A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this book.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Aru Shah and the Song of Death is the second 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 book in the series, Aru Shah and the End of Time, before tackling this one, especially if you're unfamiliar with the vast world of Indian mythology. Three of the characters are reincarnated Pandavas -- demigod warrior princes -- and are girls all around 12 years old. They're sent on a quest where they fight a giant crab, a serpentine king, and many zombies they are tasked with restoring to aliveness by piercing an enemy's heart with a special arrow. They learn to work together and "see well," or not judge others harshly before they know their whole story. Candy brands and Oreos mentioned often, but Brynne, the body-positive strong-girl character new to the series, focuses just as much on her love of cooking and eating traditional Indian food.
What's the story?
In ARU SHAH AND THE SONG OF DEATH, Pandava sisters Aru and Mini spot some strange goings-on in the Night Bazaar. Zombies are running amok, and Brynne, another reincarnated Pandava, races through the food court after someone with a bow and arrow -- someone who looks just like Aru. When the Aru lookalike gets away, all the Pandavas look guilty of theft, which really upsets the gods. The bow and arrow belong to the god Kamadeva and have already been used to create the Night Bazaar zombies. The gods send the girls on a 10-day quest to find the bow and arrow and return it. If they fail, they will be banished from the Otherworld forever and their memories erased. Brynne, a shapeshifter trained with weapons, is not so sure about newbie Pandavas Aru and Mini, and squabbling ensues. They've got to learn to work together or they won't survive all the dangers on this quest: an angry swan; a giant, hungry crab; energy-sapping snakes; nightmare wolves; rampaging cows of the dawn ... Beyond that, their best hope to find the godly weapon in time rests in the hands of a curse-happy sage who once took away the gods' immortality.
Is it any good?
Questing through the Indian mythological Otherworld can seem too otherwordly to comprehend at times, but the quirky team of tweens with powers makes it lots of fun. The two reincarnated Pandava princes, clumsy and thoughtful Aru and germ-phobic and loyal Mini, add another Pandava for this sequel quest: Brynne, a body-positive shapeshifter who loves to cook and eat. If the Indian meal she ordered doesn't come out perfect, she'll go into the kitchen and fix it. If a fire god challenges her to an eating contest, pass her a fork. Brynne also brings along a friend, Aiden. He's a cute, quiet guy with a camera and a literal power of persuasion. Brynne butts heads with Aru and Mini at first, but Aiden's calm presence helps them all get along.
These four questers keep things mostly grounded when the story is definitely not. Readers are jostled from godly spaces in the clouds to underwater kingdoms to dream worlds with rampaging cows of the dawn to a swamp in Jersey that leads to an ocean of milk. It can all be hard to imagine, especially when author Roshani Chokshi rushes through the scene setup, which she does often. Still, the action and antics of the main characters move along at a good enough clip to keep Aru Shah and the Song of Death exciting and will definitely get kids excited for future quests with these quirky Pandavas.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about what Lady M feared in Aru Shah and the Song of Death. Can you think of others who are defined by one wrongdoing in their lives? How do you think it affects them?
Aru is advised to "see well." How does it change her when she does? How important is it to have empathy when dealing with others?
Will you read the next in the series? Where do you think the Sleeper is now? How do the Pandavas need to prepare to face him?
- Author: Roshani Chokshi
- Genre: Fantasy
- Topics: Magic and Fantasy, Princesses, Fairies, Mermaids, and More, Adventures, Friendship, Great Girl Role Models, Misfits and Underdogs, Monsters, Ghosts, and Vampires, Wild Animals
- Book type: Fiction
- Publisher: Rick Riordan Presents
- Publication date: April 30, 2019
- Publisher's recommended age(s): 9 - 12
- Number of pages: 304
- Available on: Nook, Audiobook (unabridged), Hardback, iBooks, Kindle
- Last updated: November 4, 2019
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