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Game of Stars: Kiranmala and the Kingdom Beyond, Book 2

Book review by
Carrie R. Wheadon, Common Sense Media
Game of Stars: Kiranmala and the Kingdom Beyond, Book 2 Book Poster Image
Girl becomes demon slayer in fun fantasy game show spoof.

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A lot or a little?

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

Educational Value

Author's note explains how book draws from many West Bengal, India, folktales and children's stories. It explains what stories some of her characters come from, where she found the riddles the main character has to solve. It also explores some cultural references, including inspiration for the Pink-Sari Skateboarders and fake commercial products. Some astronomy facts about neutron stars, many references to the Ouroboros symbol.

Positive Messages

Explores what makes a monster -- it's not a label or green hair or having monsters for parents, it's cruelty toward others. Cautionary tale on where quest for fame and fortune steers a society. Everyone here stops their regular lives to sign up for a game show. A reminder that the "jewels of any society are its people,"not material riches. A product that promises to make the user's face look corpse-like is a pointed jab at popular skin whitening creams that are detrimental to girls' self-esteem.

Positive Role Models & Representations

Kiranmala, a 12-year-old Bengali princess growing up in New Jersey, likes to wear combat boots. She embraces the fighting demons part of being royalty more than the pretty part. She learns to accept herself and her family heritage, even the parts she's less fond of. In Book 2, she's put off by the Kingdom Beyond's obsession with fame and celebrity and decides not to play by the rules set for her in the game. She also loses her prejudices against demons -- not all of them want to eat humans.

Violence

Fights with big demons and snakes using magical methods of inducing pain, arrows, and swords. One beloved character dies in blinding-light magical way, another gravely injured but recovers magically. Friends are jailed and taunted, ghosts and witches threaten to steal souls and eat people. Mention that contestants have died during the game show, one incinerated.  

Sex
Language
Consumerism

A mention of Cadbury's chocolate and fake names for social media, like Instagreat.

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

Fish monsters smoke cigars.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Game of Stars: Kiranmala and the Kingdom Beyond is the second book in a fantasy series featuring a melding of folk tales and folklore from West Bengal, India. This story will remind you a lot of Rick Riordan's work (Percy Jackson, Kane Chronicles). It thrusts modern kids into the world of mythology and infuses the story with humor. Here, the modern kid is 12-year-old Kiranmala, an Indian girl from another dimension growing up in New Jersey. When she returns to the Kingdom Beyond, she learns that the only way to save her friend, Prince Neel, is to compete on the game show Who Wants to Be a Demon Slayer? In the process, she fights big demons and snakes with her arrows. One beloved character dies in a blinding-light magical way, another is gravely injured but recovers magically. Also, some ghosts and witches who love riddles threaten to steal Kiran's soul and eat her. Game of Stars is a fun cautionary tale about how the quest for fame can turn a society upside down. Kiran, the combat boot-wearing princess, finds this mania ridiculous and instead tries to focus on saving her friend.

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What's the story?

In GAME OF STARS: KIRANMALA AND THE KINGDOM BEYOND, BOOK 2, Kiranmala's New Jersey parents set up their intergalactic TV set just in time to see ads for the game show Who Wants to Be a Demon Slayer? Kiran is only vaguely interested in the mayhem, until she sees Prince Lal on camera delivering a message directly to her: Join him as a hero and rid the world of demons. Her parents forbid Kiran to leave the universe, so it's off to regular-kid middle school. But she doesn't even get in the front door before two giant birds with human heads hypnotize her for a blood sample -- a requirement for entering the game show. And then, Prince Neel's rakkhoshi mom shows up begging Kiran to rescue her son, who's being held captive for the show. Moments later, Kiran's traveling through a wormhole. When she arrives in the Kingdom Beyond, she notices how different it is from her last visit. Nobody is working or at school and everyone is in line to compete for glory and riches.  

Is it any good?

This sequel suffers from the same rushed storytelling as we found in Book 1, but it keeps things intriguing with West Bengal folk tale influences and a send-up of reality and game shows. There are so many great places author Sayantani DasGupta could slow down and show us this wild world. It's like we're all spinning in a wormhole with Kiran through hectic scenes of rhyming demons and ghosts and riddling witches and living underwater palaces and demon dentist offices. DasGupta is welcome to spend a whole chapter describing a demon dentist office down to the kind of chair a giant serpent king could even recline in. It would be fascinating and potentially hilarious to read. Right now DasGupta relies heavily on ridiculous character banter to supply the humor, when there's plenty to be gleaned from the fabulous setting if she'd only take the time to describe it.

DasGupta could slow down with her characters, as well. Kiran does a lot of trying not to think about her hair turning green or what it's like to have the bad guy for a dad or why she's so hard on Neel all the time. If she did stop to ponder these things, Game of Stars would be richer for it. Still, there's much to enjoy here, and plenty of places for the sequels to go.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Parents can talk about the game show mania in Game of Stars. Why is everyone in the Kingdom Beyond so obsessed? How did their lives change? What does Kiran think about the fame?

  • What does the author's note say about the inspiration for the Pink-Sari Skateboarders? How do they represent female empowerment? How does Kiranmala?

  • Will you read more from this series? What do you think is next for Kiran and Neel?

Book details

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For kids who love fantasy and adventure

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