Tuesday, April 16, 2019

Aru Shah and the Song of Death

Chokshi, Roshani. Aru Shah and the Song of Death (Pandava Quartet, #2)
April 16th 2019 by Rick Riordan Presents
E ARC from Edelweiss Plus

We meet up again with Aru and Mini after The End of Time and plunge right into the action. The Night Market is filled with zombies, and Aru sees another Pandava fighting... her. Clearly, it's a shape shifter in Aru's form, but that doesn't keep Brynne from being very angry at Aru when it turns out the bow and arrow of Kamadeva has been stolen. Not only that, but Aru, Brynn and Mini, as well as the pigeon-tutor Boo are blamed! Uloopi, the naga queen, sentences the group to retrieve the bow and arrow or to be exiled from the Otherworld! Brynne is hostile and doesn't seem like a great travel companion, but it's even worse when Aiden shows up to help in Boo's place, and Aru can't get over the time she sounded like an idiot in front of him. With only eight days to retrieve the stolen goods, however, there is no time to waste, and soon the group is headed on a magical quest to the naga realm on enchanted gazelles! Aru needs to find the thief's name, speak it, and will then be able to locate the stolen items. This quest takes the group through many portals, and they must talk to many different characters to obtain the information and artifacts they need. Mini is kidnapped and taken to the land of sleep, so on top of everything else, Aru must rescue her. At one point, they are in Little India in New Jersey, and are soon off to enter the Ocean of Milk to try to get an item that the thief is also seeking. This leads to an epic battle between the thief. Since Aru Shah and the Tree of Wishes is due out in spring of 2020, I don't think it's much of a spoiler to say that Aru's side manages to win.
Strengths: Of all of the Rick Riordan Presents books, this channel's Riordan's own work the best. Immediate action, great humor, and a formulaic quest will keep middle grade readers desperate for the next installment. There are mythological creatures sprinkled through the whole book, and a very helpful glossary of terms and people at the back. The characters are all very different and engaging, and of course Brynne becomes less hostile. Her love of food is a fun touch, as is a secret about Aiden's past lives. There is also plenty of backstory scattered throughout-- Aru's mother and her unwillingness to discuss her father and Mini's parents' pressure on her to become a doctor as well as a first rate Pandava-- but it never bogs down the plot, which is a sign of great writing.
Weaknesses: There are a LOT of characters, and it's always a struggle for me to keep all of these, as well as all of the locations on the quest, straight in my mind. I'm also never sure where the line is drawn between Indian legend/ mythology and Indian religion, and wouldn't mind a note to that effect in a future volume. I imagine many of my students also would benefit from an explanation.
What I really think: Definitely purchasing, and looking forward to meeting the other two Pandavas in the upcoming volumes.

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