Shadowshaper by Daniel Josè Older
“Paint a mural. Start a battle. Change the world.”
About: Sierra Santiago planned an easy summer of making art and hanging out with her friends. Then, a corpse crashes the first party of the season changing everything. Her stroke-ridden grandfather starts apologizing over and over. When the murals in her neighborhood begin to weep real tears… Well, something more sinister than the usual Brooklyn ruckus is going on.
With the help of a fellow artist named Robbie, Sierra discovers shadowshaping, a thrilling magic that infuses ancestral spirits into paintings, music, and stories. However, someone is killing the shadowshapers one by one — and the killer believes Sierra is hiding their greatest secret. (Taken from our catalog description).
Jenn’s Thoughts: This book has a lot layers. Older is fantastic at world building and creates a wonderfully fantastical realm where shadowshapers can infuse graffiti, art, music with spirits and make them come alive. This shadowshaping is interesting and different; I have not read anything like it before and it is nice to see a fresh spin on the world of fantasy. The author places his story in Brooklyn making it feel authentic. The characters could be real Brooklyn residents, and didn’t feel like a stereotype.
The author also looks at communities and the tensions that can arise when honoring tradition and simultaneously keeping up with the times. He deftly examines the pressures of living within a minority community surrounded by a different majority and the subversive desire of conformity. The reader is never hit over the head with didactic messages. Instead, allows the strains of trying to balance heritage and modernity, conformity and individualism, and new and old to show themselves slowly through the characters’ development. All whilst trying to fight off the killer of the shadowshapers!
I highly recommend this book to anyone who likes fantasy, supernatural, or strong heroines who kick butt and take names!
Reviewed by Jenn