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Shadowshaper (The Shadowshaper Cypher, Book 1) Paperback – August 30, 2016
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A Top Ten YALSA Best Fiction for Young Adults Selection
A Top Ten ALA Quick Pick
A Kirkus Prize Finalist
An Andre Award Nominee
A New York Times Notable Children's Book
An NPR Best Book of the Year
A Publishers Weekly Best Book of the Year
"In the best urban fantasy, the city is not just a backdrop, but functions as a character in its own right . . . That is certainly true in Daniel José Older's magnificent Shadowshaper, which gives us a Brooklyn that is vital, authentic, and under attack. . . Older is able to infuse Shadowshaper with the spirit of Brooklyn in the summer, where the possibility of magic hangs shimmering in the air. This is a world that readers cannot help wanting to live in and, as with all great urban fantasies, harboring a suspicion that perhaps we already do." -- Holly Black, New York Times bestselling author of The Coldest Girl in Coldtown and The Iron Trial, in The New York Times Book Review
"Older's book is a first-rate example of how representation, diversity and themes of social justice and identity can be skilfully woven into a narrative -- not so that they disappear, but so that the story pivots on them in a way that is authentic, exciting, and ultimately satisfying." -- Cory Doctorow, Boing Boing
"The strength of Older's tale is in his meticulous attention to the details of the life of a brown-skinned, natural-haired Puerto Rican teenage girl. Older's storytelling is rich enough to warrant such treatment, because this is a world that will stay with readers long after the last page." -- Los Angeles Times
* "Warm, strong, vernacular, dynamic -- a must." -- Kirkus Reviews, starred review
* "Excellent diverse genre fiction in an appealing package." -- School Library Journal, starred review
* "What makes Older's story exceptional is the way Sierra belongs in her world, grounded in family, friends, and an awareness of both history and change." -- Publishers Weekly, starred review
* "Smart writing with a powerful message that never overwhelms the terrific storytelling." -- Booklist, starred review
"Older not only gives readers a diverse cast, but he stays true to their background, language and community, lending an authenticity to his work... If you're a YA urban fantasy reader looking for something creative and different, try Shadowshaper on for size." -- Romantic Times Book Review
"Exactly the kind of title Walter Dean Myers charged his peers to pen at the onset of his career and the kind of narrative he was still imploring publishers to fete in the twilight of his life, one that takes young readers, their unique needs and their racial and cultural realities seriously. Shadowshaper would make him proud." -- The Washington Post
"Joyful and assertive and proud, and makes me want to read everything else of Older's, for more of these voices, connections and lives." -- National Public Radio
"Sierra Santiago is the type of character we've all hoped we could have in YA." -- Bustle.com
"Daniel José Older is one of my favorite new voices, and I can't wait to see what he (and Sierra) come up with next." -- Anika Noni Rose, star of Dreamgirls and The Princess and the Frog
"I highly recommend Shadowshaper... it is exceptional in a great many ways." -- Debbie Reese, American Indians in Children's Literature
"One of my favorite books of the year, period." -- Rebecca Schinsky, BookRiot
"Shadowshaper is a game changer." -- FlavorPill
Advance Praise for Shadowhouse Fall:
"Older takes the idea of fantasy as metaphor and smashes it to bits, bringing us to a Brooklyn steeped in magic that feels utterly real and punch-to-the-gut perilous. A powerful adventure that blurs the line between the real and the imagined in daring, breathtaking ways, Shadowhouse Fall is not only a thrilling hero's journey, but a magical revolution on the page." -- Leigh Bardugo, New York Times-bestselling author of Six of Crows and Crooked Kingdom
"Brilliant. . . . A novel about Brooklyn, love, spirituality, family and something else. Something I can't even explain but am enthralled by and want more of. This is the beauty and magic of Older's writing--he leaves us openmouthed and speechless, asking 'What just happened to me?!' Loved this book." -- Jacqueline Woodson, New York Times bestselling author of Another Brooklyn and Brown Girl Dreaming
"Shadowhouse Fall flips and reshuffles principles of light and darkness in stunning revelation after revelation. Older's vivid ink and prose deftly obliterates any bounds between a tangible and a supernatural Brooklyn. I am still under its spell." -- Rita Williams-Garcia, three-time Coretta Scott King Author Award-winner
"Here is the real Brooklyn: myriad cultural communities caught in the squeeze and pressure of gentrification, and of course, the shadows and perils of the undead -- and the tough, wise, and lovable Sierra Santiago is there to navigate us through it all. Older is a brilliant storyteller, and with sharp, smart, and hilarious dialogue and prose, Shadowhouse Fall is a fresh, enthralling speculative novel for readers of all ages." -- Brendan Kiely, award-winning co-author of All-American Boys, and critically acclaimed author of The Last True Love Story
From the Back Cover
Sierra Santiago planned to have an easy summer of making art and hanging out with her friends. But then a corpse crashes the first party of the season. Her stroke-ridden grandfather starts apologizing over and over. And when the murals in her neighborhood begin to weep real tears... Well, something more sinister than the usual Brooklyn ruckus is going on.
WHERE THE POWERS CONVERGE AND BECOME ONE
With the help of a mysterious fellow artist named Robbie, Sierra discovers shadowshaping, a thrilling magic that infuses ancestral spirits into paintings, music, and stories. But someone is killing the shadowshapers one by one -- and the killer believes Sierra is hiding their greatest secret. Now she must unravel her family's past, take down the killer in the present, and save the future of shadowshaping for herself and generations to come.
Full of a joyful, defiant spirit and writing as luscious as a Brooklyn summer night, Shadowshaper marks the YA debut of a brilliant new storyteller.
A Top Ten YALSA Best Fiction for Young Adults Selection
A Top Ten ALA Quick Pick for Reluctant Young Adult Readers
A Kirkus Prize Finalist
A New York Times Notable Book
An NPR Best Book of the Year
A Publishers Weekly Best Book of the Year
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There was a whole lot of action in this novel. It would have benefitted from a bit of slowing down and some more introspection. Of course, I think almost all books need more introspection in them. Having said that the pacing is excellent. The story is propelled forward at a furious pace, and I really resented when I had to stop reading. The imagery was also top shelf.
Character wise I think that this book was a bit ambitious. There is a very large cast of characters, all beautifully and realistically diverse, but the author didn't seem to have time to develop any of their character arcs. No one changes. I was most disappointed with Sierra's development because she starts out in such a strong place character wise. She is tough, funny, and both self-aware and self-confident. The sass factor is also high. There were a few flashes of vulnerability that hinted at Sierra's full complexity. I also loved that she pulls a Hermione and runs to the library to find out more at the first opportunity. Is this a magical realism element? Maybe I am misreading things
Her friends and family were colorful and vibrant. I especially liked her friend, Izzy, who is like this tiny little loudmouth with no filter. Sierra starts a semi-romantic/ potentially romantic/ I think they are together relationship with Robbie, another Shadowshaper. This is another area where I wish that more time has been taken. I could feel the chemistry between them and the relationship progressed, but it was never emotionally processed. In the end, it felt like a hookup that might be something more.
There is a whole lot of weirdness going on in this book. Paintings come to life, zombies, The White Man of Doom, etc. Sierra doesn't keep anything a secret. She pretty much tells the whole world, "Hey! Magic! I have it." And everyone just goes with it. No one asks her to prove it to them or worries that perhaps she is losing her mind. Don't get me wrong, I love her support group of friends and family, but no one turns a hair. Even the one character who decided not to help her doesn't refuse because he doesn't believe but because the situation to "too freaky" for her.
Shadowshaper felt like a Middle-Grade novel but with aspects of YA. Or I initially thought that it was MG and was surprised that it was YA. Sometimes expectations do that to us. I was a bit miffed at the ending. I felt as if there was a lot more than needed to be explored and that Sierra still had a lot of growing to do. The major plot was finished, but there seemed to be more to tell. Fortunately, there is a sequel.
Which I am going to be reading.
The tingles between Robbie and Sierra are a slow burn that doesn’t take over the narrative. Sierra depends on Robbie for information about shadowshaping and respects him for his drawing skills long before she starts to feel anything extra for him. It’s only as the mystery – and danger – build that she starts to accept that he could be anything more. Her feelings for him are only a small part of the story unfolding and I liked that it was more about Sierra rocking her new skills and accepting her family’s heritage with a small side of heart business.
Feminist Score: A+ Success
There are several different kinds of ladies in this book, but they all rock it. Sierra fights for what she wants, protecting her friends, family, and her desire to understand her family history. Sierra’s grandmother proves that there’s no way to stop a matriarch when she’s made a decision – even if she has to sacrifice herself. And, even though we may disagree with her decisions, we understand why Sierra’s mother made the decisions she did when faced with difficult choices (and we get to see her change her mind). Plus, there’s no single way to be a woman – we have Sierra that likes to dress in old tee shirts and jeans, Bennie that wants to be a scientist or or biologist or…something intellectualee, T and Izzy, Sierra’s two lesbian friends, and Nydia, a Puerto Rican working at the Colombia library. All of them are doing their best to be their best in a world set against them.
Sierra calls out a lot of things throughout the book. She talks about her natural hair and loving it even if it’s not considered “good hair.” She talks about colorism in the community and rants at her aunt for acting like lighter is better. She gets whistled at, yelled at, and propositioned while walking down the street and points out how messed up it is. If it’s something women (especially women of color) deal with, Sierra hits on it.
Diversity Score: A+ Success
This book blows it away. We have Sierra – Puerto Rican-American, Robbie – Haitian (American?), and Sierra’s friends from several backgrounds. Tee and Izzy are lesbians. Her grandfather has recently suffered a stroke and is incapacitated in many ways. The story takes play in Brooklyn, New York, and you get strong sense of place. Conversations about gentrification occur a couple of times without feeling like they were stuck in to “make a point.” And the book revolves around non-European folklore and ancestral memory which we also don’t see often.
The book will be a strong mirror for many readers – there’s Spanish (not italicized), food, dancing, music, and other cultural markers that will mean everything to readers that don’t usually get to see themselves in books. It will also serve as a good window book – though that is a side bonus, not the focus – because Older writes with such a deft hand and Sierra is an engaging character.
Awesome Factor: A+ Success
The characters and story are engaging. The location and sense of place are on point and the pace does not let go once it gets started. I really enjoyed the story and almost missed my metro stop a couple of times because I couldn’t stop reading. There’s a lot going on in the book peripheral to the story – police brutality, gentrification, misogyny, sexism, racism – they all get attention but it never feels like it’s been shoved in to make an issue. Instead, it always feels like a natural part of Sierra’s (and her friends’) experience.
I really liked Sierra’s voice and the fun cast of characters that she brings with her. I would definitely recommend this to anyone that enjoys paranormal, supernatural, urban, fantasy, or action-packed stories.
Also – THAT COVER.
Sierra – because she’s spunky, and bright, and doesn’t let other people’s expectations or restrictions hold her back. (But, I want to give a shout out to Bennie for being an awesome friend that reps the nerdy side of things.)
This is long, but I laughed out loud. Plus, since I studied anthropology in university, I feel a little extra love for this excerpt. I also loved the way this book discussed the ethical (and privilege) issues around anthropology.
“Imma write a book,” Tee announced. “It’s gonna be about white people.”
Izzy scowled. “Seriously, Tee: Shut up. Everyone can hear you.”
“I’m being serious,” Tee said. “If this Wick cat do all this research about Sierra’s grandpa and all his Puerto Rican spirits, I don’t see why I can’t write a book about his people. Imma call it Hipster vs. Yuppie: a Culturalpological Study.”
Is this worth a book hangover?
Absolutely. It was fast, fun, and exciting. I enjoyed getting to know Sierra and her family – and her family’s heritage. I definitely recommend this is you’re looking for something action filled.
Fun Author Fact
Older has one of the most interesting twitter accounts – if you care about young adult books, diversity, representation, inequality, and justice in the US.
Read These Next
This Side of Home by Renée Watson for a story about twins dealing with a neighborhood in change or Black Beauty by Constance Burris for another paranormal story deeply rooted in place and community.