Shadowshaper by Daniel José Older (New York Time Book Review)

by Holly Black

In the best urban fantasy, the city is not just a backdrop, but functions as a character in its own right, offering up parallels between personal histories and histories of place. That is certainly true in Daniel José Older’s magnificent “Shadow­shaper,” which gives us a Brooklyn that is vital, authentic and under attack.

The book opens with Sierra Santiago painting an enormous mural of a dragon on the side of a building. “We hate the Tower,” Manny the Domino King tells her, explaining why her ­mural is important. “We spit on the Tower. Your paint is our nasty loogie, hocked upon the stupidity that is the Tower.”

[…]

It turns out that Sierra’s mural is important for another reason. Sierra comes from a long line of shadowshapers — ­magicians who channel friendly spirits into art. Given form, those spirits are able to defend the community. Her discovery of her own ability and the family history that comes with it is part dynastic intrigue and part cultural awakening. The story is messy, the people in it behave imperfectly and Sierra is heir to all the bad stuff as well as the good.

Sierra herself is a compelling, refreshing hero, with a “fro stretched ­magnificently around her in a fabulous, unbothered halo.” Along with her brother Juan, a guitar player in a salsa-thrash band; the enigmatic Robbie, who draws so compulsively that his art covers “every surface of his clothes, his backpack, his desk”; her trickster figure of an uncle; and a collection of clever and funny friends, she has to discover who is ­murdering her abuelo’s associates and why other murals all over her neighborhood are fading.

Read More at NYTimes.com

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