I saw a bunch of hype about Shadowshaper online and when I randomly saw it in my local public library, I knew I had to check it out. Shadowshaper follows Sierra, a young artist plunged into the world of, well… shadow shaping because of her family lineage. My favorite aspect of this world is the magical realism introduced as the main “magical” system. I put magical in quotes because the system is so unique and more on the realism side than fantastical (to me). I would consider this book to be in the genre of low urban fantasy. Sierra and her family is able to use the power of spirits and give life to their artwork. This is one of the most unique magical systems I have ever read about in high or low fantasy. Usually it’s all about spells or magical words. But this utilizes the art – art by people of color. Wow. I cannot get over how amazing that sentence is -> Art by people of color embody spirits in order to protect their family and their home. As soon as this was introduced in the book, I was hooked. Not just for this book, but for the entire series.
I love how Daniel Older addresses gentrification using the story and artwork to start the conversation. From the very first mural Sierra is painting on the side of a building, it reminded me of walking through parts of Seattle, seeing corporations buying up property and just sitting on them. Artwork started popping up as a way to reclaim pieces of the neighborhood and city. Further, the scene where Sierra and her friends go to the coffee shop and get ‘fancy’ coffees reminded me of a personal experience with seeing gentrification. Whenever my friends or I would see a Starbucks pop up in a neighborhood, we truthfully joked how that was the final sign that the neighborhood had been officially gentrified. As this whole series is contemporary young adult, set in New York City, I am sure the themes of addressing gentrification will persist through future books.
Shadowshaper is an easy recommendation for me. I would rather avoid commenting on the story because I want you to read it for yourself. Sierra is a wonderful character and a great representation as a woman of color as a main character. There are themes of colorism, socioeconomic status privilege, and of course racism in the story. The book was a fast and thrilling read with many compelling characters as well as an engaging plot. If you are a high fantasy fan, know that Shadowshapers is not high urban fantasy. It is what I would call low fantasy – set in the real world with magical elements.
Final Rating: 4.7/5
Ghost Girl in the Corner is a novella set between the first novel in the series and the next one to be released, Shadowhouse Fall. The main series has focused mainly on Sierra and her family, but in this novella, we get to follow Tee and Izzy through a mystery of a missing person from the neighborhood. As I was looking for something to tie me over until Shadowhouse Fall releases, this was the perfect thing to pick up on my Kindle. There will spoilers of Shadowshaper below because ot’s impossible to talk about this novella without referencing what happened in book one. Do not read further if you have not read Shadowshaper and are planning on reading it soon!
Ghost Girl in the Corner takes place shortly after the climax of Shadowshaper. The story starts with Tee as she receives a grant to restart the newspaper that was once run by Manny out of the church basement. She meets with other teens from around New York City who will help her find and write stories, but while in the basement, she sees a ghost who no one else can see. That may seem odd, but ever since the end of Shadowshaper, the group, having been exposed to the world of shadowshaping, have been practicing using and honing their abilities. The ghost girls is in obvious need of help and Tee desperately wants to find out what the ghost wants or needs.
This and a report of a missing teen from the neighborhood throws Tee and her friends deep into a fast-paced mystery. Tee is a journalist and uses her investigative skills to find different clues that will lead them to the kidnapper. I loved this novella because it focused on the people who surrounded and support Sierra in Shadowshaper, Tee and Izzy. This novella, while not essential, gives them more depth as characters. From the complexity of Tee and Izzy’s relationship, to the network of friends that come back to surround them in their journey, I loved that Older chose to give voice to both Tee and Izzy. For me, it was an easy decision to buy the e-book.
I would highly recommend this novella for those who read and enjoyed the first book, Shadowshaper. It would be hard for someone to jump into this universe at this point because there are pieces of the story that references what happened in book one. I found it to be a nice dip back into the shadow shaping world before book two is released.
Final Rating: 4.3/5