The Aru Shah Series by Roshani Chokshi, Each book can be read in a few hours depending on your speed, Middle Grade
“Even a monster isn’t the monster of their own story.”~Aru, Book 5, p. 81
This series came into my life at the exact right moment. It was my first year at my new job and I was still recovering from 6 years of grad school and 6 years at a really toxic job. I was in a massive reading slump that lasted at least 12-15 years. I read for fun, but barely.
I don’t remember how the conversation started, but I was chatting with a colleague one afternoon and we somehow got onto the topic of books and the books I wish I’d had as a kid. He mentioned the new book his daughters were reading, Aru Shah and the End of Time, the first in a series and the first in Rick Riordan’s new imprint.
I’m pretty sure I went to the bookstore that weekend to buy it. I’m also pretty sure I teared up when I started reading it. Because here was a book about a nerdy Shah girl from the ATL. It was me. In a book.
The Aru Shah series is a continuation of the life of the Pandavan Brothers, the main characters in the Hindu epic The Mahabharata. Here, the Pandavan Brothers are reincarnated as the Pandavan Sisters. The sisters’ powers are awakened when Aru accidentally releases The Sleeper—the big bad for the whole series.
While the series centers on Aru, all of the sisters and other key characters get their own characterizations, and you really feel like they are all people in their own right, rather than plot tools or sidekicks to Aru. There are two sisters that I wish were utilized more, but with so many characters to juggle, I don’t blame Chokshi for not. And at least the explanation for why they aren’t more involved actually makes sense.
The entire series is fantastic. Lots of fun twists and turns as the sisters grow into their powers, find their confidence, and enter their teen years. We also get some great plot points around Aru coming to terms with being as—and eventually leaning into being—the group leader. There are also lots of fun awkward pre-teen/teen moments that bring a sense of reality into this fantastical world.
The world building itself is great. Chokshi brings in lots of different figures from Hindu folklore and it’s fun to see how it all comes together. I don’t know much about Hindu folklore, so this was a fun way be introduced to a lot of it. The series is also a nerd’s paradise. There are so many fantastic references like Lord of the Rings, Marvel (especially the MCU), Disney, and others I’m sure I didn’t catch. The ones I did catch, however, added an extra element of fun.
This series will always have a special place in my heart. It ended a reading slump. It helped me find a whole slew of amazing middle grade and young adult books by and about people like me and to the other books by diverse authors that came out in the period when I gave up on reading. It also, in a roundabout way, led me to joining the book reviewer/recommender world (for good for or for ill).
And for all the reasons above, this is a series I will be returning to again and again. And it’s why I also really hope the movie deal comes to fruition and we get a fantastic adaptation because I’d love to see these characters come to life.