Shadowshaper by Daniel José Older

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.

Wow. I’ve been meaning to check out Shadowshaper for a while now and I’m really glad that I finally got the chance to be able to do so because it’s one of the best books that I’ve read so far this year, boasting an imaginative concept that manages to handle its subject matter incredibly well indeed. The book itself is also a very quick read and fairly easy to get through, as we follow the awesome Sierra Santiago on a journey that blends Cassandra Clare’s Mortal Instruments series with Caribbean legend.

The cast of characters are likeable and engaging, with Sierra being a standout who you can’t help but get behind and support. The dialogue is realistic and well crafted, with good use of slang. The book makes the most out of its Brooklyn setting as well, which makes a change given how many novels, films and TV shows in the past where the setting could easily be substituted for another one and it wouldn’t make a difference. Everything just works and the antagonist fits the book’s themes nicely, even if he isn’t as developed as he could have been. But that’s fine though, the first book in the series does an effective job at fleshing out the characters well.

The chapters are short and the book is engaging and easy to read, and while it may be targeted at a younger audience but adults will enjoy Shadowshaper as well. Even though the book draws comparisons to The Mortal Instruments it is its own unique beast, and as far as I’m concerned the first book in this series was far better than The City of Bones. The way the book tackles several different themes is handled so well and benefits the most from a diverse cast, with an Afro-Latina heroine leading the way, blending a mix of cultures together that you don’t see that often.

Bold, unique and inventive I can’t praise Shadowshaper enough. It’s a gripping read that you won’t be able to put down and has you hooked from the first page to the last. This is an absolute must read for not just fans of young adult fiction but also for fans of urban fantasy in general, and sets an example as to how to create an awesome protagonist.

Verdict: 9/10


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