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(Shadowshaper Cypher #1)

3.78  ·  Rating details ·  9,358 ratings  ·  2,050 reviews
Sierra Santiago was looking forward to a fun summer of making art, hanging out with her friends, and skating around Brooklyn. But then a weird zombie guy crashes the first party of the season. Sierra's near-comatose abuelo begins to say "Lo siento" over and over. And when the graffiti murals in Bed-Stuy start to weep.... Well, something stranger than the usual New York may ...more
Hardcover, 297 pages
Published June 30th 2015 by Arthur A. Levine Books
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Average rating 3.78  · 
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 ·  9,358 ratings  ·  2,050 reviews

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Rick Riordan
Apr 02, 2016 rated it it was amazing
YA fantasy.

I'm a big fan of Older's adult urban fantasy series Bone Street Rumba, so I was curious to see how his style would translate into a young adult novel. The answer is beautifully.

Sierra Santiago is a typical Brooklyn teenager just starting her summer vacation. She plans to hang out with her friends, have some fun, and finish painting her dragon mural on the wall of an old half-finished high-rise development called the Tower, which otherwise is an unwelcome eyesore in the neighborhood
Sep 20, 2015 rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: fans of UF who can enjoy young adult. but not the annoyoing kind.
Recommended to carol. by: Hunger For Knowledge

I’m rather annoyed by the label ‘message fiction,’ as I feel like it implies everything else doesn’t have a message. Yet I suppose there is a sort of value in the term and implication about the focus of the book. Shadowshaper isn’t a message book as much as it is a values book, a modern urban fantasy that is solidly representational, the sort of book that is likely to drive Bad Luppies into writing ranty blog posts. However, despite the values focus, it is a solid story, the sort of book I’d giv
Spencer Orey
Apr 12, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: new-york-magic
I really appreciate how grounded this book feels in a diverse but rapidly gentrifying Brooklyn. The magic system springs out of ancestry and history but has been shaped by the long shadows (sorry) of colonialism and uneven power dynamics in the US. And while the villain is obviously a big threat, it feels like the real threat is the rising rent and how everyone is getting driven out of town by rich white people.

Putting on my Dr. Spencer hat for a second: in this book there's a lot of push back a
jv poore
To be sure, when a “random old white dude” fancies himself as THE anthropologist guru of urban spirituality systems, and thusly thrusts himself into the mythology of the shadowshapers; no good can come from it. Oddly, the offended fury of the spirits and entities enraged by his pompous presumptions pales in comparison to the wrath our plucky Puerto Rican narrator.

Sierra is tougher-than-nails-kinder-than-a-kitten, cajoling the reader to dive in and hang with her and the vibrant, charismatic, tig
Oct 21, 2016 rated it liked it
3.5 stars!

This short book packs a punch. A unique urban fantasy that mixes Latinx folklore with the setting of Brooklyn, introducing a unique magic where ancestral spirits combine with art.

Shadowshaper isn't only about magic. It also discusses racism, sexism, gentrification, family ties, and appropriation. Definitely check this series out if you are looking for an urban fantasy that is outside the box!

What can go wrong with a book with intricate worldbuilding, diverse cast if characters and discussions of sexism and racism? Bad writing, I tell you, and bland characters.

The Shadowshaper had been on my to-read shelf for such a long time and I was so excited to read it especially because of that beautiful cover but the thing is, the cover was only interesting thing about it. I didn't care for any of the characters, I wasn't interested in any action and the only reason I read it till the
The FountainPenDiva, Old school geek chick and lover of teddy bears
Read it! Loved it! Just. Wow!

Love that COVER!

Firstly, nothing against Cassandra Clare, whom I give props to for insisting the character of Magnus Bayne not be whitewashed by Hollywood, but Shadowshaper is by far and away better than the Mortal Instruments series. Shadowshaper is DIVERSE, with an Afro-Latina lead heroine. Daniel Jose Older's New York looks like the REAL New York, a hodgepodge of cultures and peoples who live and breathe and who have brought their unique folkways to the city that
Mar 04, 2018 rated it it was amazing
I love this book!

I don't know why this book series isn't more hyped. I vaguely remember hearing about Shadowshaper when it first came out but then I didn't hear anything else. In fact I didn't even know the second book had already been released. I can only assume this book series isn't bigger because its characters are all unapologetically Afro-Latino and I loved it.

Shadowshaper by Daniel Jose Older is part fast paced magical action adventure and part love letter to Brooklyn and the Afro-Latino
Jul 02, 2015 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2017-read, audiobook
4.5 stars

I listened to this as an audiobook and, wow, I'm tacking on an extra half star because the narration was just that good. The main character is of Puerto Rican descent, living in Brooklyn, and the narrator did a fantastic job with everything fron urban accented teen-speak to native Spanish words.

The story was just so rich and multilayered, dealing with questions of identity, family, and social status. Gentrification and the role of culture and colour are brought into play as well, but a
Andrea McDowell
Sep 10, 2015 rated it it was ok
Shelves: fiction
Its heart was in the right place.

I loved the author's ability to situate the story within a diverse New York, and all of his sly commentary on racism and sexism (though the sexism feels tacked-on). I love the idea behind the story. But the execution just didn't do it for me.

For one thing, the stakes of the destruction of the shadowshapers were never made clear enough, early enough in the story to motivate readers. In most fantasy novels the author makes it pretty clear that the protagonist's fai
Liz Overberg
I'm not sure how to review this book. in terms of plotting, cheesy teen romance, and characterization, this was a one star. As in, painful. Like, a textbook example of what people are making fun of when they make fun of a book like Twilight .

However the paranormal elements were fairly unique, with spirits ("shadows") that take on a corporeal or 3-D form when guided by a "Shadowshaper." I thought that was pretty cool, and I hadn't read anything like that before. So I'm throwing on half a star fo
Sep 07, 2015 rated it liked it
This book is good, but I wasn't overly in love with it. It is a really quick read, but that means that it does not have a lot of deep character development or even deep explanation of the magic system or deep world building, which is a bit disappointing. And there are definitely parts that feel a bit convenient to the plot in order to keep the pacing up. But overall this was a positive reading experience and I recommend this book if you like young adult fantasy. ...more
Sydnee Thompson
Jul 05, 2015 rated it really liked it
So Daniel José Older basically just said, "Fuck your white sensibilities" and poured spoiled mayonnaise all over them. And I'm here for it, obviously. I'm a pretty prolific reader, but I can honestly say I've hardly read books that addressed *one* social justice issue, let alone as many as Older does. I'm probably missing some, but there's talk or depiction of: police brutality, gentrification, white apathy, cultural appropriation, misogyny, colorism, ancestral memory, anti-blackness, respectabi ...more
Book Riot Community
I listened to the audiobook narrated by Anika Noni Rose, and it is spectacular. Older creates a new experience by combining the YA UF structure we all know and love with a culturally-rich setting, steeped in spiritual tradition and diverse heritage. Sierra is a wonderful heroine. I know you’ve heard about this book from other Rioters, because that’s how I became interested in it, but let me add my voice to the chorus saying: this book is amazing. I’ve been telling everybody I talk to about it.

I’m filing this in what is sadly becoming a rather large batch of fantasy works that have so much promise and that fall apart with messy, incoherent plotting, inconsistent and empty characterization, and a general lack of coherence. I’m very happy that many more diverse SFF writers are finding the opportunity to tell stories of heroes from communities and worlds that are severely under-represented: in this case, the protagonist is a young Puerto Rican girl from the Brooklyn neighborhood of Bed-S ...more
Cece (ProblemsOfaBookNerd)

Full spoiler free video review to come!
Initial reaction: One of my favorite reads this year so far. I loved this book so much. The MC had a strong voice and the overarching storyline was imaginative and exciting. I'm definitely looking forward to the sequel.

Full review:

I'll admit I saw this book on the shelf at my library and was completely taken by cover lust. If you also want a different experience than reading the physical book, the audio version is wonderfully read by Anika Noni Rose (I ended up purchasing this from Audible becau
I loved the sense of neighborhood in this YA novel, set in Brooklyn and its New York surroundings. Old brownstones nudge uncomfortably against the encroaching coffee houses and condos of gentrification, and BIPoC and whites nudge uncomfortably against each other, too. Street murals hold ancestral magic. That part of it is all great!

Unfortunately, the characters weren't anywhere near as vibrant as their surroundings, and at times I couldn't tell anyone apart aside from what generation they were i
Dec 29, 2014 rated it really liked it

There's a great conversation where Sierra and her friends are debating hipsters vs yuppies, and casually discussing gentrification in general. Sierra is a fucking fabulous protagonist. It was refreshing to see her having to deal with some real city shit like street harassment, and heartbreaking to witness her dealing with things such as her aunt's constant horrible colorist digs. This
Alex Bright
There are some good concepts -- especially the spiritual lore explored -- but the overall execution is... meh. It really is a shame. Choices made by the characters are purely plot-driven, rather than authentic to the person portrayed. The emotions shown by people, the kids especially, seem surface-level most of the time. Traumatic experiences, for example, are shaken off almost instantly. Honestly, I think my eyes are sore from rolling them so often while I read this. There are notes of Scooby G ...more
Allison Hurd
This was DELIGHTFUL. The classic teen story of learning your magical heritage, but Brooklyn through and through. I absolutely loved how the author rendered the story and characters so lovingly, and how the narrator infused them each with so much life.

CONTENT WARNINGS (a list of topics): (view spoiler)

Things to love:

-The whole cast. I am SO IMPRESSED at how this author wrote
Nathan Bransford
May 02, 2015 rated it it was amazing
This is a special book for me, I worked with Daniel on some early drafts way back when I was an agent. It's awesome to see how "Shadowshaper" came together -- Daniel crafts a new mythology for Brooklyn, full of animated paintings, spirits, and some seriously cool teen protagonists. It's exciting to see this book come to life. ...more
"Who gets to study and who gets studied, and why? Who makes the decisions, you know?"
Shadowshaper brings richer cadences to a familiar tune. Many aspects are familiar to readers of urban fantasy and young adult: a secret world of magic, a naive heroine who discovers her own unique powers, and burgeoning romance. However, Older describes a fuller, more vibrant city than the standard cookie-cutter urban fantasy fare: the mixing and clash of cultures, mutual distrust with interloping police, stark

I talk about this book in this mini reading wrap-up video!

I was following Older on social media before I picked up this book, so I'm going to say that I was predisposed to liking it. I was ready to love this and... I didn't. I think it's almost more disappointing because all of the potential was there, but I just felt like there was a lack of depth, in terms of plot and characters, that kept me at an arm's length from the story overall. I really did like the characters as they were introduced an
I read this because it was a group read with the SFFBC. I’m pretty sure I’m not the target audience, mostly because I’m not a young teenager. However, I enjoyed it immensely. Anika Noni Rose as narrator was brilliant. She did all the accents so well (well, as far as I could tell) and made the dialogue really come alive. I’m not sure if I would’ve enjoyed the book so much if I’d eye-read it. There were a lot of negative opinions aired about this book on the group read thread and as I was listenin ...more
3.5 Stars: Very quick, breezy read with wonderful atmosphere, but not as suitable for adult readers as some other YA I've read (too predictable if you've read a lot). I can very much recommend the audio book, which includes guitar music and singing in a way that's not at all cheesy but works really well. Loved the pretty unique magic system, but don't go in expecting any explanations for how it works. My favorite part were the protagonist's family & friends and their interactions, whereas the ro ...more
I’m glad that’s over with. I’m not sure how much of it was me and my own external circumstances and how much of it was the book, but this became a slog for me by the end even though it’s pretty short. I did enjoy the previous few books I read quite a bit despite similar circumstances, so I think it was at least partly the book.

The story focuses on Sierra, a teenage artist living in Brooklyn. She’s painting a mural on a tower in her neighborhood when she starts to notice one of the other murals c
Aug 05, 2020 rated it liked it
Shelves: scifi-club-read
I let this one sit for a while before reviewing. I think you can attribute my tepid response mostly to this not being my bag baby.

The first part was very slow to pull me in, there was lots of teen dialogue with slang that I wasn't impressed by. Strangely as I kept reading the slang was what pulled me in, it felt authentic (not that I would know) and true to the characters. There were a few moments of angst while choosing what clothes to wear which I could not be less interested in, yet also fel
Aug 22, 2015 rated it really liked it
Aaaah this was so good!

So many women in this book! PoC! Lesbians! Actual urban fantasy! Street art that comes to life! Brooklyn! Tattoos! Dancing! Spirits!

So you know how George R.R. Martin has that whole thing about fantasy and reality and how reality is so much more boring? "Reality is the strip malls of Burbank, the smokestacks of Cleveland, a parking garage in Newark. Fantasy is the towers of Minas Tirith, the ancient stones of Gormenghast, the halls of Camelot." Look, I see where he's comin
I love the cover of this book. That girl with the glorious hair looking straight at the viewer, and not smiling. Love this cover.

This YA book was a fast read, and was about a teen, Sierra, discovering a supernatural world that surrounded her, and her family's relationship with magic and spirits. It was also a book about a girl figuring out herself, what matters to her and how others perceive her based on how she looks. It's also a book about friendship. Sierra's friends are lively and open and s
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Daniel José Older is the New York Times bestselling author of the Young Adult series the Shadowshaper Cypher (Scholastic), the Bone Street Rumba urban fantasy series (Penguin), and the upcoming Middle Grade sci-fi adventure Flood City (Scholastic). He won the International Latino Book Award and has been nominated for the Kirkus Prize, the Mythopoeic Award, the Locus Award, the Andre Norton Award, ...more

Other books in the series

Shadowshaper Cypher (3 books)
  • Shadowhouse Fall (Shadowshaper, #2)
  • Shadowshaper Legacy (Shadowshaper, #3)

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