Monday, 18 January 2016

Kristine's thoughs on Shadowshaper

The first book I read this year (that I hadn't started in 2015) was Shadowshaper by Daniel José Older. I'd been meaning to read his books since early 2015, but kept reading other stuff, so I decided to just get on with it already, and I do not regret it.

Paint a mural. Start a battle. Change the world.

Shadowshaper has the best tagline, and a beautiful vibrant cover that really fits the story. The girl with the curls, the colors, the city skyline. This story is about Sierra who is spending her summer painting a mural and hanging out with her friends, but then already dead people start coming after her and the murals around town start to change. Sierra starts looking into things and discover shadowshaping "a thrilling magic that infuses ancestral spirits into paintings, music, and stories." (Goodreads) an art that has deep ties in her family. As if that wasn't enough someone is after her.

I loved this book, I listened to it on audio and it was great. Sierra is a complex and recognizable character who is stubborn, smart and barrels on even though she feels like breaking down. She stands up for herself, loves her friends and is both unsure and confident at once. This is her experience of uncovering the truth, battling an elusive enemy and the business of just being alive.

There are quite a lot of characters here, and they all manage to stand out as individuals. Which I appreciate as a large supporting  cast often can feel like there's just two or three other characters that happen to have five different names. Not the case here, I never had any trouble remembering anyone, though of course there also wasn't that much room for character development here (though this also plays out over a relatively short time span, and there is limits to how much there is to be revealed).

This story is set in New York, a city that I don't know. It's big, full og people and it shows up on TV and in movies a lot. That's it. I have read a few books set there, but it is not familiar to me, and while the city (or mostly Brooklyn) is a presence (and maybe a character of its own in a way if you are familiar with it, but I can't really tell). Sierra has an ordinary life, she's a teenager who struggles with identity, family, self-image and then, as if out of the blue, she discovers this whole other aspect of the world, magic, and it has deep ties with her family and ancestry. It adds dimensions to the world, yet normalcy is still everywhere. I love that.

Sometimes the plot felt a bit convenient, other times I reacted to things that were either foreshadowing or red herrings that just pulled me a little out of the story. The ending was also a bit too neat for my tastes, though I appreciate that friendships were made stronger, forgiveness dealt and new relationships were formed. I would have liked a bit more.

Another "complaint" I have is that this isn't a movie or graphic novel, because I bet the visuals would be both stunning and terrifying.

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