Review: Shadowshaper (Shadowshaper #1) by Daniel José Older



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 “No importa” 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.


Sierra was working on a mural when she started noticing other murals changing, fading, one in particular looks to be crying. So, the night becomes even weirder when her grandfather, who’s been debilitated by a stroke, warns her that they’re all in danger, that she needs to find a boy named Robbie, and that he’s sorry. When she does find Robbie she starts figuring out some things about her family and the shadowshaper. They’re people who can transfer spirits into art; a drawing, a mural, music, and so on. Sierra and Robbie can make their drawings come to life, and do whatever they want. Soon, though, they’re on a mission to save the shadowshaper community, and fight the villain who wants to destroy them.

It’s a pretty solid plot, interesting and quite original. There’s a unique set of diverse characters; Sierra’s friends are all well characterized, and there’s even an interracial lesbian couple among them. Sierra, as a poc herself, deals with mild racism, stereotypes, and self-esteem. It’s all on the side, but it adds to bring to life Sierra’s character, and to give more representation in a genre that unfortunately lacks it.

To me, though, diversity was probably the best thing about this book. Maybe I wasn’t in the mood for YA urban fantasy, but I didn’t find myself wanting to read all the time, as I usually do. The short chapters helped me getting through it, but I just couldn’t get into it. I’ll definitely read the second book when it comes out, because as I said the story was really interesting and the writing pretty fluid and fast paced, so I might enjoy it more.



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