Kiran’s parents are just a bit odd, and she has never really fit in. Even so, she thought she was just a regular sixth grader living in New Jersey. Then, on her twelfth birthday, her parents disappear and a rakkhosh demon crashes through her house to try to eat her.
When two princes show up, trying to rescue her, she realizes that her parents’ stories are really true—she really is a princess that comes from another world. With the help of the two princes, Kiran is taken to another dominion, one with magic, winged horses, moving maps, and annoying talking birds. Before she can save her parents, she must fight demons, unlock riddles, and avoid the Serpent King of the Underworld.
The Serpent’s Secret is an interesting and action-packed retelling of Indian mythology. Filled with riddles, jokes, and a talking bird, the story will entertain middle school readers. Black and white illustrations will help readers visualize the characters. As Kiran learns about her cultural background, she also learns to accept herself. Although there is violence, the scenes are appropriate for younger readers because they are not described in detail and much of the action is running away from demons instead of battling them.
Kiran and the two princes talk like stereotypical teenagers. The main character’s dialogue is filled with slang and idioms such as when Kiran looks at the prince and thinks, “While I got my fill of Lal-flavored eye candy.” There is a lot of creative name-calling throughout the story, which does not involve cursing.
A dynamic story with a strong heroine, The Serpent’s Secret will delight those who like a good adventure story. For readers interested in adventure stories or India’s mythology, Aru Shah and the End of Time is a must-read.
- The king has multiple wives.
- A rakkhosh, or demon, swallows Kiran’s parents and then tries to swallow her. When Lal tries to help, the rakkhosh knocks him out. “I shrieked as the monster’s fist managed to connect with Lal’s head. The prince slumped forward, unconscious, and then began to slip off the rakkhosh’s neck.” The fighting takes place over several chapters.
- A teenager spits at Lal. “The goober hung on a lone blade of grass, shimmering like a disgusting jewel.”
- The Demon Queen attacks Kiran. “. . . The rakkhoshi ripped a handful of her own hair from her head and threw it at me . . . As soon as the magical hair hit me, I couldn’t move at all.” Neel saves Kiran, but not before the Demon Queen turns Neel’s brother and friend into spheres. The battle lasts over several pages.
- When Kiran and Neel try to steal a stone that is being protected by a python, the “snake grabbed a hold of Neel, wrapped itself around him, and began to squeeze. . . Neel’s face got redder as the snake squeezed.” The battle scene takes place over a chapter. In the end, the python is defeated. “The python’s giant body lay still, oozing dark blood on the cavern floor. Trying to reach the jewel, it had instead split itself in two on Neel’s sword.”
- A baby rakkhosh wants to eat Kiran, her parents, and Neel. “That snot-nosed newborn demon transformed himself into a whirlpool.” When the rakkhosh “eats” them, they end up in a cave with a seven-headed snake, who “wrapped Ma, Baba, and even poor terrified Tuntuni in his coils. As a last flourish, he slapped his nasty tail over all their mouths.”
- The serpent king imprisoned Neel in a flaming sphere. “The prince screamed in pain—a sound that made my blood run cold. He writhed around within the glowing orb, his body twisting in unnatural contortions, as if he were being tortured.”
- Kiran and the Serpent King battle. “He shot bolt after bolt of green fire, but I met them all with the shimmering, diamond light of my own.” Kiran’s moon mother shows up, and “as he launched the cracking lightning from his hands, the moon shot a white-hot beam at the Serpent King. He glowed an incandescent green, but then began to writhe and decay, his energy going from green to brown to gray to black.” The Serpent King disappears and everyone is safe.
Drugs and Alcohol
- A rakkhosh sings a song, “Hob, gum, goom, geer! Pass the blood! Pass the beer!”
- A “band of drunken demons” chase Kiran and Neel.
- Kiran sees a warning sign that reads, “After whisky, fighting demons risky.”
- A bangle seller says her bracelets are for “generously proportioned and the skinny-butt offspring of slimy snake creatures alike.”
- The Demon Queen calls Kiran a “snake in the grass” and “cobra dropping.
- When Kiran is fighting a python, she thinks, “Holy serpent poop.”
- Kiran thinks that Neel’s “Granny still had some chutzpah left in her.”
- Kiran calls Neel a “Royal Pain-in-the- Heinie.”
- Crap is used twice and heck is used once.
- The story focuses on Indian mythology, including mythological monsters and demons.
- Kiran’s parents are “swallowed by a rakkhosh and whisked away to another galactic dimension.”
- Kiran’s father was a serpent king and her mother was a moon maiden. Her adoptive parents found her “in a clay pot floating down the River of Dreams.”
- Kiran’s biological mother exiled her to New Jersey and put a protection spell over her and her adoptive parents. “Anyway, an expired spell also makes everything around it unstable—in this situation, the boundaries between the various dimensions . . . which is how the rakkhosh came into your world.”
- Kiran’s tears have healing properties. “I remembered how Tuni had seemed dead, but how he’d come to life in my arms.”
- Kiran can understand horses. “And then, as clearly as if the horse were speaking to me, I heard his voice in my mind.”
- Kiran explains that her “Baba always tells me we’re all connected by energy—trees, wind, animals, people, everything. . . He says that life energy is a kind of river flowing through the universe.” Neel continues the thought and says, “When our bodies give out, that’s just the pitcher breaking, pouring what’s inside back into the original stream of universal souls . . . so no one’s soul is ever really gone.”