Grafitti Magic with a side of social justice, or my review of Shadowhouse Fall

Shadowhouse Fall

Shadowhouse Fall (Shadowshaper #2)

By: Daniel Jose Older 

Publisher: Arthur A. Levine Books

Publication Date: September 12th, 2017

Format: Hardcover

Shadowhouse rising

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 Deck tracks the players and powers of all the magical houses in the city, and when the real Hound begins to stalk Sierra through the streets, the shadowshapers know their next battle has arrived.

Worlds in revolution

Sierra and Shadowhouse have been thrust into an ancient struggle with enemies old and new—a struggle they didn’t want, but 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 else she could lose all the things that matter most.


4 star (griffin)

Last year, I was introduced to Shadowshaper via a class on youth literature (one of the perks of library school, seriously), and fell in love with the magical graffiti and sassy, crazy, NY badass that was Sierra. That being said, I’d forgotten there was a sequel coming out until I saw it at the library, freshly cataloged and everything. Imagine how quickly I snatched it.

What I was really craving was another entry into the world of Shadowshaper, and I wasn’t disappointed. There was chalk and graffiti magic, sassy New York teenagers, Salsa thrasher music, and so much more. Sierra was her usual awesome self, with wild hair and a will to fight whatever battles she has to in order to make things right. And she was surrounded by the usual crew–Bennie and Robbie, Izzy and Tee, and even her mom and brother as newly-minted Shadowshapers. I loved the vibrancy of this book, how everything jumps out and feels real.

But I also liked how Older incorporates real-world issues into these books, combining the issues that exist in our world with the magic that Sierra and crew wield. It feels very down-to-earth, in a way that he’s not ignoring the actual issues in these teen’s lives in favor of magic. For instance, in Shadowshaper there was a lot of talk of gentrification, appropriation and colonialism. In Shadowhouse Fall, issues with the police played a significant role in the plot, with one of the bad guys working in the police force and abusing his power in order to take out the shadowshapers (although it’s made clear, especially in all the metal detector school scenes, that abuse of power by armed authorities is not something any of these kids is unfamiliar with).

But the magical bad guys are not just the police, but Sierra’s old enemies the Sorrows, manipulating a magical deck of cards in order to try to take down Sierra and her crew after her summer antics. I loved the imagery of the cards, the gamified setup of this fantastical, magical world. That entire concept was just cool. But that being said, I was also kind of disappointed that we didn’t have nearly as much graffiti magic and general spirit stuff as in Shadowshaper. It was something I missed. And, although the plot felt less formulaic than Shadowshaper, Shadowhouse Fall did feel as if it was a little light on the description and detail that I was craving.

But everything else I enjoyed. I loved how Sierra got rid of Robbie when he wasn’t treating her right, and being generally annoying. I liked the frank discussion of anxiety with her new boy, and how well it was treated as a subject. I adored the moments when Sierra was bonding with her family in meaningful ways. I appreciated the ways in which various forms of grief were addressed and dealt with. And, of course, the final battle was intensely kickass.

Overall, this was a highly enjoyable book, which reminded me just how much I really did like this series. Despite my earlier wariness, it handled a lot of things well, and made me curious what the next book in the series is going to look like.

rosi name

Disclaimer: The synopsis and cover picture were pulled from the book’s Goodreads page. Neither belong to us.

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