I read Shadowshaper in one sitting, despite being on a crowded, noisy airplane with a seven year old chattering in my ear. Once I started reading this book, I could not stop. No matter how many interruptions, how many times I had to look away, I went right back to it. The world of Shadowshaper is so engrossing, it felt just as valid as that airplane and much more interesting.
(Besides, the seven year old had his own book, and it was about zombies. What more could he need?)
(Just a heads up that my book posts use affiliate links, but check your local library too! If they don’t have this book, tell them to fix that.)
On Instagram, I described Shadowshaper as “City-based fantasy about a young artist who discovers her family’s hidden magical heritage.” The book’s tagline is better: “Paint a mural. Start a battle. Change the world.” This book is about power. Who wants power? What will they do, or not to, to get it? What happens when people become powerful?
The main character is a young woman named Sierra. She lives in Brooklyn. She has a good life. She has great friends. Things are about to get strange, though. Her grandfather had a stroke… maybe. Her mother isn’t telling her everything… definitely. But she’s going to figure out what’s going on. Specifically, why people in murals have started crying, and why that dead-looking guy was chasing her. And if bad things are going down, including people getting hurt in her neighborhood? She’s going to stop it. No doubt about that.
I’ve seen folks renounce the term “strong female character” because Hollywood so often gives us a caricature. Give a woman a gun and have her kick somebody, and that’s a strong female character, right? Clearly no. When we say “strong female character” we mean someone like Sierra. Real, complicated, not always perfect, but always trying. A completely developed personality. Not killer Barbie. Not a gal in combat boots who becomes a damsel in distress (and someone’s date) when the leading man shows up.
Rather than throw out the phrase “strong female character” I’d prefer to point out gals like Sierra as examples of what we want. THAT, we should say, THAT is a strong female character. She’s determined, and she doesn’t go to pieces when she meets a cute boy. (There is a cute boy in Shadowshaper, but the world doesn’t revolve around him.) Sierra stands up for what she believes in, even at great personal risk.
This was the third book I read by Daniel José Older, and they’ve all been amazing. I found out about him at Wiscon in 2014, when he appeared on several panels. He was so smart, funny, and real that I guessed he’d be a good writer. I was correct. He has a tremendous ability to pull you into a story. The world he’s developing in his books is rich and detailed. He’s a gifted storyteller. I’m so glad I went to those panels!
If you haven’t read Shadowshaper, you should make that happen. I can make that easy for you! Here’s Shadowshaper on Goodreads. Here’s Shadowshaper on Amazon. Bonus: here’s author Daniel José Older on Twitter, where he discusses books, diversity, social justice, and other things that I totally love. You should follow him.
Go to it!