By: Hannah Rapp, Teen Librarian
Once again, I took advantage of my #LibrarianPerks and snagged a chance to read a pre-publication version of a book I was really looking forward to. This book will be out next Tuesday, June 30, and it should be hitting our shelves ASAP. But of course, if you want to be the first to get your hands on it, you can place a hold right away!
What I Just Read: Shadowshaper by Daniel José Older
What’s It About (Jacket Description): 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.
Did I Like It: For sure!
Thoughts: Before this, it had been a long time since I had read a really good urban fantasy – especially one that was actually set in a big city, and I’d forgotten how much fun it can be! Having a real-world city settings, complete with its mass transit, graffiti, and crowded streets, and then combining it with the secret and mysterious world of the paranormal is just a great way to get readers completely immersed in a book. And Shadowshaper does just as good a job of bringing the city and Sierra’s neighborhood to life as it does at making the mysterious powers and horrifying creatures of the Shadowshapers’ world seem real. I felt like I was wandering the hot city streets along with Sierra, or visiting the dusty basements of a university library, or running from terrifying re-animated corpses and multi-mouthed, multi-spirited abominations.
This book was exciting in part because I’d never read about any sort of paranormal world or powers quite like that of the Shadowshapers. Their powers are based on spirits that can infuse art – visual, musical, or any other kind – with their energy, minds, and ability to move. The idea of using art to bring to life real, tangible powers and spirits was fascinating, and made me feel as exhilarated as Sierra by the paintings, graffiti, songs, and stories that helped give life to the shadow world.
Another standout feature of this book for me was Sierra’s relationships. Her complicated but loving relationship with her mother and her ailing grandfather, her deep closeness with her brother, and her love and friendship with her godfather, were all beautiful to read about. She also has interesting relationships with the people who made up the core of her neighborhood, like the domino players at the empty lot where she paints or her schoolmates. But the absolute highlight as far as I’m concerned was her group of friends. Sierra is part of a tight-knit circle of friends who laugh, fight, banter, love, and support each other like the best groups of friends I’ve ever seen or been part of. Although Shadowshaper was a fast read, by the end of it, I felt like I too was friends with Sierra, Bennie, Tee, Jerome, Izzy, and the rest.
While Shadowshaper certainly stands on its own and didn’t end at a cliffhanger, there were plenty of threads that could be followed up into a sequel. And with such an expansive and breathtaking world to plunge into – both in terms of the New York setting and the world of the Shadowshapers – I’m desperately hoping for a sequel!