Series: Shadowshaper #1
Written by: Daniel Jose Older
Published: June 30, 2015 by Scholastic
(Amazon / Goodreads)
Synopsis: 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 "Lo siento" 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.
Add this to the list of books I am kicking myself for not having read sooner. I wanted to read it when it first came out but for some reason I never got a copy until very recently. And I wish I had read it ages ago because I really loved this book.
For one thing, this is an totally brilliant and unique magical system. If you know me you know that I am constantly looking for a fantasy with a unique magical system, and not just the same old same old elemental magic or spellcasting. Shadowshaper had something totally it's own. It was part magical realism, part Urban Fantasy, even a little bit of superhero vibes. It all worked together to create something thoroughly compelling. Plus it is a magical system either a history and mythology to it that slowly unfolded as the book developed and I'm sure will do that even more in the second book in the series. I'm really hooked on the world and I can't wait to see where it goes.
I also really enjoyed the characters in this book, they were all really engaging and likable. I particularly enjoyed the main character of Sierra. She is one of my favorite kind of main characters. She's spunky and snarky with a tough exterior protecting of soft interior. She with do anything to protect the people she cares about and sometimes it makes her reckless. But that totally made her feel realistic and complex. I also really enjoyed her friends and family. I like that her parents were around and engaged in their daughter's life. I liked the way she fought with her brother but they came to each other's aid more than once. And I really liked her friends. So many of them were hilarious and tough. I could have done without the romance but that's me for like all books. On the whole I felt like this had some great characterizations.
Much of that I think was helped by the audiobook. The narrator, Anika Nono Rose (yup, the voice of Princess Tiana), did a great job. She varied her voice enough where each character felt different and totally their own. Plus she had Sierra's voice down. You could feel the fire and the passion behind her and everything she did. Not to mention that this was a book that translated so well to the audiobook format. There is a lot of musicality to this book that I don't think would have come across had I just read it. Plus Anika has an amazing singing voice and she did a great job with those elements.
As far as the plot goes, this was a really action-packed book. So much happened within the course of this book. It had a really cinematic quality to it. There were bright colors and lush descriptions to go along with daring escapes and high stakes battles of good versus evil. I could absolutely visualize it and was invested in finding out what happened next. It really built to a big finish that had me on the edge of my seat.
I do however feel like the mysteries could have been a little bit better. I wasn't really shocked by any of the big twists here. Some of them felt super obvious to me, and at one point it made the characters feel a little obtuse. Plus I did think there was a lot of tension and I was waiting for some big surprise or treachery from one of the characters and it never happened. Everything was honestly very black and white when you come right down to it and I like my stories with more grey to them.
On the whole this was definitely a great and unique YA fantasy. It had a unique and compelling world, complex and engaging characters, and a plot full of action and adventure. I'm really interested in finding out what happens next because I really loved this book.
I give Shadowshaper by Daniel Jose Older 9 out of 10 stars
Have you read Shadowshaper? What did you think? Leave me a comment with your thoughts. Thanks for stopping by and HAPPY READING!