Debuts in the news – The Serpent’s Secret with Kellie Byrnes

The Serpent’s Secret, written by Sayantani Dasgupta, is a humorous, action-packed middle-grade fantasy debut. 

With superb world-building, pacing, and characterisation, the story, the first in the Kiranmala and the Kingdom Beyond series, draws from non-Western folktales and mythology to offer something fresh and wildly entertaining.

I loved the sassy, likable, Indian-American protagonist, Kiranmala. The wise-cracking Year 6 student living in New Jersey doesn’t expect her twelfth birthday to start how it does, with her parents vanished and a drooling demon at her house trying to eat her.

Before long, two cute, bickering prince siblings further heighten the drama (and add a touch of romance) when they arrive and clue her in to her heritage – she’s the interdimensional princess from the bedtime stories she heard growing up! The opening chapter certainly begins with a bang and engages readers immediately.

The unique world-building drew me in, too. Kiranmala must not only slay an assortment of unusual demons throughout but solve riddles and discover the secret place where she was born that’s far from the world we know. The story features magic, talking animals, flying, the underworld and its deadly Serpent King, and more.

The author has a strong, authentic voice that I enjoyed right from the start, and the pace doesn’t let up at any point. Readers go on one rollicking adventure after another in this original adventure novel suitable for fans of Rick Riordan. Themes of self-confidence, belonging, family and friendship also add meaningful layers.

Kellie Byrnes

Kellie Byrnes is an author and freelance writer with a junior fiction novel contracted plus five picture books out now, including Speech Pathology Australia Book of the Year Awards 2021 shortlisted title One Remarkable Reef. Kellie’s next picture book, How Do You Love?: The Five Ways We Show We Care will publish through Macmillan US in November 2021. She’s also writing a series of levelled readers for a Chinese educational publisher.

This is part of a new series at Faber Writing Academy looking at what makes a great debut book. If you are interested in getting a start on your own debut novel, we will soon be launching Kickstart Your Novel: The Opening Chapter and Beyond, which will run 9 September – 11 November. Details and bookings are here.