[Waiting on Wednesday] The Serpent's Secret (Kiranmala and the Kingdom Beyond #1) by Sayantani DasGupta

Waiting on Wednesday is a weekly meme hosted at Breaking the Spine that spotlights eagerly anticipated upcoming releases.


(But she doesn’t know it yet.)

On the morning of her twelfth birthday, Kiranmala is just a regular sixth grader living in Parsippany, New Jersey… until her parents mysteriously vanish later that day and a 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 a wealth of secrets about her origin they've kept hidden.

To complicate matters, two crushworthy Indian princes ring her doorbell, insisting they’re here 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 slay demons all while avoiding the Serpent King of the underworld (who may or may not want to kill her) and the rakkhosh queen (who definitely does) in order to find her parents and basically save New Jersey, her entire world, and everything beyond it...

Now, this is the kind of story I'm not sure I'd trust if it didn't fit the #ownvoices description. That's not to say that it wouldn't be a valuable story if it came from an author of a different background... it's just that I, being someone who has very little experience with Indians, Indian Americans, and the many different experiences culturally unique to their lives, I would have a worrying doubt throughout the reading experience that if I were reading something offensive and problematic, I might genuinely not be able to recognize it. And that's a deeply uncomfortable space to be in; I don't want to accidentally endorse or perpetuate anything harmful!

But fear not, dear readers: Sayantani DasGupta is a woman we can trust. Being Indian American herself, DasGupta is not just a children's author, doctor, and teacher--she's also a team member of the much-lauded We Need Diverse Books organization. Obviously, diverse stories matter to her, and The Serpent's Secret seems to be a reflection of her own experience in the way that so many stories are in respects to their author.

So with my faith in the story's cultural authenticity verified, let me just say that I'm super curious about its plot! Much like the folklore and mythology explored in Tracey Baptiste's The Jumbies (my review of which you can read here), The Serpent's Secret delves into a facet of folklore entirely unfamiliar to me! Just like the Caribbean jumbies and "The Magic Orange Tree", the concept of the rakkhosh is something entirely new to me and that I'm dying to know more about. (And, yeah, I could start researching now... but I'd prefer to experience DasGupta's narrative first.) I have high hopes for the world and the plotline presented in The Serpent's Secret (though I definitely have some reservations about those two potential love interests mentioned in the Goodreads blurb), and can we just take a moment to swoon about that cover?

I'm definitely looking forward to getting my hands on this one!

What books are you looking forward to this week? Let me know in the comments below!

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