“Shadowhouse Fall” Book Review

Sequel to Shadowshaper Sierra and her friends love their new lives as shadowshapers, making art and creating change with the spirits of Brooklyn. Then Sierra receives a strange card depicting a beast called the Hound of Light — an image from the enigmatic, influential Deck of Worlds. The shadowshapers know their next battle has arrived.

Thrust into an ancient struggle with enemies old and new, Sierra and Shadowhouse are determined to win. Revolution is brewing in the real world as well, as the shadowshapers lead the fight against systems that oppress their community. To protect her family and friends in every sphere, Sierra must take down the Hound and master the Deck of Worlds… or risk losing them all.

CW: ableism, panic attacks, police brutality, Baker Acting

Rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

Short Review: Older had a vision for this book, and he made it happen. The writing is deliberate in the way that it continues to develop the world of the Shadowshapers while also tackling modern, real world struggles. He fleshes out his characters, envelops the reader in a world of magic, and still makes time for some serious, much-needed activism.

Long Review: Warning – May Contain Spoilers

The Good

This 👏🏽 Story 👏🏽 Is 👏🏽 Woke. Given that this is a story about a bunch of black (and Afro-Latinx) kids running around the streets of New York, Older had a lot to work with, but he absolutely made the most of it. The story conquers the world of police brutality, the struggles of racism, calls out white complacency, and even gives a shout out to black figures like Trayvon Martin. This story speaks VOLUMES, and if you’re looking for something that is both incredibly entertaining and also incredibly powerful, this is the book for you.

The writing in this novel was world’s beyond Shadowhsaper. Older brought his A-game in terms of description, action, and pacing. He takes this book as a chance to fully flesh out some characters who were left a little dry in book one and really tug on some heartstrings.

This is that urban fantasy book that has you laughing while you shiver. The magic is enthralling, and the dialogue is hilarious. You’ll find yourself engrossed as you flip from one emotional extreme to another.

The Bad

I was not feeling the love triangle. At all. The relationship between Robbie and Sierra felt a little forced to me in book one, but I was looking forward to seeing how it would smooth out in book two. Eesh. Not even a little.

On top of the rocky, and kind of awkwardly unnecessary Robbie drama was the newly introduced love triangle with Juan’s friend Anthony. I just couldn’t get into it. Nothing about the relationship felt organic or well-drawn out to me, and while Anthony was a mostly likeable character, his relationship with Sierra felt about as convincing as his panic attacks (next section).

The Problematic

The story struggles with a good amount of ableism. While there are some issues regarding mental hospitals and patients that seemed to be handled relatively well, the story was still rife with casual ableism and ableist slurs like “maniac”.

Other issues came in the form of Anthony’s panic attacks. When he entrusts this information to Sierra, the two discuss it in a way that I thought was very mental health inclusive. However, this sensitivity is the last you’ll see through to the end of the novel. We’ve got plenty of issues like Sierra “not telling anyone about his panic attacks” while being super obvious and talking about his “condition”. We have her failing to respond to the fact that he’s having a panic attack after promising to be there only to show up and for the whole scene to devolve into “sexy times”.

More than anything, though, Anthony’s anxiety seemed to be a tool to make his relationship with Sierra more convincing. His entrusting this information to her (even though he barely knows her and has only told like four people) is basically the only glue keeping their relationship together, and several times throughout the novel, this knowledge is used to either entice or berate Sierra and draw more attention to an otherwise lackluster couple.

Conclusion

Overall, Shadowhouse Fall was one of my favorite reads of the year. Despite a couple of hiccups in terms of mental health and romance, the story is colorful, powerful, and a surefire sign that Older’s writing just gets better with age (buh dum tsss).

I read an ARC of this book. It releases September 12, 2017.

 

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