- Page Count: 368
- Release Date: March 27, 2018
- My Rating: 5 stars
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 their 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?
Oh, I loved this. Middle grade books are usually hit or miss with me, but this one was such a fun adventure.
Aru lives with her mother above the Museum of Ancient Indian Art and Culture. One day when she lights the Lamp of Bharata, the Sleeper is freed and everyone around her is frozen in time. Only one of the 5 Pandava brothers (from the Mahabharata) could light the lamp, so Aru’s new pigeon guardian informs her she is a child of the gods and must now go on a quest to save the world. Her Pandava sister Mini (who has a lot of allergies and an Epi-pen! yesss) shows up to help Aru stop the Sleeper from stealing the celestial weapons, find out how he can be defeated, train, and basically save everyone.
Aru was such a wonderfully regular 12 year old who’s scared and not at all ready, but gets the job done anyways. I adored her matter-of-fact tone (like the scene where she explained that many Hindus don’t eat beef). And it was pretty funny to see all of her relatable references to current complaints like the Instagram algorithm.
I thought Roshani’s creative and witty voice really came through in all of the characters! She seriously writes the most hilarious animal sidekicks. The Slytherin pigeon with an existential crisis was the greatest aaaand I need one in my life. But my favorite parts were probably just some of the amazing descriptions:
“There was a Night Bazaar where you could purchase dreams on a string. If you had a good singing voice, you could use it to buy rice pudding dusted with moonlight.”
The tone of the writing here was a bit different from Roshani’s YA books, but was absolutely perfect for this story! I think Rick Riordan fans will love seeing the familiar type of adventures during Aru’s quest and the whole scene where the kid is claimed by whichever god is their parent. And I’ve only studied a few Hindu texts, so I recognized a lot of the figures in the story but also learned a lot as well. I think all ages could have fun with this book!
Thank you to the publisher for sending me an ARC. The quote above was taken from an ARC and is subject to change upon publication.