is a fantastic character who, like anyone, has flaws and sometimes makes mistakes, but she'll take the consequences and hopefully grow as a person.

World Building: While I don't know too much about Hindu mythology or the Mahabharata after reading this story I want to learn as much as I can. It's no wonder Riordan picked this story for his new imprint as it fits with his brand so well. This most definitely feels like a Riordan mythological adventure, but Chokshi's writing is what set it apart. It's like if there was a "Build Your Own Rick Riordan Adventure" kit, but instead of making one of the pictures on the box, Chokshi took those building blocks and created something wholly new and unique with her own signature style. I loved learning about the various characters in Hindu mythology and the roles they played in both the story and their origins. Now, you're not going to come out on the other side of this story with a vast and unending knowledge of Hindu mythology, but I can almost guarantee you that you'll come out knowing some pretty cool stuff with a want to know more. I've also seen this story compared to Sailor Moon, a popular anime from my childhood, and honestly, the connections ARE there, but unfortunately, there are really only a few with the promise of more in the future, and I'm straight up holding the author to that promise. I liked the connections we did get and honestly the fact that they sort of quiet down for a while didn't bother me, I was sucked so far into this story by that point I wasn't getting out anytime soon.

Predictability: On the foreshadowing standpoint, I feel this author did a fantastic job of weaving foreshadowing into her narrative while holding back on some of the bigger reveals for later. Now, arguably the biggest twist in this story was easy to predict and I honestly felt the author was a bit heavy-handed when it came to foreshadowing that giant twist. Leading up to the reveal I even remember wishing that the author had been more subtle as the reveal would carry more weight, however, while my guess was correct, I love how the author subverted my expectations and added layers to the twist that I didn't see coming. That's just the biggest twist, while there is quite a lot of foreshadowing (this is a Middle-Grade book after all) I still found myself, more often than not, still being surprised at how the story unfolded and how the author layered her reveals so that I never quite knew what would happen next.

Ending: The final climax of this story is outstanding. I mean, what a way to use your characters to their full potential and really show off how far they've come since the beginning. Now I won't go into specifics, but this final climax was a grand slam if ever I saw one. I love how it set things up for future installments as well as providing a great visual for how far things have come. After the final climax though, well there's a rather extended cooldown period. Don't get me wrong, I love cooldown periods in books where we can learn how our characters adjust to their new reality while continuing to set things up for the sequel, but the last couple of chapters felt more like the first few chapters of Book Two instead of the last few chapters of Book One. By the very end of the story, however, I do feel that it makes up for that in some ways.


So... when I got to the end of this book and saw the title and release date of Book Two I let out a devastated scream because well, frankly I don't want to wait a year and a half (quarter?) to continue this magnificent story. I love the characters, I love the world, and just when it starts ramping up again it's all torn away from me! I had high expectations for this book, with it being the first book from Rick Riordan's new imprint as well as Roshani Chokshi's Middle-Grade debut, this story not only met those insanely high expectations, it far exceeded them as well!


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