Twelve-year-old Aru Shah has a tendency to stretch the truth in order to fit in at school. While her classmates are jetting off to family vacations in exotic locales, she’ll be spending her autumn break at home, in the Museum of Ancient Indian Art and Culture, waiting for her mom to return from her latest archeological trip. Is it any wonder that Aru makes up stories about being royalty, traveling to Paris, and having a chauffeur?
One day, three schoolmates show up at Aru’s doorstep to catch her in a lie. They don’t believe her claim that the museum’s Lamp of Bharata is cursed, and they dare Aru to prove it. Just a quick light, Aru thinks. Then she can get herself out of this mess and never ever fib again.
But lighting the lamp has dire consequences. She unwittingly frees the Sleeper, an ancient demon whose duty it is to awaken the God of Destruction. Her classmates and beloved mother are frozen in time, and it’s up to Aru to save them.
The only way to stop the demon is to find the reincarnations of the five legendary Pandava brothers, protagonists of the Hindu epic poem, the Mahabharata, and journey through the Kingdom of Death. But how is one girl in Spider-Man pajamas supposed to do all that?
I waited quite a while to read this book, and I was super excited to read it! Even though my experience with this novel was mostly positive, I did have some issues with some of the things in it.
Let me start off by saying that I loved the inclusion of mythology in this novel. It was all so unique, and unlike the other gods and goddesses I read about in other novels, these gods and goddesses just seemed to be so COLORFUL. They all had their own vibrant personalities along with unique stories. I still want to learn more about them, even though I have finished the book.
I had a bit of a love/hate relationship with Aru. I didn’t like the fact that she was just lying to all of her classmates and people she knew to try to make them “like” her. I could understand her motives, but I’ve known too many kids in real life that do this all the time to just let her off the hook. It’s a really crappy thing to do most of the time, especially when kids try to create a “sob story” to make people feel bad for them. I know that it was supposed to make her realistic, but in that case, she is a little “too realistic” for me. Eventually, once I got over this character flaw I was able to like Aru, but this did trip me up a bit at the beginning. She also does kinda receive a punishment for her actions by being “forced” to light the lamp, so that definitely helped me to get over this flaw.
I also didn’t like Mina that much. She seemed to be the typical “nerdy” sidekick, allergic to everything and having asthma. and don’t forget the bad skin and braces. As a person with allergies and former braces, and who knows people with asthma and allergies, this is just starting to be a tiring representation. Not everyone with allergies and asthma is a scrawny person who can’t go outside or do anything. Half of the time, we take tons of allergy medicines just so we DON’T have to slow down and succumb to sicknesses. Even though I liked Mina by the end of the book, once her good qualities had been revealed, I found myself rolling my eyes once I read her original description.
Despite the fact that I couldn’t really get into the main characters, I DID enjoy the story. I want to know who the other Pandavas are, and hope that they will be revealed later in the series. Aru’s backstory was definitely interesting to read, and I want to learn more about her family in the future novels. That’s what I really felt at the end of this novel. I felt as if it was a prequel to the next few novels in the series.
I’m not sure if I would recommend this book or not. While it was interesting, I did struggle a few times as the plot seemed to drag about halfway through. Add this to my issues with the main characters, and this was a pretty average reading experience. I would definitely recommend it to middle-grade readers, but I am not sure if I would recommend it to people who are typically interested in YA and Adult books.
Overall Rating: 2.5 out of 5 stars