Aru Shah and the Nectar of Immortality: Pandava, Book 5
By Carrie R. Wheadon,
Common Sense Media Reviewer
Common Sense Media Reviewers
Stellar female heroes shine in Indian myth series finale.
A Lot or a Little?
What you will—and won't—find in this book.
Delves into Indian myths and legends of some supernatural characters the Pandavas encounter on their quest, including the Apsara, heavenly dancers; Jambavan, the divine king of the bears; Takshaka, the naga king; Tumburu, a skilled celestial musician; and the Vishakanyas, or poison maidens, who were trained to be elite courtesans and assassins. Some details about traditional Hindu weddings. Glossary begins with disclaimer that this is just a small slice of what Indian mythology and legends have to offer. Letter to the reader explains that most of these deities and legends are from the Vedic age (1500 BCE) and that Vedism is a precursor to classical Hinduism.
Stresses importance of having our stories heard, and how we are eternal through stories. Strength comes from within. You can be powerful because of your fear, not in spite of it. Trust your instincts. Shows value of loyalty to friends, of teamwork. A sage Uber driver explains to Aru, "We all have a role in life. Maybe we're someone's sibling or spouse, a teacher or a parent, a ruler or a warrior. And with that comes a duty to show up for the situations life throws at you! After that, you do your best and let everything else go. The outcome? Pfft. Not your problem. People's opinions? Not the point! When you go home and look in the mirror, it's your face you've got to look at. No one else's."
Positive Role Models
All the Pandavas struggle with losing their godly weapons, which brought them confidence, purpose, and a sense of belonging. They all face trials to get them back. Brynne realizes that her strength doesn't come from the weapon but from herself. Mini, who's always been fearful, thinks that her weapon made her less afraid. When she realizes that her fears can be faced head-on, she works with them to find her own strength again. Aru is so worried about letting everyone down that her decisions as leader are too heavy a weight. Once she faces this indecision and decides to trust her instincts, she's triumphant.
Characters are mostly of Indian descent. Two minor characters in this story are described as darker skinned and part Guyanese. It's briefly mentioned in Book 2 that Brynne is bisexual. In the ancient stories, the Pandavas are reincarnated brothers. In these stories, they are sisters, and they wield the most power and strength. Jambayan, the king of the bears, underestimates Brynne because she's a girl and is pleasantly surprised to be bested by her, not upset.
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Violence & Scariness
Teens fight demons and other creatures. Many are killed in a battle, including one character close to the main characters who is mourned. Main characters are almost poisoned and knocked unconscious. One main character fights a giant bear who has furniture around his house upholstered with the hides of his vanquished enemies. Mentions of how a character was kidnapped as a child, her memory erased, and manipulated into using her power for evil.
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Sex, Romance & Nudity
A kiss and some crushes. Talk of how the poison maidens were given to harems and how nymphs were sent by the gods to "distract" sages so that they wouldn't become too powerful.
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Products & Purchases
Aru dreams of Home Depot. Mentions of the Star Wars saga, Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson, snack foods like Starburst, Oreos, and Twix, and a type of Uber just for demigods.
Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that Roshani Chokshi's Aru Shah and the Nectar of Immortality is the fifth and final book in the Pandava series published by 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. Definitely read the first four books in the series before tackling this one, especially if you're unfamiliar with the vast world of Indian mythology. Even then, you may need the glossary in the back to keep all the Hindu gods and terms straight. Five of the characters are reincarnated Pandavas -- demigod warrior princes -- and are girls between 12 and 16 years old. Their quest to stop the world from ending brings them to the heavens of the Otherworld and back and involves fighting against supernatural animal creatures. Many are killed in a final battle, including one character close to the main characters, but there's less fighting in this volume of the series overall and no gore. All other mature content is pretty mild, with one kiss and some innuendo. There are so many fantastic messages in this story as all the Pandavas face trials to recover their celestial weapons -- about finding inner strength, harnessing fears instead of hiding from them, trusting your instincts, and really showing up for your life, especially when things get tough.
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What's the Story?
In ARU SHAH AND THE NECTAR OF IMMORTALITY, the Pandavas are in series trouble. Kara has entered the labyrinth with the Sleeper and is headed for the prize within: the nectar that will make all the Sleeper's evil monster followers eternal. Oh, and they will cause Armageddon in the process. The Pandavas -- Aru, Mini, and Brynne -- want nothing more than to stop them, but Kara has destroyed their celestial weapons. Without the weapons, they can't access the labyrinth at all, unless ... There is another way in, if they unite three pieces of a sun jewel, the glorious light will guide them. The problem is that the pieces are hoarded by some seriously dangerous beings. Just to get the first jewel piece, they'll need to enter the realm of a snake god so large its body wraps around mountains. And then there's the bear king, who is so good in a fight that he has all the furniture in his home upholstered with the skins of his vanquished enemies. The odds aren't looking good, but the clock is ticking. The Pandavas will use lots of ingenuity and a little divine help to not only get the sun jewel, but earn their weapons back so that they can save the world.
Is It Any Good?
This series finale steeped in Indian mythology stays firmly focused on the stellar girl characters over raucous monster battles, and is so much better for it. Yes, there's Armageddon to stop and only days to do it, and three pieces of a jewel to unite in three fascinating parts of the Otherworld. But it's the girls' struggles to get their celestial weapons back, to earn them by seeing their inner strengths, that really breathe life into the story. Mini, a girl whose fears drive her every thought, has one of the most poignant moments in the realm of dreams -- befriending an actual night mare/horse.
And even with the big end-of-times battle brewing, fans of the series will be thrilled to know that there are still plenty of scenes filled with humor. Those night mares have the best names, including Loose Teeth, Creepy Party Clown, and Don't Look Under the Bed. Brynne, both warrior and accomplished chef, has words with the king of the bears over his lackluster hot chocolate. And when all the Pandavas get blessed with god-level musical talents, Aru gets stuck being the best tambourine player in the Otherworld. It's all a nice break from the usual end-of-the-world doom and gloom. This humor mixed with poignant moments of character growth -- and, yes, a battle at the end -- makes for a well-balanced and highly enjoyable finale.
Talk to Your Kids About ...
Families can talk about the Pandavas' celestial weapons in Aru Shah and the Nectar of Immortality. What do they represent to Mini, Brynne, and Aru? How does their loss impact each of the girls? What trials do they each face to get them returned?
In this series the girls are the powerful heroes (and like to be called heroines) and boys are the supportive sidekicks. How many adventure-fantasy stories do you read where that happens? What roles do girls usually have?
The series is complete, but there's still a chance for more Pandava adventures. Who would you like to read about the most?
- Author: Roshani Chokshi
- Genre: Fantasy
- Topics: Magic and Fantasy, Princesses, Fairies, Mermaids, and More, Superheroes, Adventures, Brothers and Sisters, Friendship, Great Girl Role Models, Monsters, Ghosts, and Vampires
- Character Strengths: Courage, Perseverance, Teamwork
- Book type: Fiction
- Publisher: Rick Riordan Presents
- Publication date: April 5, 2022
- Publisher's recommended age(s): 8 - 12
- Number of pages: 384
- Available on: Nook, Audiobook (unabridged), Hardback, iBooks, Kindle
- Last updated: April 21, 2022
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