Aru Shah and the End of Time: A Pandava Novel, Book 1

Book review by
Carrie R. Wheadon, Common Sense Media
Aru Shah and the End of Time: A Pandava Novel, Book 1 Book Poster Image
Flawed but fascinating modern spin on Indian mythology.

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Kids say

age 11+
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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this book.

Educational Value

Delves into Indian myths and legends, retells snippets of some as we meet famous figures throughout the quest. Explores Hindu ideas of karma, death, reincarnation and includes some cultural tidbits, such as Indian family friends being called Aunt and Uncle. Glossary begins with disclaimer that this is just a small slice of what India has to offer.

Positive Messages

Friendship, bravery are important, also fighting for those you love. Accept mistakes and failures and move on.

Positive Role Models & Representations

Aru Shah lights a lamp her mother told her not to touch, to impress kids who called her a liar. Aru must face who she is; turns a propensity for lying into skills of strategy, imaginative problem-solving. Mini is often very fearful, works hard to be brave to save the world. She finds her book smarts can often help her. Both characters are Indian-American girls; Mini is also half-Filipina. Both have a sense of pride in their cultural heritage, but Aru tells one story of a woman warning her not to go in the sun without sunscreen or she'll get darker and not find a husband.

Violence

Loved ones are frozen; whole world will end if main characters don't complete quest. Fights with large demonic creatures with no gore. In a final battle, there's no mention of deaths; everything from the Otherworld disappears. A whale demon almost swallows Aru and Mini. Another demon tries to turn them to dust but gets turned to dust instead. Poison burns and explodes, almost causing injury. Illusions of fireflies that burn. A trip through the Kingdom of Death includes near death, near loss of all memories, offer of reincarnation. Stories of mythological creatures with tragic ends, including that of Shukra who kills his own wife and is punished for it.

Sex
Language
Consumerism

Costco has a mystical side here and is mentioned often, along with books, movies, and TV: Finding Nemo, The Matrix, Dark Knight, The Golden Compass, Game of Thrones, and more. Mini packs Oreos in her backpack. Talk of Instagram and an Apple store in the Otherworld. And Aru wears Spider-Man PJs for the whole quest.

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

A shopgirl with a cigarette. A mention that Aru tried a sip of her mom's wine once and didn't like it.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Aru Shah and the End of Time is the first book in a Pandava Novel series and the first book in an imprint of Disney-Hyperion publishing, Rick Riordan Presents. This imprint was started by the hugely popular Percy Jackson author and aims to bring a wider variety of mythological fantasies to kids, written by authors who grew up in a particular tradition. Here we have a small slice of Indian mythology from an Indian-American writer in her first book for kids. The heroes are heroines, they like reminding their foe, two 12-year-old girls who become good friends and show bravery as they save loved ones from the end of the world. They fight large demon-like creatures, but with no gore. In a final battle, there's no mention of deaths and everything from the Otherworld disappears. Another demon tries to turn them to dust, but gets turned to dust instead. Poison burns and explodes, almost causing injury. A trip through the Kingdom of Death includes near death, near loss of all memories, and the offer of reincarnation -- a concept readers new to Hinduism get to explore here. As in the Percy Jackson books, these modern-day heroines discuss modern stuff like movies and TV shows. They visit a magical Costco more than once and eat a lot of Oreos. Aru never changes out of Spider-Man PJs the whole quest.

User Reviews

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Teen, 14 years old Written byVV1248 April 24, 2018

Captivating!

Aru Shah and the End of Time is a great read for children who are just starting to read novels. Aru is an AMAZING character; her loneliness and awkwardness are... Continue reading

What's the story?

In ARU SHAH AND THE END OF TIME, Aru sets Armageddon in motion on a dare. Her mom, curator of the Indian cultural museum downstairs from their apartment, has told Aru never to light a particular lamp on display. She does it anyway when three school frenemies who visit the museum call her a liar. Just like that, the friends are frozen in place, her mom is frozen in a scream running to stop her, and Aru must set off on a quest in her Spider-Man PJs to stop a demon creature called the Sleeper from ending the world before the new moon. She learns a lot quickly: that she's a reincarnation of one of the Pandava brothers, famous heroes; that there is another descendant set to help on her quest, an equally flummoxed, hypochondriac girl named Mini; and that she and Mini are therefore linked to the gods. What they need to know most is how to save their loved ones and the Earth in time. If they find three keys, they can open the Door of Death where weapons and answers lie. It's no surprise that the hardest part of going through that door to the Kingdom of Death will be getting out of there alive.

Is it any good?

Despite problems with the storytelling, kids who love modern takes on mythology will delight in this tale of two Indian-American girls who find out they're linked to Indian mythological heroes. Aru and Mini make for deliciously awkward questing buddies. There's Aru with her fear that the only thing she's good at is lying, and Mini who is just as afraid that germs lurk around every corner as she is that a demon wants to end the world. They both come a long way and grow to love each other like sisters by the end. But at the beginning of the story, their lives lack a proper setup: We're rushed into the quest so fast we don't really get to understand these heroines as characters until at least halfway through Aru Shah and the End of Time. The story could also use time with Aru and her mom. Mom and her secrets is the whole reason they're on a quest, and she's barely developed. It's a missed opportunity to deepen the story.

There are more missed opportunities when Aru and Mini are deep in the quest. They pass through so many fascinating places in the Otherworld -- the coolest Costco ever and the Kingdom of Death, for starters. The way these very otherworldly places are written, so spare on place detail, it's hard to picture them. To truly transport outsiders to this world, the author needs to land us there. Still, by the end of the story the series is under way and another installment already looms. That may be grounding enough for most readers to go on another thrilling adventure.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about the mythology in Aru Shah and the End of Time. Is Indian mythology new to you? What did you learn? Where can you learn more?

  • Aru Shah makes a huge mistake trying to impress kids from school. Would you have done the same thing in her situation? How does peer pressure make it hard to make good decisions sometimes?

  • Will you read the next adventure? Where do you think Aru and Mini are headed next?

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