Kiki Kallira has an anxiety problem. Even out with her friends, she worries over whether she locked the front door of her home, and imagines a stream of catastrophes from a burglar to a goose breaking in and attacking her mother. Knowing her fears are irrational doesn’t help Kiki, although she gets some solace when she draws, losing herself in her sketches. When through a series of unexpected circumstances, her drawings of the world of Mysore, featuring the demon god Mahishasura and his demon Asura from Indian folklore, complete with the kid rebels of her own invention, The Crows, spring to life, Kiki has to face problems many times greater than any she imagined. The Crows are locked into an endless battle with the Asura that they cannot win, while Mahishasura plots to break into Kiki’s world to enslave it. Kiki has to enter her sketchbook and the world she drew to help The Crows defeat the demons – but if she succeeds in destroying Mahishasura, the world and her new friends she makes there will cease to exist. If she loses, Mahishasura will break into Kiki’s world through her bedroom, no doubt killing the first person he meets (Kiki’s Mum) before enslaving the human race.
This is a brilliant story, hugely imaginative, with high stakes and fantastic characters. I love the premise of this story. Kiki is a talented artist and has embellished her sketches with wonderful touches, but being only twelve years old, she added lots of inventive details – which turn out to mean surviving Mysore is even more difficult (for example, trying to escape a palace full of hidden traps…) If she had known she would end up inside her world, Kiki would have drawn it completely differently, of course (so maybe keep that in mind next time you sketch).
The story is told through first person narration. Kiki has a humorous style which lightens the darkness of the story appropriately for middle grade readers. Kiki is a good character who can’t bear the thought of ending the world and therefore the lives of her new friends yet has to stop the demon king. Having an anxiety disorder was a nice touch, and I really empathised with Kiki throughout the story. I loved The Crows, from Ashwini, their fearless leader to surly Lej, inventive Jojo and the twins, to Pip, Kiki’s imaginary friend.
This story is full of heart, and difficult choices, and doing the right thing in challenging circumstances. I felt so much for those kids who only knew about fighting monsters their whole lives and never experienced a moment when life was otherwise. The book also gives a fascinating glimpse into Indian folklore that left me wanting to read more. I have a question or two about an element of the plot but it’s not enough to stop TOTP and myself awarding ten out of ten diamonds.
Below is the US cover for the book. Which do you prefer? Let me know in the comments!