Aru Shah & the End of Time by Roshani Chokshi

Themes

  • Found family, teen angst, self-acceptance, self-identity, modern mythology, prophecy fulfillment
  • Confidence, courage, positive feminine themes, friendship, coming of age

She had wanted a sisterly smile that said I’ve known you all my life. Instead, she was faced with an odd stranger and a pigeon whose sanity was slowly unraveling.

Having missed the hype of the Percy Jackson series, I had not been prepared for Roshani Chokshi’s inventively clever series starring titular character Aru Shah. The End of Time is the author’s debut novel, kickstarting a series of equally impressive novels centering around the pantheon of Indian mythos and religion. Written in a layman’s term style allows it to be easily digestible for middle school aged children despite their page count.

The story follows Arundhati Shah, the daughter of a single mother who curates the only Indian History Museum in Atlanta, Georgia. Aru struggles to fit into her private school for a number of reasons, among them is her unique upbringing and her penchant for lying her way into their acceptance. One night in particular, Aru lights a lamp and kindles the embodiment of an ancient apocalyptical prophecy. She soon learns it was more than a cautionary tale as she learns the truth of her heritage and must assume responsibility for her actions.  She must locate the other Pandavas to defeat the Sleeper: a demon whose shadows can consume the world, and according to the heavens they only have days to do so. Despite the challenge, Chokshi does well to convey the characters’ personalities and attributes. Their relationships and chemistry are achieved early on and as the days continue they elaborate on those features. Along the way they encounter many different deities and demons from Indian culture, learning who is friend and foe along the way.

If I could give the series any true criticism it is the extensive use of branding within the story. Aru is a self-professed cinephile and as such, she frequently drops pop culture references which at best correlates to the cringey awkwardness of her personality and at worst will eventually make the novels seem dated by future readers.

In any case, the action scenes are solid, and the chain of events has a natural pacing. As the story centers around a group of pre-teen reincarnations of the Pandava heroes of ancient mythology, the dialogue and relationships between them are slowly built and deliberate. Chokshi has managed to create the banter and bickering of children without losing sight of who those children are and who they will ultimately be, balanced excellently against the fantastical world that exists just beyond the surface.

I selected this book on one of our many trips to the bookstore, excited to introduce my kids to one of the world’s oldest and most complex mythical hierarchies. I can say that it Chokshi has created a dense world and does not shy away from the traditional root of the source material. Exposition is worked into the plot well enough. Though a true gem of the series is the detailed glossary found in the back of the each novel. It not only offers pronunciation and a definition, but usually sheds some light on the backstory associated with each term. It is also a place where the author infuses bits of her own personal thoughts adding another layer of ease to an already well done introduction.

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