A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this book.
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.
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?
- Author: Sayantani DasGupta
- Illustrator: Vivienne To
- Genre: Fantasy
- Topics: Magic and Fantasy, Princesses and Fairies, Adventures, Brothers and Sisters, Fairy Tales, Friendship, Great Girl Role Models, Monsters, Ghosts, and Vampires
- Book type: Fiction
- Publisher: Scholastic Press
- Publication date: February 27, 2018
- Publisher's recommended age(s): 8 - 12
- Number of pages: 368
- Available on: Nook, Audiobook (unabridged), Hardback, Kindle
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