Title: The Serpent’s Secret (Kiranmala and the Kingdom Beyond #1)
Author: Sayantani DasGupta
Genre: Middle grade mythological fiction
Published: By Scholastic on February 27th, 2018
ISBN13: 9781338185706 (US Hardcover edition)
On the morning of her twelfth birthday, Kiranmala is just a regular sixth grader living in Parsippany, New Jersey… until her parents mysteriously vanish and a drooling rakkhosh demon slams through her kitchen, determined to eat her alive. Turns out there might be some truth to her parents’ fantastical stories-like how Kiranmala is a real Indian princess and how she comes from a secret place not of this world.
To complicate matters, two crush-worthy princes ring her doorbell, insisting they’ve come to rescue her. Suddenly, Kiran is swept into another dimension full of magic, winged horses, moving maps, and annoying, talking birds. There she must solve riddles and battle demons all while avoiding the Serpent King of the underworld and the Rakkhoshi Queen in order to find her parents and basically save New Jersey, her entire world, and everything beyond it…
Middle grade fantasies inspired by Bengali mythology sounds like the perfect book for me, so of course I had to pick it up! I also love supporting Asian authors, especially if they write in the SFF author. I expected it to have a Percy Jackson vibe while managing to be its own story.
Kiranmala was such a fun protagonist to follow. She’s smart, strong and a quick learner with an inquisitive mind. I also liked how the fact that she was raised by immigrants was highlighted and discussed. The two princes started off as one-dimensional but more of their personality was revealed throughout the story and I grew fond of them both. I very much enjoyed the addition of Tuntuni the bird to the team as well.
The plot had the perfect mix of adventure and respite, especially as the mythological aspect was tightly woven in. It also contained scientific titbits, which blended seamlessly with the fantastical nature of the story. As an adult with an interest in science, these were already familiar to me, but I think younger readers can take away much more from the narrative. The world-building was my favourite part as I learnt more about the regional Bengali folklore and myths. While the Hindu mythology that I was introduced to as a child has very similar elements, it was a different experience getting to know the variants of it with the traditional Bengali names. Overall, this was a wonderfully charming MG debut and I cannot wait to continue on with this series!
I would definitely recommend it to fans of Percy Jackson looking to get their fix of fun adventures with demon slaying and prophecies. The perfect food to go with this would be juicy rasgullas but they can be quite addicting, so have something salty in hand as well to balance out the sweetness. As for the music, the soundtrack og The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey would work very well as it captures the feeling of going on an adventure – both the excitement and the danger.
Have you read this book? Do you have any more middle grade recommendations for me? Do you think YA is so hyped that good books in MG are being overshadowed? Let me know in the comments section below.