Review: Shadowshaper

Shadowshaper by Daniel José Older
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Book #24 for 2017
#AWSFF Challenge:
– Locus Award Nominee for Best Young Adult Book
– Mythopoeic Fantasy Award Nominee for Adult Literature
The Legendary Book Club of Habitica’s Ultimate Reading Challenge: A book where the main character is a different ethnicity than you
Book Riot’s Read Harder Challenge:
– A fantasy novel
– A book in which a character of color goes on a spiritual journey
Possible Book Bingo Squares:
– A book with a female heroine
– A book by an author of color
PopSugar Challenge (maximum three):
– An audiobook
– A book by a person of color
– A book where the main character is a different ethnicity than you
Better World Books Challenge:
– A young adult novel
– A fantasy novel
– A book by a person of color

I listened to the audiobook for this one, and I think that may explain why I liked it better than the other readers in the book club. The narrator, Anika Noni Rose, brought out the musicality of the language and even sang at times. Ultimately, though, this is an extremely visual story, and I think it would benefit greatly from a more visual format. A graphic novel would be nice, but with so much music in the story, I think film would be ideal.

Film would also give me a better feel for the setting. Of course, much of that is on me. I’ve never been to NYC (unless you count a 4-hour layover at LaGuardia, which I’m sure you don’t) and don’t really have any desire to visit, so geographical designations like “Brooklyn” and “Queens” and “Upper East Side” have pretty much no meaning to me. Even when I’m watching a movie or TV show, my brain just lumps them all into a generic urban setting and focuses on plot. Thankfully, Older was able to provide some good flavor through the characters and their Puerto Rican community.

Sierra was the only character who truly interested me, though, so I guess it’s a good thing she’s the protagonist. The other characters felt less developed, more utilitarian. And that goes along with the heavy reliance on your standard teen-with-mystical-legacy tropes that made this book something of a disappointment. Sierra was kickass enough to hold my interest, though, and the mystical legacy was imaginative and intriguing. The melding of visual art with music was often expressed beautifully, despite the limitations of the textual medium.

I would be interested to know if this Puerto-Rican teen-filtered view was an accurate portrayal. If so, yay for diversity in YA fantasy! This book may not have been written for me, but if it fills a neglected niche, then more power to it. Even if it’s not a perfect story, Older got so much right with Sierra that I hope he gives her some good adventures in future books.

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