Sierra and her Shadowshaper crew return in the second full-length novel.
Shadowhouse Fall by Daniel José Older. Arthur A. Levine/Scholastic, 2017.
The school year is starting again for Sierra and her friends, all now in training, as our story opens. This book feels even more rooted in the modern day, even as the magical elements are strong. The friends are heckling the security guards as they go through the metal detectors on their way in to school, even as the guards tell them they’d make it through the gates much faster if they didn’t wear any jewelry.
Things start to get weird when one of the few white kids in school, red-haired Mina, gives Sierra a card from the Deck of Worlds. Sierra doesn’t really know what the Deck of Worlds is, but she knows (from events from one of the novellas set over the summer, which I haven’t read) that Mina has been involved with the Sorrows, who are definitely not friends of the Shadowshapers. Can she be trusted? There is darkness and uncertainty on every side, as Sierra knows that people are counting on her to make the right choices.
In an effort to learn more, Sierra tries to connect with the few remaining Shadowshapers of the older generation. Meanwhile, her relationship with Robbie turns more off than on, and Sierra starts feeling attracted towards Pulpo, the bass player in her brother’s band Culebra. This was another sweet romance, and I appreciated that Sierra is allowed to be a normal teen exploring different relationships, instead of finding her One True Love at 15.
Police brutality, the criminalization of young black men, and the Black Lives Matter movement are skillfully woven together with the supernatural plot. I personally like almost any story better with some magic in it, and this has plenty. But after having my heart broken twice over reading The Hate U Give and American Street last year, I was also very relieved to find a book dealing with these themes where the young men survive the book. I don’t know if Older has any more books planned here, but I would be happy to many more books about Sierra and her crew!