Review: Shadowshaper – Daniel José Older

Book cover: Sierra looks at the reader. Her skin has a bluish tinge. In her afro, one can see illustrations of faces, hands, buildings and a dragon. One can only see the shadows. Behind Sierra is a mural.

Shadowshaper landed on my TBR as I’d seen it in various reviews. I was interested in reading an urban fantasy based in the U.S. and inspired by Latinx culture.

This book is the first of a trilogy, with the second book set to be published in late 2017, and the third in 2018. It’s #ownvoices.

By the way, the publisher is called JABberwocky Literary Agency, which is like the best name for a publisher that I’ve ever heard of!

The Good

The world-building in this story is amazing. I found the combination of art with fantasy fascinating – especially the connection to tattoos.

This book is not only diverse in terms of people of colour but also has a lesbian couple as minor characters, and a character that has poor vision (uses contact lenses).

The main character is multiracial Afro-Latina (I hope that I understood the text correctly). Colorism and racism play a distinct role in some of the scenes. I enjoyed a lot of the humour that was sprinkled through the book. Some of the POC characters make jokes at the expense of the racism that they encounter, which was great to read about. 

The Bad

In my opinion, the book was too slow-paced and the reader is not given much information about the concept of shadowshaping. As this was the part of the book that most interested me, I felt unsatisfied at the end of the book.

The minor characters were very promising but weren’t as developed as the main character. They didn’t seem to continue living when the main character wasn’t around, and didn’t change that much throughout the book.

I’m hoping that the sequel will explain shadowshaping in more detail and that the minor characters will be more developed.

All in all

I did enjoy how discrimination was part of the story but not the focus, and the idea of shadowshaping. However, I didn’t like this book as much as I thought I would. It’s possible that I’ll read the second book. I feel like this book was an introduction to the series, which could explain the slow-pacing and slow introduction to shadowshaping.

3 stars

Have you read Shadowshaper? Do you have any recommendation for urban fantasy books featuring Latinx characters?


6 thoughts on “Review: Shadowshaper – Daniel José Older

  1. I so want to read this one – I’ve read a few of Older’s short stories on, and really enjoyed them, so I really want to try this too.


      1. The short stories I’ve read are kind of urban fantasy/paranormal with Latinx protagonists – really interesting actually! 🙂


  2. This book has been hovering around the middle of my TBR for quite a while; based on your critique, it looks like it’ll probably stay there for a while yet. Oh, well. Thanks for the heads-up! Better to have a book meet my modest expectations than fail to meet high ones. =)


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