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Literature / Aru Shah and the End of Time

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She's not a liar. She just has a big imagination.
Aru Shah and the End of Time is a book by Roshani Chokshi published under the Rick Riordan Presents label, featuring Hindu Mythology.

The story goes a little like this: Aru Shah is known for lying at school. After Aru screws up one of her lies, a group of students come to her house to catch her fibbing. As a result Aru lights a magical lamp containing a demon, in an attempt to prove it's cursed. Having freed the demon and being the only one not frozen by it, Aru must now go on a magical journey to save all of time. Joining her are her soul-sister Mini and their Deadpan Snarker pigeon mentor Boo. There's just one small problem: none of them actually know what they're doing.

The second book of the series, Aru Shah and the Song of Death, was released in April 2019. Book 3, Aru Shah and the Tree of Wishes, was released in April 2020. The fourth book, Aru Shah and the City of Gold, was released in April 2021, and Aru Shah and the Nectar of Immortality was released in April 2022, concluding the series. The short story "Beware the Grove of Love", set between books 2 and 3, was included in The Cursed Carnival and Other Calamities: New Stories About Mythic Heroes.


These books provides examples of:

  • A Good Name for a Rock Band: Aru thinks Rogue Souls is one.
  • Alliterative Name: Aiden Acharya, Aru's crush, has this.
  • All of the Other Reindeer: Aru is this among her classmates for her heritage and for not being rich.
  • Amazon Brigade: It's implied that all five of the Pandava brothers' reincarnations are girls this time around.
  • An Aesop: A classic one which is repeated over and over, Thou Shalt Not Lie. Had Aru only told the truth none of this would have happened and she knows it too.
  • Arc Words: "Aru, Aru, Aru, what have you done?"
  • Audience Surrogate: Aru is going through the revelation of realities of Indian mythology as the readers are.
  • Author Appeal: The book takes place in Atlanta, Georgia where author Roshani Chokshi grew up and still currently lives. In addition, the first chapter has a scene showing Aru trying to get her mom's attention by suggesting they get a Great Pyrenees. Chokshi also has a Great Pyrenees of her own. And as of the second book, she transforms a nightmare hound into one and gets to keep it as a pet.
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  • Bazaar of the Bizarre: The Night Bazaar, a sort of fantasy Costco where every Otherworld ever dreamed intertwines, the Six Seasons hold court, stores are alive, and anything can be bought or found.
  • Big Bad: The Sleeper himself.
  • Big Ego, Hidden Depths: Brynne. She's introduced bragging about her combat skills and obvious superiority to the other Pandavas, often shows off her many trophies, and looks down on Aru and Mini for not being as well-trained. All of this masks her insecurity about being judged because of her asura heritage (not even being allowed to go on the last quest due to bigotry) and her need to prove herself to her distant mother.
  • Book Dumb: Aru is not well learned in varying phobias and medical terms as Mini is. In addition she does not have a very large vocabulary, often being unsure of the meaning of certain words.
  • Character Name and the Noun Phrase: All five books begin with "Aru Shah and the", and end with a three-word item.
  • Chef of Iron: Brynne has Super Strength, shape-shifting powers, and a lot of training in martial arts. She also loves to cook and even stops in the middle of the aquatic airport to correct a raksha vendor on proper technique.
  • Chekhov's Gun: The sleeper's birdcage in the library.
  • Consummate Liar: Aru's classmates believe her lies about her home and travels at first, but soon they start to catch up with her, overlapping with Bad Liar. This results in three of her classmates showing up on her doorstep and kick starting the plot.
  • Contrasting Sequel Antagonist: Surpanakha is revealed to be the villain of Aru Shah and the Song of Death about half-way through the book, and the Sleeper is only ever mentioned, not shown, throughout the whole of it. Then the Sleeper returns in the third book as a Contrasting Sequel Antagonist to Meenakshi.
  • The Chosen Many: The pandavas.
  • Covers Always Lie: Chapter sixteen describes Aru as having chin length hair, but the cover shows her having a long, thick braid down her back.
  • Crazy-Prepared: Mini brings a massive backpack in preparations for going to the Night Bazaar and the Otherworld. She even wonders whether or not to bring an EpiPen and whether they would be encountering bees or not, overlapping with Establishing Character Moment.
  • Deadpan Snarker: Many, but Boo and Aru take the cake, often engaging in Snark-to-Snark Combat.
  • Disappeared Dad: Aru's father is out of the picture but she's not too bothered by it at first.
  • Distracted by the Sexy: Happens to Aru and Mini on two separate occasions with different boys.
  • Don't Touch It, You Idiot!: What Aru has been told many times about The Sleeper's lamp. See Schmuck Bait below.
  • Fantastic Racism: Against the asuras, because some of them still hold grudges against the gods for cheating them out of immortality. Poor Brynne gets the brunt of it, having a Friendless Background except for Aiden and being kept away from Pandava training, only getting to go on the quest in Song of Death because she's a suspect.
  • Fashion Designer: Four of the six seasons that Aru and Mini meet act as this for the world and varying Night Bazaar customers though they call themselves ateliers.
  • Fire-Forged Friends: Aru and Mini officially call themselves friends at the end of their first adventure. Being spiritual sisters this also overlaps with True Companions.
  • Flanderization: Deconstructed. Surpanakha wants the nectar of immortality, because she's tired of having her whole life story reduced to her attacking Sita, which was a Moment of Weakness brought on by Laxmana cruelly mocking her and which she regretted and later apologized to Sita for. She wants to use the nectar to make her full story known and immortal.
  • Foreshadowing: Done lots in this series. Rudy was introduced in the first book as the naga boy who smiled at Mini, causing her to walk into a telephone pole, and in the beginning of Aru Shah and the Tree of Wishes, Lanka is mentioned as the "City of Gold".
  • Four-Temperament Ensemble: The Song of Death crew fits this well. Mini is Phlegmatic; she's reserved and idealistic, shy and easily embarrassed. Aiden is Melancholic; he's quiet and elegant, insecure and moody. Brynne is Choleric; she's passionate and honest, hot-tempered and harsh. And Aru is Sanguine; she's charming and friendly, impulsive and a people-pleaser.
  • Friendless Background: Aru and Mini both. Brynne in the second book as well, suggesting this is a Pandava trait.
  • Gender Flip: In-Universe example, for the first time in millennia, the Pandava are girls. Aiden is also an example, being the reincarnation of the Pandavas' wife Queen Draupadi.
  • Glamorous Single Mother: Played with. Aru's mother, Krithika, works hard to keep the museum running and often dresses in shabby blazers, but Aru describes her as beautiful, elegant, and graceful.
  • Good Is Not Soft: Aru condemns Shukra, the guardian of the bridge, to wasting away under the snow of forgetting after she learns that he killed his wife out of jealousy.
  • Graying Morality: In the second book, Aru starts learning about some of the less noble things Arjuna did (forcing Ekalayva to cut off his thumb out of jealousy, scorning Uloopi after she saved his life and refusing to return her heart jewel, burning down a forest with people still inside), and that many of the traditional villains are more than what their stories suggest. While the first book's climax was simple triumph, the next is a bitter Shoot the Dog moment with the Pandavas acknowledging Meenakshi as a Tragic Villain, and promising to tell her full story.
  • Guile Hero: Aru acts as this during her and Mini's quest and it gets them out of a few scrapes.
  • Half-Human Hybrid: Aru was born to a human mother and a demon father.
  • Honey Trap: Krithika was instructed by her father to beguile the Sleeper to learn what would bind him permanently, and fulfill her destiny as a panchakanya by getting pregnant with Aru. However, by the time she did get pregnant, Krithika became disowned after she more or less fell In Love with the Mark.
  • I Am Not Pretty: It's subtle, because she keeps this to herself, but there are a few moments where Aru thinks to herself during her claiming that she wouldn't mind being the reincarnation of Nakula the Beautiful. Later she frets over her Big Ol' Eyebrows and tries to smile while "sucking her nose in."
  • Informed Ability: Early chapters describe Aru being good at chess and choir, but she doesn't utilize either skill in the first book, except for a brief moment where she thinks of the fight against the Sleeper as if it were a chess game and figures out the godly mounts would be taken next. Book two has Brynne describe her culinary talents but isn’t given the chance to cook anything for Aru or Mini to taste yet.
  • Innocently Insensitive: Aru calls Brynne a "beast" at one point as a compliment, but Brynne flinches from it cause she thinks Aru is making fun of her for being part asura.
  • Insistent Terminology:
    • "It's heroine, not hero."
    • Aiden keeps reminding people that he's not a Pandava, he's just with them on the quest. At least until Kamadeva reveals that he is a marriage, being the reincarnation of Queen Draupadi. Then he switches to Pandava adjacent
  • It's Personal: What with Aru being the daughter of the Sleeper, who was imprisoned in the Diya of Bharata by her mother for TWELVE WHOLE YEARS.
  • Kid Hero: Aru and Mini are Kid Heroines being twelve. Urvashi notes that this is the first time Pandava are children, as they're usually woken and trained when they're adults.
  • Known Only by Their Nickname: Aru is short for Arundhati and Mini is short for Yamini.
  • Luke, I Am Your Father: The Sleeper is revealed to be Aru's biological father, to her horror.
  • Makara: Makara is a guardian of the Otherworld that Aru encounters while on her way to the Court of the Sky. It is a crocodile-like creature that is only properly visible due to the many bioluminscent moths flying around and perched on it. After Makara confirms that the visitors are human, it opens the gate to the Court of the Sky.
  • Mentor Mascot: Boo, natch. He's a talking pigeon whose job is to guide the Pandavas.
  • Morph Weapon: Once awakened, Vajra can take the form of many different objects, including but not limited to: a lightning bolt, a hoverboard, a net, a disc, a spear, a rope, a bracelet, and a Ping-Pong or tennis ball.
  • Mr. Exposition: Part of Boo's function in the first book is to serve as this for Aru and Mini.
  • Ms Imagination: Aru is often lost in daydreams and it's her skill for imagination that not only comes with her lies but also helps her think outside the box with the challenges she and Mini encounter.
  • Nervous Wreck: Mini is very easily distressed, to say the least.
  • Nice Job Breaking It, Hero: Aru accidentally frees The Sleeper by lighting a seemingly harmless diya.
  • No Good Deed Goes Unpunished: Mini tearfully admits that she told on a classmate that was about to cut the hair of another classmate (a recovering cancer patient) but this earned her the reputation of being a tattler.
  • No Man of Woman Born: See Insistent Terminology above. Aru eventually figures out that the distinction between hero and heroine is important: while fate has repeated the Pandavas many times, they have never before been children, much less girls, proving that fate is more mutable than thought. Therefore when the Sleeper tells Aru that she was never destined to be a hero, she just replies that he's right, she's a heroine.
  • No Name Given: The Sleeper isn't shown using or using a given name.
  • Only Sane Man: Boo fancies himself as this. All the characters take turns with the Sanity Ball, though.
  • Overly-Long Name. Mini's full name is Yamini Kapoor-Mercado-Lopez.
  • Pajama-Clad Hero: Aru is dressed in Spider-Man pajamas for much of the book.
  • Red Oni,Blue Oni: Many of the characters, when placed in duos, serve as this to the others. For example, take-charge Aru is the Red Oni to nervous, careful Mini's Blue Oni, but to Brynne's aggressive Red Oni, Aru is the more strategic Blue Oni.
  • Reincarnated as the Opposite Sex: A major plot point is that the Pandava brothers have been reincarnated in the modern day as girls. Aru's love interest Aiden also turns out to be the reincarnation of Draupadi, the Pandavas' collective wife.
  • Rhymes on a Dime: Aru and Mini meet Vamiki who does this. The only way they get to talk to him is by attempting to do the same.
  • Rich Kids: So far, all of Aru's classmates are this.
  • Sapient House: The Pandava's original house. It misses them dearly and nearly tries to keep them forever when Mini and Aru stumble across it again, but eventually realizes that it must let them go.
  • Sarcasm-Blind: Mini can be this at times.
  • Schmuck Bait: The Sleeper's lamp.
  • Scholarship Student: Aru is implied to be this as she's enrolled at a private Junior High, but she and her mother aren't rich.
  • Screw Destiny: The Sleeper, in the past, wanted nothing more than to escape his destiny as a monster and be a good father to Aru. Whether he still holds this view in the present or is just saying so to manipulate Aru into joining him is unclear. Krithika is a straight example, having searched the world for 12 years for a loophole that will let her save both Aru and her lover rather than choose between them as fate dictates.
  • Sealed Evil in a Can: The sleeper spent eleven years trapped in a diya.
  • Shout-Out: Many. To name a few...
    • When following the path in the Land of the Dead, Aru and Mini come across two signs. To which Aru responds by quoting The Matrix.
    • Mini comes up with an idea to escape the whale creature by hitting its uvula. Upon discovering that the whale has no uvula, Mini complains that Finding Nemo was a lie.
    • Mini, ever the Cute Bookworm, mentions that her favorite book is The Golden Compass.
    • Aru and Mini meet an aspect of Time, who mentions other aspects of Time and admits that they are wibbly-wobbly.
    • Song of Death has many to The Lord of the Rings, since it's Aru's favorite. Aiden and Aru reference the Doors of Durin riddle when met with a magic door, Aiden's camera is named Shadowfax, a couple chapter titles reference it, and Aru's 13th birthday party is Lord of The Rings-themed.
    • The crab in Varuna's place has a singing brother that "sold out to Hollywood", resulting in the characters of Sebastian and Tamatoa.
      • In fact references to both of these films serve as the crab’s Berserk Button.
  • Sibling Yin-Yang: Aru and Mini are spiritual siblings but they still count as this.
  • Snark-to-Snark Combat: Boo and Aru, see Deadpan Snarker.
  • Socially Awkward Hero: Aru, not long after her quest, has an embarrassing altercation with Aiden Acharya that ensues in her running away at fifty miles an hour.
  • Sweet Tooth: Aru is mentioned hiding sweet treats inside a dragon statue in her moms museum. A later scene also show Aru, Mini, and Boo bonding by sharing a roll of Oreos.
  • Take That!: While traveling through the Reincarnation Manufacturing Services, Aru and Mini are mistaken by two beings there for escaped souls starting a rebellion. The two, Wish and Time, lament that this must be punishment for giving a demon's soul orange scaly skin and fake hair in hopes of keeping it out of elected office.
  • Terrified of Germs: Mini, thanks to her parents over-preparing her for medical school. At one point, Aru and Brynne have to wake her up and telling her monsters are after them isn't enough, but mentioning things like having to shake hands with someone who sneezed into it or the five-second rule is.
  • Time Skip: Averted with Aru Shah and the Song of Death, but played straight with the time skip to Aru Shah and the Tree of Wishes (roughly a little more than a year).
  • Twofer Token Minority: Mini is half Indian and half Filipino. Brynne is Indian and bisexual, possibly a threefer if you count her being part asura.
  • Uptown Girl: Gender reversed example. Aiden, a new classmate that Aru has been having some Ship Tease with, is rumored to come from a wealthy family. Song of Death reveals that his mother is an apsara celebrity.
  • Urban Fantasy: The gist of the story is that Aru discovers Indian mythology is real in modern day Atlanta, Georgia.
  • "Well Done, Son" Guy: Aru always makes an effort to clean the apartment and get groceries whenever her mother returns from her business trips. She doesn't always notice the effort but Aru still does it every time she comes back after traveling.
  • World of No Grandparents: Played straight and averted. Aru didn't grow up with any grandparents, but Mini briefly explains the differences between her maternal grandparents and paternal grandparents.
  • Worthy Opponent: Meenakshi holds this sentiment towards the Pandavas. She's glad that they were the ones to defeat her, because she trusts them to tell her story after she's gone.
  • You Can't Fight Fate: Aru's grandfather claims this in argument against Krithika's Screw Destiny mindset.