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Kiki Kallira #1

Kiki Kallira Breaks a Kingdom

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Kiki Kallira has always been a worrier. Did she lock the front door? Is there a terrible reason her mom is late? Recently her anxiety has been getting out of control, but one thing that has always soothed her is drawing. Kiki's sketchbook is full of fanciful doodles of the rich Indian myths and legends her mother has told her over the years.

One day, her sketchbook's calming effect is broken when her mythological characters begin springing to life right out of its pages. Kiki ends up falling into the mystical world she drew, which includes a lot of wonderful discoveries like the band of rebel kids who protect the kingdom, as well as not-so-great ones like the ancient deity bent on total destruction. As the one responsible for creating the evil god, Kiki must overcome her fear and anxiety to save both worlds--the real and the imagined--from his wrath. But how can a girl armed with only a pencil defeat something so powerful?

352 pages, Hardcover

First published July 6, 2021

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About the author

Sangu Mandanna

14 books1,275 followers
Sangu Mandanna was four years old when an elephant chased her down a forest road and she decided to write her first story about it. Seventeen years and many, many manuscripts later, she signed her first book deal. Sangu now lives in Norwich, a city in the east of England, with her husband and kids.

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Displaying 1 - 30 of 120 reviews
Profile Image for Natasha Ngan.
Author 7 books3,283 followers
March 29, 2021
Had me laughing, gasping and my heart soaring with every page. Readers will be sucked into this fast-paced adventure just like its heroine Kiki gets drawn into her make-believe world, with energetic writing, a cast of loveable young rogues, and heart-warming themes of found family and discovering your own power. Do not miss it! 
Profile Image for aarya.
1,143 reviews
June 17, 2021
Content Notes:

I rarely read middle grade fantasy these days — not because I don’t love it, but because I’ve prioritized reading adult/ya novels as I get older (unfortunately MG gets left in the dust due to limited reading time). I’m so glad Sangu Mandanna’s release inspired me to try one again because it is delightful. If you’re looking to buy books for a child who loves Rick Riordan or Aru Shah, this is the perfect gift. Found family feels, intricate (but very easily understandable) mythology, and never-ending action.

Re: the anxiety plot. Oof. I held off on reading my arc for a unique reason. While representation is necessary/important, there is such a thing as feeling TOO seen, you know? Kiki has anxiety, South Indian ancestry, and a fascination with Indian mythology. I’m not in middle school anymore, but when I was that age… yeah, the similarities are uncomfortable. Sometimes it’s hard to read books that strike TOO familiar a cord — vulnerability is hard to grapple with!

My personal issues aside, the mental health storyline is incredible. The reveal about how Kiki’s anxiety tied to her artistic magical world made me cry. I’m so glad kids have a diverse slate of books to read these days. Kidlit still has a LONG way to go, but the options are so much richer compared to fifteen years ago. Imagine having multiple South Asian middle grade SFF worlds to revel in! My fourth grade self would’ve been over the moon, and my mid-20s self is as well.

Disclaimer: I received a free e-ARC from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.
Profile Image for Stephanie.
Author 74 books933 followers
September 8, 2020
I wish every single anxious kid (and adult!) could read this beautiful MG fantasy novel about art and beauty,the power of fighting our own monsters - AND the power of talking about our fears and getting the help that we need, too. My kids and I all adored this book from the very first page, and - I know this is going to sound over-inflated, and I'm sorry for that, but it's absolutely 100% true - it very quickly became my very favorite MG portal fantasy since the Narnia books. This time, the portal is into Kiki Kallira's own sketchbook, where she's created an incredible fantasy world to escape from her own anxious brain - but when she's pulled into it, she finds not escape but friendship, courage, and the realization of her own power.

I loved every minute of it! When it finished, my son let out a sigh and said, "It's SAD that it's done." I felt exactly the same way! We both wanted to live in it forever.
January 13, 2022
Wow! I’m LOVING Indian mythology so far. From what I read in here, India has a lot of different traditions/cultures, & I’m so excited to learn more about them all. This was PHENOMENAL! It makes me so happy to think of all the kids who will feel seen, having someone in a book like them-their culture & with stories they’ve heard their parents/grandparents tell, now getting to see in a book for them. I’m so happy to see more & more books with different cultures coming out. I learn so much, but those kids are the ones benefiting & it’s about time.

It also made me feel seen on some mental health issues I have, & I loved that. Because if it did that for me, I can just imagine how much it will help so many kids with the same issues feel seen & not alone. I have something similar, but different I guess to Kiki. I have a few mental health things, but 1 is OCD. For me, there are many layers to that. For example a couple are: I have certain rituals I have to do, & my brain makes me think that if I don’t do them even once something bad will happen. I know it’s ridiculous, but it doesn’t matter. I HAVE to do it. Also, like Kiki if I can’t remember if I locked or unplugged something, etc-even though I am 99% sure I did(because this is me who triple checks)I will go crazy until I go back & check. So when I say I felt seen, & Kiki will always have a special place in my heart it’s an understatement. In my opinion the author nailed it. Including the anger & self hatred this part of yourself brings. You get so angry at yourself, & for me it’s exhausting too. It was all blended together with the mythological aspects of the story effortlessly & didn’t take away but actually added so much.

This has so much depth & beauty. The writing is phenomenal. When I say this was the perfect author to write about art & the art coming to life-I mean PERFECT. She drew the art with her words. I could perfectly visualize Kiki’s art & her Mysore come to life. So detailed & so vivid. Then you have the ragtag bunch of kids in this world, & they are each so INCREDIBLE! They each are so unique, & each have different talents that are essential to the group. Simha(I loved him! And the teacup..& the sugar?!😆)& Pip have my heart. What a kid. What a GROUP of kids. Wow. I loved the mythology too. Authors always say that they take parts from mythology & make a fictional story of their own around it. Well, the author did that, PLUS had her character do it as well with her art lol I loved that. I was fascinated & hooked by it all-the original mythology(& I was googling EVERYTHING & EVERYONE lol), & Kiki’s take on it all.

Great messages in here(along with the stuff I already mentioned). Along the same mental health part, great messages about getting the help, the RIGHT help, that you need. There’s nothing wrong with you, & if you talk to someone & get the help needed, life can greatly improve from where it stands being silent. Then you have the importance of facing & fighting our own demons. So many symbolic things in here to me for that. How WE alone have all the power against our own demons.(& in my case, I turn to God as well, but I still have to do my part). Also, everyone is important, & EVERYONE has something important to contribute. You can’t succeed trying to be like someone else, or try to succeed doing it how someone else does. You have to do it being you. That’s the right way. We are all important, & all so powerful & strong in our own unique ways. Stop underestimating girls too! We even do it to ourselves. We are made of some pretty strong stuff. We aren’t “just” girls, thank you very much. Lol

There’s so much mythological goodness in here, plus amazing writing/characters, art, adventure, danger, suspense, & more. Plus, the twist? Wowza! Loved it, & an amazing ending! Can’t wait to see what happens next! I cannot wait for the sequel in May. Highly recommend! STUNNING cover by Nabi H. Ali too! And remember: don’t let ANYONE ever tell you who you should be. “I am the master of my fate, I am the captain of my soul.” 💜
Profile Image for queenie.
105 reviews42 followers
August 8, 2022
“Little girls are always more powerful than people think we are. People think we’re sweet, precious things, all sugar and spice and everything nice, but we’ve got iron and steel in us, too.”

Rating: 5/5
★★★★★

Where do I even start? I think saying that this is my all-time favourite middle grade fantasy is not fair since (a) I haven’t read everything out there and (b) It would be a huge disservice to all my other favourites. But of course, I don’t care and I’m just gonna consider this my favourite anyway.

Kiki Kallira Breaks a Kingdom is a novel I definitely would have fallen in love with, as a kid. Which is clear ’cause I’m no longer one and yet I’m here gushing about this. One of the main reasons I love this book as much as I do is because of the South Indian representation. As a brown girl, finding books revolving around people like me has been hard, but thanks to recent times we see more diverse authors coming up with books of their own. While there definitely are the Aru Shah and Kiranmala series, they are mostly derived from North Indian myths. And to find something that’s close to my home was truly special.

The books starts off with Kiki’s brain conjuring up all sorts of scary scenarios where her mom dies because she wasn’t sure if she locked the front door. Fun, huh? Unfortunately, that is what it’s like, living with anxiety. The way the book explores Kiki’s neurodivergent nature was so cleverly woven into the story and very intriguing to read.

The humour was so on point! I really loved the banter in this book and Kiki’s inner voice just adds to it. The banter also gets so much better in the sequel, Kiki Kallira Conquers a Curse, which is releasing this month. The friendship and found family vibes that this gave out were just as wonderful! The relationship between Kiki, Ashwini, Jojo, Lej, Pip, Suki and Samara were so well-written I was so into their lives more than my very busy and boring life.

Ultimately, this was such a wild ride, in a good way! I also liked the way that this book was self contained and doesn’t necessarily need a sequel. Kiki Kallira Breaks a Kingdom is as easily a standalone as it’s the first in an installment. And truth to be told, I think I enjoyed having this fun break from heart-wrenching cliffhangers.

So if you’re looking for a light read that is also deep, don’t forget to check this book out as it is underrated as heck!

Check out the full review along with Zachary Ying and the Dragon Emperor on my blog! (read here)
Profile Image for Robin Stevens.
Author 47 books2,023 followers
December 15, 2020
A fast-paced, vivid and exciting adventure story with real heart, I couldn't stop reading! (8+)

*Please note: this review is meant as a recommendation only. Please do not use it in any marketing material, online or in print, without asking permission from me first. Thank you!*
Profile Image for Fanna.
979 reviews490 followers
Want to read
October 27, 2020
October 26, 2020: Yeah, you all can show your disappointment at me for not knowing about this before today BUT I AM SUPER EXCITED AH
Profile Image for Becky.
455 reviews21 followers
February 25, 2021
So rarely have I seen the obsessive thinking and catastrophizing that comes with this kind of mental illness so openly portrayed this accessibly to young audiences. I think it's going to make a lot of kids feel really seen! I also loved getting to dig into this particular avenue of Indian folklore, with the acknowledgement that so much of folklore is what we make it in retellings. There were a few things I wanted to dig deeper into ( ) but on the whole I think this was a really fun, excellent, important book that I can't wait to put into kids' hands.
Profile Image for Katy Kelly.
2,019 reviews72 followers
August 18, 2022
Journey... The Magic Paintbrush... now Kiki Kallira with added culture.

Stories about drawings coming to life have always fascinated me. A 'wish fulfilment' idea, like books becoming real in Inkheart, but with pictures.

I read this first Kiki book soon after watching Ms Marvel with my oldest. So to see cultures represented that we don't often see in fiction was again, very welcome. Having grown up in a multicultural town with Hindu friends, I was aware I knew little of their beliefs/background/stories. This would have been helpful growing up, to be able to ask them about these characters and narratives.

Kiki herself is also a great creation. A worrier. Not the usual 'hero'. She's almost OCD in her need to 'check' things, worried a burglar will get in and hurt her mum, she has to return home to check, even when out with a friend having fun.

Wrapping her worries inside her own artwork, her own created worlds and characters, her internal fears and quirks are going to be tested when her pictures find their way to becoming real... and not just the characters she rather likes. She's put mythological bad guys in their too. Who now feel very real once Kiki is transported to her own creation of Mysore.

Adventure and fantasy, with Kiki's nature at the heart of the narrative, it's a different hero and a very visually compelling world. Especially seeing Kiki in her rainbow unicorn pyjamas throughout. She's not hard to identify with, and there's a range of characters from sugar-hating lions to witches to appeal to all.

Fast-moving and refreshing, one for ages 9-13.
Profile Image for USOM.
2,275 reviews189 followers
May 4, 2022
Kiki Kallira Breaks a Kingdom is emotional and precious at once. Let's start with my favorite element: Kiki. Her character instantly charmed me. The ways she's trying to manage her anxiety and her worrying. This just reached into my heart and twisted. Talk about a middle grade character who would have made a difference in my life. I feel like chatting about mental illness - and the conversations Kiki has in this book - are so crucial for kids. This idea that we can be suffering and not knowing how to ask for help or even recognize it.

Additionally, I loved how Kiki, dumped into this magical world, has to figure out her own power. We have these adventure stories where the main character ends up training. Where they seem to be able to use a weapon passably well or having magical powers. But what about us? I'm talking specifically about me who could wield absolutely nothing. For Kiki, trying to figure out her own magic, her own power and capability, is huge.

full review: https://utopia-state-of-mind.com/revi...
Profile Image for Lata.
3,434 reviews180 followers
June 6, 2022
Prone to spiralling thoughts and anxiety, Kiki finds comfort in drawing in her sketchbook. One evening, while thinking of an asura and her dead aunt, something magical happens, and the figures in her sketchbook begin appearing in the flesh, in London, where she lives with her loving, single mum.

Her aunt pushes Kiki through the sketchbook into the version of Mysore Kiki's filled her sketchbook with. Kiki is entranced with this Mysore, but is told the asura must be destroyed to make the city safe. Kiki falls in with characters she drew, a band of kids her age who are rebelling against the asura subjugating the city.

Kiki becomes fond of these rebel kids, while trying to figure out how to break the demon’s hold on Mysore. She also becomes close with her aunt, who gives Kiki good advice on her anxiety.

There’s conflict, humour, tragedy and betrayals, and the Kiki who returns to London is much more confident than the one who fell into her version of Mysore, making this a fun start to the series.
Profile Image for Ms. Tom.
57 reviews2 followers
February 6, 2022
I really wished I had read this book growing up. I have not seen a character with anxiety and openly working her way in dealing with her mental health. As someone with pretty severe anxiety growing up, I wish I had a character to look to. I loved the portal part of this fantasy novel, it was reminiscent of Narnia and it has me completely hooked on learning more Indian mythology. Can't wait to add a copy to my classroom library.

Thank you Libro.fm for a copy of the audiobook.
Profile Image for Christina (A Reader of Fictions).
4,211 reviews1,649 followers
Read
January 15, 2023
Creative world building all about the power of imagination and fighting back with intelligence and innovation, not physical strength. Surprisingly dark in places as well. Didn't resonate with me emotionally, but I'm an old, and I think the cast of characters who are fictional to Kiki's real was a stretch for me in my oldness. I do think kids will really enjoy this.
Profile Image for Kayla Stierwalt.
48 reviews27 followers
September 25, 2022
What a creative and compassionate representation of OCD. This story shows the importance of connection, creativity and courage.
Profile Image for Joe Kessler.
1,882 reviews49 followers
October 31, 2021
Another title in the popular recent mini-genre of Percy Jackson-inspired #ownvoices fantasy stories involving a middle-grade protagonist coming face-to-face with certain mythological beings drawn from the writer's cultural heritage. In this novel, the Hindu gods and demons are joined by a fun Inkheart sort of element, as it's the heroine's drawings of them (along with some of her own inventions) that have unexpectedly come to life and dragged her into their world. That gives the project a rather unique atmosphere, as does the frank and non-stigmatized approach to mental illness in discussing her anxiety / borderline OCD.

It's a fine adventure overall, although I wish there was less criticizing and guilting of Kiki throughout for her artistic choices, such as the house of rebel children with no grown-ups to look after them or a villain's fortress protected by deadly traps. She's thirteen and has quite reasonably never expected the things in her sketchbook to have any independent existence! Give her a break, and don't invite young audiences to worry about the morality of their own doodles, sheesh. But that aspect aside, I have really enjoyed the book. The action is exciting, the characters feel specific and endearing, and the plot contains a few genuine surprises even for an older reader like me. It's a great take on folklore, found family, and disability, and I'm excited to see author Sangu Mandanna is already under contract for a sequel.

[Content warning for death of a friend.]

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Profile Image for Katy.
527 reviews2 followers
July 20, 2021
Kiki Kallira Breaks a Kingdom was such a beautiful story with fantastic worldbuilding and a diverse cast of characters that was so much fun to read. There are some brilliant messages woven throughout the story in relation to celebrating our own merits, not comparing ourselves to others and working together as a team. Something that I enjoyed equally was the anxiety representation and how that was explored throughout the novel, Kiki is the perfect (imperfect) rolemodel that will bring so much confidence and comfort to so many children. The rest of the cast of characters were unique and memorable in the best way, and were not without their own struggles either.

The way mythology and culture is entwined into the story creates such a vibrant and interesting setting that you get sucked into from the first page. I am sure those with knowledge of Hindu mythology will love to see these characters reinvented into a new light whilst the explanations throughout make it a great starting point for those that have never been emersed into this type of culture before. The writing style really does make it accessible.

One thing I would say, is there is a slight lull in pacing around the middle of the book but the plot twists and action towards the end makes it totally worth sticking out, even if the speed the story goes at isn't always consistent.

Overall would definitely recommend it.
Profile Image for Cascadia04.
11 reviews
February 8, 2022
I love books set in mythical worlds, so this book was right up my ally. And besides, who hasn't wanted to dive into a world of their own creation? The book seemed made for me.
Not so much.
The idea was good, I will say that. Giving Kiki anxiety as an internal problem was a good start. But it could've been handled waaay differently. For a book with such big themes and ideas, it had a overly-happy vibe that contrasted with the plot that needed high-action and fear. It was overly kid-friendly (only one person died and there was NO blood whatsoever), the character were not the best, and all in all it was played out in a sweet and tidy way that did not suit it at all.
It did, however, have an amazing, well pulled off plot twist, I will give it that. But otherwise, I wasn't that impressed.
Profile Image for Mallie Moore.
13 reviews
June 22, 2021
I was totally sucked into Kiki's adventure and loved every second! The cast of characters was great, Kiki's journey with her mental health and personal strength is so powerful, and I'm so excited to have more adventures in Mysore
Profile Image for Tara.
13 reviews1 follower
January 7, 2022
An amazing representation of mental health for upper elementary in a fun and adventurous fantasy
Profile Image for Sreenidhi C..
33 reviews1 follower
June 13, 2022
A REALLY GREAT READ!!! I loved how the author had Mahishasura and Chamundashwari in it. It reminded me of all of the stories my grandmother tells me. I loved this book!
Profile Image for Stephanie.
238 reviews
July 20, 2022
A perfect choice to follow up Kaikeyi, as this one is also based on Indian mythology. Targeted at a middle grade audience and definitely felt like it. Good addressing of clinical anxiety while still being a super fun adventure story.
Profile Image for Insert Name Here.
277 reviews8 followers
July 5, 2021
This is one of those reviews that's hard to write. Not because I didn't enjoy it - I really did! - but because I'm pretty sure this is just going to be an incoherant ramble about the BRILLIANT and the FUN and the HEART BREAK and the MUST READ!

In fact, in case I forget later, here is my very favourite quote; I've already put it on Twitter, but I think it's worth highlighting again.

Suki was the last one to go. With her hand on my doorknob, she stopped and looked back at me.
'Try to remember, ok?'
'Remember what?'
'Little girls can beat big bad wolves. We have teeth, too.'

What a fantastic message to give to young readers! Suki gets a couple of lines like that and they fall so beautifully. If this book had nothing else going for it, I'd still love it just for those words.

But it has plenty of other things going for it; a fabulous main character (PARENTS NOTE, she suffers with anxiety and children may have questions or want to discuss it after reading) a brilliant setting, a background in myths that are neither GrecoRoman nor British, amazing descriptions, really clever twists and turns...really, this book has so much going for it. It's one of a few due out this year featuring the basic idea 'someone draws things that come to life' and if they're all this amazing, we're in for a fantastic treat.

I loved the way Kiki uses everything she's learned from everyone to fight her battles. I love how simple and clever her final solution is. I love - though I don't know why, other than the lovely image - the way she keeps referring to the city as her 'golden kingdom'. And I really hope there's more to read in this world. I'll be eagerly waiting to see what else Kiki and her friends are going to get up to. Now if you'll excuse me, I need to brush up on my Indian myths...
Profile Image for Tea and Spite.
124 reviews5 followers
September 7, 2021
I wanted to like this book more than I did. It falls into the major trap nearly all "I wish this character had existed when I was a kid" type books fall into though: it talks down to children.

I cannot stand books talking down to children. Kids aren't stupid! They understand a lot more than adults give them credit for. They can handle complex topics and difficult issues without being spoon-fed. This book spoon-feeds. Painfully. The anxiety/acceptance plot is so trite I can't imagine most kids being willing to put up with it. I know I wouldn't have at nine or ten.

It's too bad because the book starts off great. Kiki is fun and engaging when she's allowed to simply exist as a child with anxiety. It's when the book tries to insert fan-ish conversations about fantasy worlds and representation that everything falls apart. For instance, Kiki repeatedly beats herself up about not giving her made-up band of child heroes parents or guardians. This is not something most kids ever notice or care about. They're aware enough to understand that if Peter Pan had adult supervision they'd tell him that pirates are dangerous and to get away from that crocodile. Adults are the ones who write meta about parents in fantasy stories being criminally incompetent.

There's also a major plot hole in that Kiki, upon being taken into a world created by her own drawings, never stops to ask if she can just go back to her proper world and draw her band of heroes defeating the bad guy. It's a clear indication of Mandanna having no concept of how children think because that is literally the first question every child I know would ask. Give a reason it can't be done if you want, but you have to rule out the simplest, most obvious solution before moving on to the rest of the story. Especially in books for kids. There is no group of critics more capable of ripping apart an overly-complicated plot than 8-12 year old children.

That plot hole, combined with the overly didactic portrayal of anxiety and a cast of characters that never fully came to life, made the book slow to read. I like the idea. I like the intentions. But good intentions and a fun idea are not enough to make a book worth reading.
Profile Image for Dawn Stahl.
355 reviews24 followers
January 2, 2022
I love a good portal fantasy / pocket universe story, and this one was excellent! Southern Indian traditions and Hindu mythologies provide the tapestry of the tale that our anxious young artist Kiki brings to life — literally.

Drawing in her sketch book is sometimes the only thing that quiets the voice of nearly uncontrollable worry in Kiki's head. She has spent many recent hours pouring her anxious energy into drawing the Indian myths and legends she loves. That's all well and good until a violent, vengeful god from those stories takes control of her sketchbook world — and wants to use it to get to this one too. Kiki knows she's not the hero they need, but she has to do something! She joins a quirky cast of mostly kid characters to try to help free her sketchbook world from the evil god and his demons.

With lots of humor, a beautiful and clever arc about anxiety, some gasp-out-loud moments in an active adventure, gorgeous world-building, high stakes steps and missteps, a celebration of diversity in strengths and abilities, and another book coming to continue the series, Kiki Kallira deserves a Rick Riordan-level of readership. In fact, it's perfect for fans of Riordan, the Riordan Presents line (including Aru Shah and Tristan Strong), and bookish fantasies like Pages & Co. Bookwanderers, the Land of Stories, and Inkheart.

[I switched back and forth between the paper book and the excellent audiobook for this one, which was a great way to learn some of the pronunciations and also helped me keep the characters straight.]
Profile Image for Valinora Troy.
Author 3 books9 followers
November 27, 2021
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.
Profile Image for Becky Ginther.
434 reviews33 followers
September 29, 2021
Seems like a somewhat unpopular opinion, but I didn't love this one. It felt like it had a lot of potential - I've enjoyed the Rick Riordan style mythology stories and learning about other cultures' myths. I don't know as much about Indian mythology but I work with a lot of Indian people so I would love to learn more. I also really liked the idea that the main character had some anxiety issues as I closely relate to that.

That being said, I just couldn't get into this. I listened to it on audiobook, but it just felt so plodding. Aside from one brief moment of action towards the beginning that kind of gets the main plot going, there was really almost no action until about 2/3 into the book. There's a lot of planning and explaining and that sort of thing but nothing really happens.

There was also a lot of exposition and explaining feelings rather than showing them. Especially for a character with anxiety it just felt frustrating that it was so spelled out rather than shown. It also felt unrealistic because half the time I can barely understand my own feelings and why certain things cause my anxiety, so for a 12 year old to "explain" all of that to the reader felt like a bit much.

There were some good moments in the last third of the book, but overall I just sort of had to get myself through this one. Maybe now that the characters and world are more established any sequels will be better, but I don't know that I'll be reading them.
Profile Image for Cheryl.
137 reviews43 followers
September 1, 2021
This is such an amazing middle grade fantasy, that although has all the “typical” fantasy elements - magic, new worlds, an eclectic cast of young characters, and a “big bad”, Kiki Kallira reads wholly new and unique.

The writing is smooth, smart, and the plotting is perfectly paced for a read that is very difficult to put down! With a strong focus and discussion on anxiety this middle grade elevates itself by bringing great insights and conversations to middle grade readers, many of whom are experiencing similar emotions to Kiki in these pandemic times. Kiki is relatable, flawed, kind, and you root for her every step of the way.

Imaginative, funny, and compelling this delightful middle grade features a great core group - The Crow Club - of extremely likeable, fully realized characters that shine with their own unique voices. From kindly, talking lions, magical palaces, Gods and beings of Indian mythology, Kiki Kallira Breaks A Kingdom is a gripping, exciting, and emotional read, with an ending that is pitch perfect - no more, no less than necessary. Easily one of my favourite middle grade reads of 2021.
Profile Image for Jenna (Falling Letters).
645 reviews59 followers
January 21, 2023
Review originally published 15 January 2023 at Falling Letters.

- Clear differentiation that Kiki draws inspiration from Indian folklore, not Hindu religion (pg 15)
Kiki creatively combines two worlds (pg 16)
- Haha grilled cheese (pg 18)
-- ?! wish I had noted down an exact quote here…
- Good pacing; keeps you intrigued even before the first hint of action
- Enjoyed the ‘twist’ regarding a certain friendly character – saw it coming about a hundred pages early, this isn’t something super common in the MG spec fic I read
- Appreciate even more the exploration of mental health. While it’s becoming more common to explore mental illnesses in middle grade, it’s not so common to do so in a MG spec fic novel (at least, in one where the spec fic elements aren’t essentially allegorical). A valuable representation of what it’s like to have anxiety/OCD, when you haven’t yet found the words to describe that that’s what your experiencing.
Profile Image for Ms. Yingling.
1,083 reviews496 followers
October 30, 2022
E ARC provided by Edelweiss Plus

Kiki, who struggles with anxiety, lives with her mother in London and loves to draw. She also loves hearing myths from Indian culture and celebrating festivals they way her grandparents did in Karnataka, the state they were from. When Kiki starts drawing her own version of the legend of Mysore, and the demon king Mahishasura, things start to go wrong. She opens a portal into that world, and the demon comes into her bedroom and sets her desk on fire! She sees a girl outside run the demon off with a sword, and when she goes after her, finds that it is Ashwini, a relative about whom her aunties tell cautionary tales, and whom she has worked into her book. Ashwini tells her that only Kiki can dispatch Mahishasura, and takes her to the world that Kiki herself has drawn. Kiki meets many of the characters she has created, like Lej, Jojo, Suki and Samara, the "Crows" who live in a house also designed by Kiki. Ashwini tells Kiki that Mahishasura can be defeated if the golden eye of the gandaberunda is broken, but that the world that Kiki has created will cease to exist once that happens. The interactions between the worlds seems to be more complicated than this, and Kiki is plunged into an adventure that takes her to an underground market, and on many other adventures while she figures how to best keep the demons out of her world without destroying her own creation.
Strengths: Kiki is a sympathetic character who reacts understandably when attacked by a demon, and even though she is anxious, undertakes trying to save the world. Having her thrust into a world of her own creation is fascinating. I really enjoyed the house that the Crows lived in, and appreciated that a lot of time was spent there in between attempts to overthrow the demon. I was half expecting Kiki to have to travel all over on a quest, but this thankfully broke from that standard formula. There's plenty of food, hot chocolate, and hanging around to recuperate from demon hunting, which I like just about as much as the action. My students, who always want things to happen, will find plenty of chases and demons setting things on fire.
Weaknesses: As with DasGupta's Kiranmala and Chokshi's Pandava chronicles, I almost needed an index, like Riordan's books have, with a list of characters. I just don't have the background knowledge to bring to this story, and I'm afraid many of my students will be in the same boat. While it's not completely necessary to understand the story, I feel that having a really good grasp of Greek and Roman mythology made the Riordan books even more enjoyable. I'd love to see books of stories like Napoli's "Tales From..." to go along with these.
What I really think: This was a fresh take on fantasy, with a lot of fascinating Indian mythology as well. About fifteen years ago, there were a lot of fantasy books involving books; Funke's Inkheart, Womack's The Other Book (2008), Skelton's Endymion Spring (2006), Beddor's The Looking Glass Wars, and others that are lost to the mists of time were very popular. Perhaps we are seeing a resurgence, with Perry's The Thieving Collectors of Fine Children's Books . I liked this one because Kiki got to go into a world she had created.
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