Review #44 // Shadowshaper (Shadowshaper #1) – Daniel José Older


With the first party of the summer season being crashed by some zombie-like thing, Sierra Santiago soon learns about her familial heritage that was kept from her. She must learn the art of shadowshaping, if only to save her family from an anthropologist named Jonathon Wick.

Why this book?: Diverse reads! And my adviser had this one on his shelves for a while, so I figured I needed to try it.

Rich with color

The most memorable thing about this book was the color. Not just how things are different, but legit color. The magic system in this book really fed off the idea of art and how art is used to express emotions. The writing at the end was so ripe with emotions that soon there really was no difference. Emotion and art were the same thing in this book, and that aspect was very enchanting.

Not to mention just art color, there were also so many ethnicities that were spoken of. Sierra was said to be Puerto Rican, while Robbie was Haitian, and another character was Martinique, and another person was from Cuba. I also think it’s worth mentioning that a lesbian couple has a fairly prominent part in this book, which I was honestly not expecting.

Confusing plot

While I really enjoyed the majority of the characters, it almost felt as if Older didn’t know where he was going with the book. The plot was fairly underdeveloped, and the main plot-finding Wick-didn’t start until a good chunk of the book had gone by. A huge part of the book was used for developing the idea of the shadowshapers, and even by the end I was still quite confused with the limitations and the idea of the magic.

The writing was decent, but there were places it could have been improved as well. It flowes magically in some spots, while it jerked and stumbled constantly in others. The writing was fairly inconsistent, leading me to utter confusion rather than enjoying the book.

Final Rating: ★★★☆☆


I really enjoyed Shadowshaper, but found it lacking in many aspects. I loved the culture, both real and fictional, that was entwined in this, but the way it was executed was amateurish. I’m hoping with the next book in the series will show improvement on Older’s part, so people can fully enjoy Sierra’s story.

Would I Recommend?

Yes. I realize with a three star rating, it may seem iffy, but I still firmly believe that people should read this book. There’s non-white culture, an amazing magic system, and hilarious and thought-provoking characters.


Additional Information:

Published: June 30th, 2015

Publisher: Arthur A. Levine Books

Page Count: 304

Genre: Fantasy/YA/Urban Fantasy

Synopsis: via Goodreads

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.

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