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?
I really liked this! A very enjoyable read, with two interesting main protagonists, and of course, the talking pigeon was delightful. I’m not well versed on Indian mythology, I usually read about Egyptian, Roman or Greek, so reading this was incredibly exciting being introduced to a new world of myths and legends.
I’m not giving at a 5 or a high 4 cos it felt like it missed something . . . I’m not sure what. It times it felt a little slow and confusing keeping up with all the new introductions (I guess I should’ve checked the back for that glossary – didn’t realise it was there until the end!). I think, as some first novels in a series do (or in this case, quartet), it was a little rocky with finding it’s balance/footing with some of the mythological-real-world elements as Chokshi tried to work out her characterisations and narrative voice, but I think this will be built upon for the sequel.
A very easy, accessible read, and I certainly seem to have preferred Chokshi’s middle grade work compared to her young adult.