Aru Shah and the End of Time by Roshani Chokshi
Publication date: 03 may 2018
Genre: Middle grade fantasy
Page count: 320 pages
Rating: 4.5 out of 5 stars
This is a spoiler-free review.
I have been hearing great things about Roshani Chokshi’s writing for years — she’s the author of the Star Touched Queen novels and tends to incorporate a great deal of Indian mythology and folklore into her books. I’ve been really interested in reading some books that feature Indian mythology, so when the Indian Literature Readathon was announced for July I knew this book was an obvious choice. I don’t typically read a lot of middle grade fiction, however Aru Shah and the End of Time was a fantastically funny and heartfelt read for all ages.
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?
This is one of those rare books that I genuinely think anyone can read and love. While it falls into the middle grade age range, both adults and children will find so much delight within these pages. The book is so incredibly funny, insightful, and well-written. It weaves together many different types of Indian mythology and it left me wanting more. This book was such a wonderful and accessible gateway to Indian culture.
Aru is a character I think a lot of us can relate to. She doesn’t quite fit in, she’s being raised by a single parent who isn’t always around, and she stands out among her classmates because of her heritage. Aru’s adventures are the result of the lies she tells to impress her classmates, however she takes responsibility for her actions and seizes her responsibilities as a Pandava. She’s smart, funny, a little headstrong, and sometimes exasperating, but she’s so confident in herself and her ability to pull through in each situation, despite not having the same knowledge as her companions. It was so refreshing to see a girl, especially a young girl, possess the confidence to stand up against such trials.
As much as I loved Aru, Mini really stole the show — she’s one of my new favourite characters. Mini is another Pandava and teams up with Aru, despite the fact that she doesn’t really know what she’s doing either. Mini is an absolute delight and completely adorably hilarious. She’s a hypochondriac, nervous about everything, is convinced that even the most mundane things will kill her, and is just so delightful. She’s so sweet and funny and so brave. I really loved her back story and the way she reacts to each situation they stumble upon. The two of them make a great team and have a sweet friendship, which is always incredibly refreshing.
Aru Shah and the End of Time is a marvelous little book that is full of heart. Not only can it teach readers all about Indian mythology and culture, it shows its young reader that even the most impossible hurdles can be overcome with bravery and a little help from your friends. If you’re looking for a sweet, laugh-out-loud funny read, look no further.
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