The Serpent's Secret: Kiranmala and the Kingdom Beyond, Book 1

Book review by
Carrie R. Wheadon, Common Sense Media
The Serpent's Secret: Kiranmala and the Kingdom Beyond, Book 1 Book Poster Image
Rushed, fun adventure with Indian princess in combat boots.

Parents say

age 10+
Based on 2 reviews

Kids say

age 8+
Based on 3 reviews

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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 this book draws from many West Bengal, India, folktales and children's stories. Explains what stories some of her characters come from and some cultural references. Includes a short list of Bengali folktales in English for further reading. Some astronomy facts about the life cycle of stars are mixed in with the fantasy. A shout-out to Albert Einstein and his theories.

Positive Messages

A lot of love and respect here for adoptive parents and an acceptance of complex family situations. Not being ashamed of who you are and embracing all parts of yourself. A good cry can heal -- quite literally here as well figuratively.

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. She has loving and quirky adoptive parents and would do anything to keep them from harm. There are times Kiranmala says hurtful things to Neel, then regrets them and tries to make up for them.


Many run-ins with nasty demons called rakkhosh and their smaller cousins, khokkosh. They deliver singsong rhymes about how much they like to eat tasty humans while they stalk and fight against the main characters armed with swords, arrows, and the ability to run away fast or fly away on winged horses. A fight with a giant snake ends with lots of blood, having "split itself in two" on a sword. The main character's parents are kidnapped. Main characters get covered in snakes, other characters are nearly constricted to death by a snake. Near-drownings, and shooting rays of energy cause pain, ending in one villain's death.

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

Mention of beer in a song and talk of drunken demons.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that The Serpent's Secret: Kiranmala and the Kingdom Beyond is the first 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, who doesn't know she's a princess until her adoptive parents are kidnapped and a nasty rakkhosh demon tries to eat her. As she goes on a quest to save her parents, she meets many more demons who want to eat her, encounters a giant snake who gets split in two by sword, nearly drowns, gets covered with snakes, sees others nearly constricted to death by snakes, and gets shot by rays of painful energy. The highlight of this series start is definitely the princess Kiranmala, who wears combat boots, fights to save her adoptive parents, and learns a lot about self-acceptance.

User Reviews

  • Parents say
  • Kids say
Parent of a 7-year-old Written byMaddiemomma June 20, 2019

Scary But Good

I'm 8 and in 2 grade. I loved the book! If your child is afraid of monsters and creepy stuff they should not read it. I think it helps if your class likes... Continue reading
Parent Written byPallavi K. April 17, 2018

Fun with Mythology

I quite liked the book. my 13 yr old enjoyed reading it a lot. Connected the indian mythology and the fictional story. Good Read
Teen, 13 years old Written byDuckyMcquack January 2, 2021


Personally, I find it to be a little Immature in the language and attitude of the characters, but i did find the story interesting and learning about all the le... Continue reading
Teen, 13 years old Written byEmma Dragon May 28, 2020

One of my favorite books.

I have read this book over and over many times! The main character is a really good role model because she is proud of who she is. The culture and tradition in... Continue reading

What's the story?

In THE SERPENT'S SECRET, Kiranmala has the worst 12th birthday ever. Her parents are kidnapped and sent to another dimension, and a rakkhosh demon trashes their house. She manages to salvage a birthday card from her parents that tells her to "trust the princes." When two young princes show up on winged horses, wielding weapons against the rakkhosh, she follows them far beyond her home in New Jersey to another dimension. It's a place where she's a famous princess with an infamous father: the dreaded serpent king. At court with the princes, a wise and weird bird gives a prophecy in riddled rhyme explaining how Kiranmala can find and save her Jersey parents. She will have to decode the riddle and track them down before they become food for another dreaded rakkhosh demon.

Is it any good?

Drawing inspiration from West Bengal, India, folktales and children's stories, this book has much to wow fantasy fans, but the rushed storytelling gets in the way of the wow factor. There's a cool moving map in The Serpent's Secret that accounts for the lands shifting and changing all the time. For the reader, it may feel like they're in the map itself and can never get on solid footing in this fascinating world. We flit from mountain tops to villages to star worlds to demon lands to black holes to regular palaces and underwater snake palaces, all with minimal description of these places.

Author Sayantani DasGupta is a pediatrician and a team member of the wonderful We Need Diverse Books campaign who spent her childhood listening to Indian folktales. Translating a more oral tradition to something very grounded in a novel, especially for a first-time writer, is a difficult task. She's got herself a fantastic female hero in Kiranmala -- that on its own merits a four-star review. Once readers get to know Kiranmala, they'll want to follow her anywhere. But let's hope, as this first-time author digs into the series, we see more of this amazing world gracing the pages of each adventure.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about the mythology in The Serpent's Secret. How is it different from other mythology or folk story traditions? What is the same?

  • There's a message about accepting all parts of yourself here. How does Kiranmala decide to do this? Are there ways you can do that for yourself?

  • Will you read the next book in the series? What do you think Kiranmala will face in Book 2?

Book details

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For kids who love fantasy and adventure

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