Aru Shah and the End of Time by Roshani Chokshi
“Your worst nightmare. We're the Pandavas.”
Full disclosure. I resisted reading this book. Don’t get me wrong. I enjoyed Riordan’s the Olympians series. But if this was another "child of a mythological god" wanna be, I wasn’t interested. Eventually I picked up the volume, started to read, and instantly realized that I was wrong. Wrong. Wrong. Wrong. The first few pages convinced me. This is no weak Percy Jackson remake.
Roshani Chokshi has taken the concept, turned it inside out, ripped out the old construction, removed the fabric, woven a new tapestry and created something fresh and sparkling. She has breathed new life into a mythological adventure for middle grade readers. After the first chapter, I could not stop reading. I skipped meals and didn’t want to put the book down to search for food. Reading was more important than a growling stomach. This book is that good! Here some of the reasons why Aru Shah and the End of Time captivated me:
- The setting. India's mythology is a rich source of fascinating lore that is less familiar to me. Twelve-year-old Aru and her mother live in the Museum of Ancient Indian Art and Culture. Her life is steeped in Indian stories and artifacts, from the giant stone elephant she passes each day to 400-year-old sea dragon statue where she hides her candy stash, Aru lives in a world that promises magic. Readers are introduced to a cast of exotic gods and goddesses. Fortunately, Chokshi includes a helpful glossary. It is possible to enjoy the tale without referring to this back matter. Usually I would wait until I came to a stopping place to use the glossary. I didn't like to disrupt the flow of the story.
- Humor. Chokshi peppers her narrative with liberal doses of pop culture. Aru, dressed in her Spider-Man pajamas, travels to the Court of the Sky, visits the Pool of the Past, and seeks the Kingdom of Death. Her trip to Costco resembles my ventures into the massive warehouse and at the same time is unlike any shopping trip that I have experienced. It's a place of industrial concrete, frigid temperatures, and massive lines of people. Aru and Mini head down the aisle of frozen foods seeing "black bean soup, lunch rolls, pizza, bagels, pizza bagels, tripe, codfish, catfish, I-can't-believe-it's-not-fish fish.....frozen waffles, frozen pancakes, frozen stars, frozen wings, ...frozen prophecies, frozen orreries, frozen gold, frozen..." you get the idea. Did I mention the chapter headings? They are so clever and snarky. It’s fun to read chapter headings such as: "#1 on Mini's Top Ten Ways I Don't Want to Die List: Death by Halitosis" "Bring on the Next Demon! Wait, Maybe Not..."
- Parents are not perfect. Aru lives with a mother who is away from home. A. Lot. Her father, who has been absent from her life ,makes a startling entrance. He is the Sleeper. The bad guy. How could this man be her father? How could her mother have fallen in love with him? Why has her mother kept her parentage a secret?
“I already am. And it's not hero...It's heroine.”