Aru Shah proves to be the perfect influential protagonist for this modern retelling on Hindu mythology. Masterfully weaving Hindu mythology with adolescent adventure and intriguing facts, “Aru Shah and the End of Time” is a nearly perfect read that will entice the young heroine in every reader.
From the very beginning, “Aru Shah” sets out to be the most charming mythological retelling in print, and in many ways, it succeeds exponentially. Roshani Chokshi does an excellent job at not only building the modern world around Aru but also giving an easy-to-follow succinct history of traditional Indian religion and beliefs. Like her colleague Rick Riordan, Chokshi not only does mythological retellings well, but she is also a master at character progression and storytelling.
An addition to the widely critical “Percy Jackson and the Olympians” universe, “Aru Shah and the End of Time” is the first novel in Riordan’s imprint “Rick Riordan Presents.” Much like Riordan’s own “The Kane Chronicles” book series that focuses on Egyptian myths rather than Greek, Chokshi was given free range to create her own universe that focuses on Hindu mythology.
Still centered around demigods, albeit a different breed of demigods, “Aru Shah” follows a 12-year-old Aru, a notorious liar and seeker of all things imaginative and mystical. While living above a museum that specializes in ancient Indian artifacts, Aru sets the events of the novel in motion when she lights a curses lamp that frees an ancient evil and freezes time. With her pigeon guide and newfound sister, Aru must travel to the Land of Death in order to stop the Sleeper before time remains still forever.
The amount of buzz surrounding this book before its release was practically unreal. As Riordan said several times in interviews and in his books’ notes, fans of his Greek, Egyptian and Norse mythology series begged for him to branch out to the lesser known myths. So that he could provide readers with stories from those that have first-hand experience in these belief systems, Riordan created his imprint.
Immediately upon starting “Aru Shah” it becomes increasingly apparent that Chokshi is a seasoned author. Her writing leaves little to be desired as she almost perfectly sets up Aru’s daily life before jumping into the main plot and storyline in the second chapter. It can be argued that Chokshi is a far better writer than Riordan, and she does not attempt to hide her skills whatsoever.
Much like Riordan, Chokshi does not hold back when it comes to names of legends and artifacts that may be hard to pronounce, which ultimately make the story and Chokshi that much more legitimate. Luckily, she places a glossary in the back of the book that informs readers on how to pronounce names and gives short definitions of the many myths.
Far more interesting than Riordan, though, are Chokshi’s characters and arguably her world. Aru is in many ways much more relatable than Percy Jackson or Magnus Chase. She does not pretend that popularity is not important to her. Yes, she is an outcast like many of us, but she yearns for that sense of importance and that feeling of belonging somewhere.
This crucial character flaw causes Aru to become a chronic liar. She lies about what car her mother picks her up in. She lies about her lackluster vacation spots. She lies about her mother’s job and unexplainable absence. As one may predict, the novel truly breaches incredible ground when Aru is forced to face her trail of lies and confront her wrongdoings head-on rather continue to run.
Aru, in the vein of Riordan’s other creations, is also young and naïve, leading her to discover her true self over the course of her hero’s journey. Using this classic storytelling method, Chokshi stretches the bounds of Aru’s quest, forcing her to face the tough and deadly situations that normally males are only seen to handle in Riordan’s books. Literally traveling to the Land of the Dead, facing down gods and surviving the end of time, Aru proves several times over that she is far craftier and tougher than Percy ever was when he began his first quest as a demigod.
Another crucial aspect of the plot is that Aru is not ashamed of her Indian heritage. In fact, considering the novel is about Hindu mythology, her heritage is celebrated and elaborated further as both Aru and the reader discover more about Hindu beliefs and traditions. Aru is never separated as “different” or “unnatural” because of her race. Rather, Aru and her sister find solace in each other, growing from what they can learn from one another about the Otherworld and the many gods in Hinduism.
“Aru Shah and the End of Time” is only the first novel of the planned quartet “Pandava Series,” and fans are excited for the more-than-likely 2020 release of its sequel “Aru Shah and the Song of Death.”