Tuesday, April 19, 2016

Shadowshaper by Daniel Jose Older

       I have a passing knowledge of spiritual lore and can usually tell a jumbie from a douen and a la diablesse from a soucouyant. With that said it is always good to see new twists on old themes and yfic novels featuring minority characters. The cover image on the book features a proud Latina and that will definitely attract some readers (and  perhaps turn off others).

shadowshaper_cover.jpg (604×873)

I have a passing knowledge of spiritual lore and can usually tell a jumbie from a douen and a la diablesse from a soucouyant. With that said it is always good to see new twists on old themes and yfic novels featuring minority characters. The cover image on the book features a proud Latina and that will definitely attract some readers (and  perhaps turn off others).

Sierra is a homegirl from around the way in Brooklyn who loves to draw and do murals. Her family is cool although her aunt's casual racism gets on her nerves. Her abuelo is a kindly old man who is not in the best of health but then one day he begins telling Sierra a bunch of stuff about the past and about powers that she can barely believe exist much less use.

As if things on the home front weren't complicated enough, Robbie is a Haitian American kid who comes into Sierra's life. He introduces her to new spots in the city where the patrons sweat to the rhythms of Caribbean music. The problem is that when the weird stuff starts happening he always disappears. Sierra is caught between catching feelings fro him and wondering if he is not good for her.

Like many other novels aimed at teens the story is as much about adolescence and making your own decisions as it is about dealing with magic powers. The book is also a commentary on something that I have heard before from talking to academics- cultural appropriation for personal gain. The novel's antagonist tries to use powers that he barely understands in order to gain even more power.

Here's why I think you should read this book:
-Sierra is as good a protagonist as any that I have seen in the dozens of novels I've read this year.
-Magic and mystical powers are not confined solely to European or European-American characters, the Caribbean has its fair share of those as well.
-Murals that actually change appearance!

Highly recommended.

Check out this and other reviews on my blog here.


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