A good middle grade book will both entertain and teach the reader something about the world. A great middle grade book does this and makes the reader connect with the characters. Roshani Chokshi’s Hindu-inspired Pandava Quartet does just this. If you’re looking for a fun romp through Hindu mythology, this is the series to read.
After a weak moment of showing off to kids from school, Aru lights the Lamp of Bharata and unleashes an ancient demon known as the Sleeper, whose job is to wake the God of Destruction and bring about the end of the world. As Aru is thrown into a world she’s only heard about in stories, she learns she’s one of the five reincarnated Pandava brothers and to stop the Sleeper, she must find the other brothers and learn how to be a hero.
Aru Shah and the End of Time
In a lot of ways Aru Shah and the End of Time reminds me of Percy Jackson and the Olympians: middle school kids running around trying to save the world (or time itself), meeting gods and monsters, encountering all types of ridiculous but fun aspects of mythology, and dealing with their personal life problems. Because Hindu mythology is vast and confusing, Roshani Chokshi goes to great lengths to simplify and explain what Aru is experiencing. I don’t know a lot about Hindu mythology, so it was delightful to learn more about it through this story.
As for Aru, she isn’t your typical hero and I think that’s fantastic. She still has a lot to learn, but despite her pitfalls, she pulls through time and time again to help stop the Sleeper and follow her heart. Her friendship with Mini is definitely a highlight of the book, and I like that Chokshi includes ups and downs in their relationship, making it feel more realistic and relatable.
This book is chock full of hilarious moments and an abundance of fandom references. It was a delight to read.
Aru Shah and the Song of Death
Aru Shah and the Song of Death takes what was started in book one and amplifies it. There are more characters, more Hindu mythology, and more risks. But just because there are greater costs doesn’t mean the book isn’t fun. There are also more absurd encounters (like a giant crab complaining about singing songs from Moana) and fantastic fandom references. (Can I please be invited to Aru’s Lord of the Rings birthday party? Because it sounds amazing!)
At the heart of the book are typical middle grade themes of friendship and family. I like that despite what they go through, despite their differences, the characters come together to help one another, no matter the cost and no matter what they might have said or done in the past. While that may seem like a typical theme in a lot of books, I think it’s a good reminder for all readers.
I also like that the main villain of this story isn’t just evil or selfish for the sake of being evil or selfish. There are layers to her story, and despite her less-than-savory choices, there are valid reasons for her actions. Through several plot threads, this book does a good job showing that the world isn’t black and white and that not everything is as it seems at first.
Like any good middle grade series, the writing is great, the fandom references are fun, and the adventure is definitely worth taking. I’d highly recommend this series to anybody who loves Percy Jackson and Co. or wants a fun snapshot of Hindu mythology from the point of view of a 12 year old girl.