The most auspicious day of this week, April 7th, has come and gone, and Aru Shah and the Tree of Wishes is finally out in the world! As a big fan of all of Roshani’s works and this series in particular, I wanted to celebrate this occasion with a post that talks about my passion for it. Let’s venture on to 5 reasons why I think this series, named the Pandava series, should be on your TBR.
Reason #1: Inspired by the Mahabharata
For those of you unfamiliar with the Mahabharata, it is a Sanskrit epic told in verse about the series of events that led to the war of Kurukshetra. It is considered a sacred text by Hindus around the world. It is a vast saga that encompasses generations and a tale which has been told and retold in myriad ways from centuries.
I feel like Roshani’s spin on this is quite unique while retaining the spirit of the story. Instead of following the five Pandava brothers, our main characters are five twelve-year-old girls who come from different backgrounds and families. Yet, it is clear that they retain traits from the original heroes while struggling to overcome and compensate for the mistakes of their past selves.
The first book introduces Aru (Arjuna) and Mini (Yudhishtira), in the second we meet Brynne (Bhima) and in Aru Shah and the Tree of Wishes, we get to see the twins (Nakula and Sahadeva) in action. This is quite a bold step from the author and, for someone who is familiar with the original, it gives an added incentive to continue on with the series. I also love all the different side characters inspired by different Hindu myths, my favourite being the characters on The Council of Guardians.
Reason #2: Complex themes
A common misconception about the middle grade genre is that it does not contain complex themes that will make them appeal to older readers. However, from my experience of reading and loving middle grade books, especially those written by marginalized authors, I find that notion absurd. Even as a 20s-something book lover, I continue to enjoy middle grade books that tackle real-world issues with nuance.
The Aru Shah books do just that in a way that I find awe-inspiring. Not only are complex concepts that are spiritual in nature like karma and rebirth addressed in the first book, they are accessible to the young, old and uninitiated at the same time. I also think that Roshani is the right person to write about them as they draw heavily on the Hindu belief system.
The main characters have internal conflicts of their own and it’s heartwarming to see them unlearn their destructive thought patterns. For example, Aru is presented as a girl who makes up exotic stories to fit in with her middle school peers. However, she undergoes significant character growth and learns to embrace the parts of her she wants to hide from the world.
Reason #3: Humour
These are difficult times and I believe that the best remedy for stress right now is to curl up with a book that makes you laugh and fills you up with hope. All the books in this series have the same light-hearted tone running through them. I love Uncle Rick’s humour and Roshani does just as good a job in her books.
The books mainly use pop-culture references to make the reader laugh out loud. Aru is a delight to follow because her wit diffuses the even most tense situations. As a huge The Lord of the Rings nerd, I particularly enjoy all the references from the books and movies thrown in.
The character who makes me laugh the most is Boo the pigeon. He is irritable and grumpy, so the combination of him and a group of middle-school girls makes for some great humour. Also, middle grade books have a sense of innocence about them that refreshes my soul, so they make for excellent reads during times of adversity.
Reason #4: Relatable characters
This series is filled with characters that readers of all age groups can relate to. I think Aru is quite a compelling heroine to follow. The other main characters and plenty of side characters are so well-developed that their personalities shine through in the narrative.
My favourite main character is Mini because she is the brains of the group. She struggles with anxiety and self-doubt, which hold her back from achieving her true potential. It is a delight to watch her grow out of her shell and handle the responsibilities placed on her with determination.
I also like how these characters are used to shed light on the fact that even the heroes in the main epic were fallible. Even though the girls show different kinds of strengths, they don’t come off as perfect because of the weaknesses of their own personality as well as the burden of the past. I wish I could have read these books as a young girl to see parts of myself reflected in fictional works.
Reason #5: Fun adventures
I love books that sweep me up in a grand adventure and this is another reason I highly recommend this series. This is slightly apart from the others because of the impressive world-building. Roshani spins her rich heritage into the beautiful Otherworld, featuring places like the magical Night Bazaar.
Famous characters and supernatural beings from Hindu mythology put in a regular appearance along the journey. I was particularly delighted to read about yakshas, Sage Durvasa and Hanuman, to name a few. The author’s lilting prose brings them all to life with charming descriptions.
The plot in each book is self-contained even though they move the overarching plotline forward as well. There is a sense of danger and urgency that compels the reader to keep turning the pages and devour the story within. Overall, the combination of good writing, excellent world-building and thrilling plot create a memorable reading experience.
About the Book
Spoiler alert for Book 1 and 2 of the Aru Shah series
War between the devas and the demons is imminent, and the Otherworld is on high alert. When intelligence from the human world reveals that the Sleeper is holding a powerful clairvoyant and her sister captive, 14-year-old Aru and her friends launch a search-and-rescue mission. The captives, a pair of twins, turn out to be the newest Pandava sisters, though, according to a prophecy, one sister is not true.
During the celebration of Holi, the heavenly attendants stage a massage PR rebranding campaign to convince everyone that the Pandavas are to be trusted. As much as Aru relishes the attention, she fears that she is destined to bring destruction to her sisters, as the Sleeper has predicted. Aru believes that the only way to prove her reputation is to find the Kalpavriksha, the wish-granting tree that came out of the Ocean of Milk when it was churned. If she can reach it before the Sleeper, perhaps she can turn everything around with one wish.
Careful what you wish for, Aru . . .
Did I convince you to add the Aru Shah books to your TBR? Are you hyped for the third book that came out on April 7th? Let me know in the comments section down below. Have a stellar weekend, readers from Earth!