I’ve loved Mandanna’s previous trilogy, A Spark of White Fire, so I’ve been excited for this middle grade debut. And I fell in love with Kiki. I wasn’t sure what to expect, but Kiki’s anxiety and her journey to find her power, resonated so strongly with me. Keep reading this book review for my full thoughts.
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?
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. It’s a central theme throughout the book – for Kiki to discovery her self and abilities – but it resonates so meaningfully.
I could keep chatting about the other elements I love from Kiki Kallira Breaks a Kingdom because there are so many. For instance, I enjoyed the friendship group that is created and the ways friends can support us and frustrate us. At the same time, Kiki Kallira Breaks a Kingdom is run on stories. It’s a vibrant and action packed world and Mandanna doesn’t back down. Throughout the book, Kiki also has to examine her own responsibilities and the feeling of expectations.
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All in all, Kiki Kallira Breaks a Kingdom is packed with action, theme exploration, and some scenes that struck a chord. I cannot more highly recommend this middle grade series for the artistic story loving kids in your life. For those who might be struggling with mental illness or even just want to find their own capabilities. Find Kiki Kallira Breaks a Kingdom on Goodreads, Amazon, Indiebound, Bookshop.org & The Book Depository.