{Leah Reviews} Shadowshaper by Daniel Jose Older

Posted August 1, 2017 by Leah in Reviews / 6 Comments

{Leah Reviews} Shadowshaper by Daniel Jose Older

Shadowshaper (Shadowshaper, #1)

by Daniel José Older
Pages: 297
Published on June 30th 2015
by Arthur A. Levine Books
Genres: Urban Fantasy, Young Adult
Format: Hardcover
Source: Library

Cassandra Clare meets Caribbean legend in SHADOWSHAPER, an action-packed urban fantasy from a bold new talent.

Sierra Santiago was looking forward to a fun summer of making art, hanging out with her friends, and skating around Brooklyn. But then a weird zombie guy crashes the first party of the season. Sierra's near-comatose abuelo begins to say "Lo siento" over and over. And when the graffiti murals in Bed-Stuy start to weep.... Well, something stranger than the usual New York mayhem is going on.

Sierra soon discovers a supernatural order called the Shadowshapers, who connect with spirits via paintings, music, and stories. Her grandfather once shared the order's secrets with an anthropologist, Dr. Jonathan Wick, who turned the Caribbean magic to his own foul ends. Now Wick wants to become the ultimate Shadowshaper by killing all the others, one by one. With the help of her friends and the hot graffiti artist Robbie, Sierra must dodge Wick's supernatural creations, harness her own Shadowshaping abilities, and save her family's past, present, and future.

3 Stars

Shadowshaper has a wonderful success story. It was originally supposed to be a standalone, but its sleeper hit success has given way to two more books, two novellas, and a spot on the New York Times bestseller list. It’s well deserved. This is a vibrant look at Caribbean culture and street art wrapped in a creative urban fantasy.

The magic in  the book is one of the most original I’ve experienced. The spirit world and art go hand in hand, creating a magic called shadowshaping, where art comes to life. The results are dazzling to imagine. What a unique love letter to the power of art!

Sierra’s  savvy but never stereotyped into the “feisty Latina” role we commonly see. Her art is the vital connection to the people in her community and personal life. Her enemy starts off as a presence from her grandfather’s past, but as she learns more, real danger stirs. This is not only a threat to her, but the very essence of something that’s a huge part of her culture. That is terrifying.

Shadowshaper also tackles modern issues, especially for people of color. Gentrification looms on the neighborhood’s horizon. Sierra’s told by her own aunt that her hair’s kinky and she’s too dark skinned, which is infuriating. There’s also a look at the comparison to people of color and food. Once, while talking to a guy online, Sierra describes herself as “coffee with not enough cream.” Yeah.

As much as I appreciate the way this book presents its story, everything happens quickly: plot, pacing, relationships. How the enemy’s powers worked was a little hard to understand. He was geared up as this true menace, but by the end of the book, it was a one-dimensional, cartoonish bad guy.

Sierra has a connection with a fellow shadowshaper named Robbie that should have been given more time to develop. Robbie’s magic is advanced; it took him years of practice to shadowshape like he can. When Sierra finds her abilities, everything happens easily for her. There had to be more training, more time to learn about both characters as separate people.

The potential in Shadowshaper is what guarantees I will be checking out its sequel, Shadowhouse Fall, coming this autumn. If you’re looking for a new fantasy world to explore, Shadowshaper promises a fun look at something new.



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6 responses to “{Leah Reviews} Shadowshaper by Daniel Jose Older

  1. I’m amazed, I have to admit. Seldom do I come across a
    blog that’s both equally educative and amusing, and let me tell you,
    you’ve hit the nail on the head. The problem is something not enough folks are speaking intelligently about.
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  2. Oh, that’s a pity! I will keep my expectation a bit low when I will read it. I was hoping to be carried away by the book, since it’s – I think – one of the few that explore the Carribean culture in ya and urban fantasy key. But I will read it anyway for the same reason.

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