Shadowshaper by Daniel José Older
Published: June 30th, 2015 by Arthur A. Levine Books
Genre: YA Urban Fantasy
Page Count: 297 plus acknowledgements
Part of a series? This is book one of what looks to be a trilogy, and there's a novella. The kindle copy of that is only $1.50 and... ooh, I might get that. It sounds good.
Got via: The library.
Amazon / Book Depository / Indiebound
Summary (from goodreads): 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 her neighbourhood 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.
Review: Yeah, this was pretty good. It's very solid, and I'm really looking forward reading more of the series. This is going to be such a boring review, ha, because I really don't have any major complaints. I pretty much just enjoyed this. The fantasy elements and the mythology are really interesting and unique, and generally, it was a good book. Not too much more to it than that, but I'll give it my best shot.
Plot Talk: This is actually where one of my only complaints go, and it's small. At times, the plot could be ever so slightly repetitive, and a tiny bit slow. Sierra spends a chunk of the book not knowing what's going on and demanding answers from Robbie. Unfortunately, the book does repeat basically the same conversation between them a couple times and it just isn't my favourite part. I really enjoyed the parts where Sierra was doing research and being proactive, and basically if one of those conversations had been replaced with more of that, I wouldn't be complaining. Not a huge deal. Otherwise the summary pretty much... summarizes, and I'm not in the mood to do it for a library book :P
Characters: The cast of characters is pretty awesome. Sierra is great, and I love how complicated and messy and beautiful she is. She's got a lot of confidence, but struggles with self-doubt enough that she never becomes annoying. We get to see her vulnerabilities without tearing her down. She's wonderfully powerful, and her power is linked to other women in a way that feels really, really good to read. And, of course, she's Puerto Rican, and that's wonderful.
The rep in general is pretty great in this. I could be off a little, but I think the only significant character who's white is actually the antagonist. There are significant queer characters, which always makes me happy. The only things I think it lacks a little in is fat representation, and disability representation. The book does so well otherwise that those things stand out as missing. Not dealbreaker, but, hey, two more books coming out. Something to keep in mind. ;)
The romance in this is also really cute (and my headcanon that Sierra is demisexual/romantic is totally happening now), and I love how important her relationships with her family and friends are to the plot. It's nice to see a book where the main character doesn't hide the new things in her life from everyone in her life except the boy, and how supportive they are, even when it's something that's really hard to believe.
PG-13 stuff: A little violence, a little kissing, nothing that really stands out to me. Younger readers who are starting to read YA would probably be just fine with this, as long as they could handle the creepy dead body things.
Cons, complaints, bad stuff, etc.: Eh, I think I covered everything. More fat charactes would be nice, and a couple scenes were a little repetitive. I'm not one hundred percent sure the voice always rings true to the character. And, to be fair, this could be because it was in third person and I always seem to struggle a little more connecting with third person. Last, I sometimes felt perhaps the prose could be a little smoother, maybe relying on a little too much telling about character traits and pasts instead of showing characterization.
This is more the kind of thing I generally think will improve as an author's career goes on, and not something I think is fundamentally wrong with the author's writing. I think this is going to be similar to Entangled, where I liked the first book's writing but thought it would improve in the second, and I was right with that one.
Cover comments: This is an amazing cover. Sierra is incredibly beautiful, and I love how the cover incorporates the mural style of art that's so important to the book, and to Sierra. It's so awesome. Big kudos on it.
Conclusion: Good book. It was really fun reading about Brooklyn and where Sierra lives, which I don't think I personally read about all that often. I really, really love the moments where Sierra goes to a college campus to do research and her little moments of wonder about all the things you can study and learn about. It's such a sweet moment. The romance is very sweet, but isn't what the entire book revolves around. And while I'm really, really not qualified to rate these things, but there are parts that talk about internalized colourism, and gentrification, and a great deal of things I think people will definitely relate to, and I just want to kind of point those out in case they appeal to you. All in all, it's a solid book and it gets a solid four roses.
- Oh, I couldn't fit this, but I've seen it mentioned that it's good when books don't italicize words of languages that aren't English because it's not as othering. This book keeps the font the same for both languages. I think it's neat, personally, in an aesthetic way. I should find a link for this, though... how about this and this? Hey Shadowshaper is mentioned in that second one! Cool. So, yeah, this probably goes better here anyways since I mostly just want to mention how that happens, not make a judgment calls.
- I had such a Canadian moment trying to figure out what "icey" meant. I even asked on Twitter, and it was so funny seeing what the different guesses from different places were. For the record, context clues make me pretty sure it was a freezie(/freezerpop/otterpop/not a Popsicle). Regional variations in names for things is so fun.
I think that's it!
Peace and cookies,