Aru Shah and the End of Time is fantastically complex


Aru Shah and the End of Time might be meant for middle-grade readers. Still, even adults can find a lot to love in Roshani Chokshi’s work here.

It’s not often that there’s a good reason for this reviewer to wade into middle-grade fiction. It’s really not made for me anymore. I’ve grown beyond those days and into, well, still reading young-adult fiction (but also adult fiction). Yet every so often, a middle-grade book comes across my desk that pulls me in. This week, it’s Roshani Chokshi’s Aru Shah and the End of Time from Disney-Hyperion.

I almost can’t believe I’m about to say this, because as I said, it’s been a while since I’ve read a lot of middle grade fiction. But Aru Shah is actually quite morally complex and deals with some painful subjects. Remember, our heroine is 12. She has a pretty standard quest: stop the Sleeper from, well, ending time. It’s right there in the title, really.

However, Chokshi doesn’t presume her intended audience can’t handle some actually dark stuff about things like memory, family relationships and whether or not what Aru is doing is actually completely good heroism. This isn’t to say that the book is melancholy. In fact, it’s really funny, because Chokshi also knows her pop culture references, and so does Aru as a result.

Balancing those tones and keeping the writing to a level that the intended audience can enjoy must not have been easy. But oh, does Aru Shah fly. It’s pretty difficult to stop reading — even the helpful glossary at the end is great. It is, perhaps, the best glossary ever, or at least the best glossary I’ve ever come across, because it’s also ludicrously funny.

There is, of course, a reason for that glossary, where Chokshi retells the basics of tales featuring Indra, Shiva, Ganesh, Urvashi and more. Frankly, the book left me wanting to read the Mahabharata, which probably counts as a win. (The Ramayana will just have to come later, since the former is more pertinent to getting a deeper appreciation of Aru Shah and the End of Time.)

Next: Review: Hurts to Love You, Alisha Rai

Plus with a tease for Aru Shah and the Song of Death next year, what’s not to like?