DasGupta, Sayantani. Serpent’s Secret, The. Vivienne To, Illus. Fiction. Kiranmala and the Kingdom Beyond Series; bk. 1. Scholastic, 02/2018. 368pp. $17.99. 978-1-338-18570-6. OUTSTANDING. GRADES 4-9.
The first book in this new middle grade fantasy series, written by first-time children’s and Own Voices author Sayantani DasGupta, draws inspiration from traditional folktales and childhood tales from West Bengal, India to create the fantastical, grand world of Kiranmala and the Kingdom Beyond. On her twelfth birthday, Kiran comes home from school to find her parents missing and a mysterious note left behind; soon after, a rakkhosh, an Indian demon sent to terrorize her home and eat Kiran, arrives along with two handsome young Indian princes who sweep Kiran away to find her parents, discover her true destiny, and set things right again. This begins a page-turning adventure that will keep readers entertained until the last words. Filled with more than simple action, DasGupta creatively layers folktales and traditional stories with classic adventure, family drama, and romance, building a complex world with several storylines and subplots weaving into the overall story of the Serpent’s Secret. Although very original, some astute readers may begin to notice similarities to the worlds of Percy Jackson and Harry Potter, though DasGupta adds many unique cultural and world-building details that help to make Kiran’s story stand out. Lastly, an author’s note is included which briefly details the origins of many of the traditional stories referenced in the book, serving as a welcomed primer or a familiar reference depending on a reader’s familiarity with this mythology. Diana Learned, San Jose Public Library