Book Reviews

Shadowshaper by Daniel Josรฉ Older



Sierra Santiago planned an easy summer of making art and hanging out with her friends. But then a corpse crashes their first party. Her stroke-ridden grandfather starts apologizing over and over. And when the murals in her neighborhood begin to weep 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 magic that infuses ancestral spirits into paintings, music, and stories. But someone is killing the shadowshapers one by one. Now Sierra must unravel her family’s past, take down the killer in the present, and save the future of shadowshaping for generations to come.


This was a pretty solid book.

Sierra is ready to enjoy her summer painting and hanging out, like any typical teenager. But then she sees that the murals in her neighborhood, many of which are painted tributes to a person’s deceased family member or friend, have begun to fade. Her grandfather, who has barely spoken since his stroke, passes a garbled message to her. He tells her to finish painting the mural she has been working on quickly, for someone is coming for the “shadowshapers”, and that she needs to find a boy named Robbie to help.

At a party that night, Sierra finds Robbie, but she barely has time to learn about the Shadowshapers before a man stumbles into the party and chases her, hissing about a “Lucera” she has never heard of.

From there, the danger gets worse, and Sierra sets off under a ticking clock to find out more about the shadowshapers and save them before it is too late. For she at least knows thisโ€”one by one, they have been disappearing.

Along the way, she enlists the help of friends, and Robbie becomes the romantic interest of the story. This is where I encounter an issue. In order to give Sierra her spotlight as a strong, independent, character, Robbie played a very passive role. He was all nice and good for a romantic interest, but as someone who was not new to the concept of Shadowshapers as Sierra was, I would have liked to see him use his knowledge more to help out. Don’t get me wrong, I love how Sierra was able to stand up for herself. This book was not controlled by the romantic interest as some YA books are, and I also loved seeing her interact with her friends and family. But Robbie was shoved to side as a result, and I feel the author should have a found a way to let both of them work together while still letting Sierra get her time to shine. Having Robbie disappear every time she was in trouble was not a good solution.

I enjoyed watching Sierra stand up for her culture (such as loving her hair, which she has styled into an Afro) and heritage, and I also liked seeing the dynamics of her friend group and the exploration of loyalty. The book did try a bit too hard at times to get certain messages across, but I can understand the author’s want to push against the racism that has affected people of color.

One more thing! I listened to this as an audiobook, so if you enjoy listening to books, I would recommend it. As I do not know Spanish, it was nice to hear the phrases pronounced properly, and it added more depth to the story to hear the narrator sing some of the lines and add some sound effects.

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