Parents' Guide to

Shadowhouse Fall: The Shadowshaper Cypher, Book 2

By Carrie R. Wheadon, Common Sense Media Reviewer

age 13+

Compelling fantasy gets into race issues of spirits, police.

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This urban fantasy doubles down on the spirit-world conflict and astute social commentary, and is successful at weaving them both together seamlessly. Can't say that about a lot of fantasy novels. And Shadowshaper Cypher is probably the first series to feature a teen girl of color as a fantasy hero battling racist spirits and corrupt law enforcement all at once. On Sierra's side: Black Hoodies, spirits of young people who were killed by police. Just as Sierra is so sure of her own mind, author Daniel Jose Older is not shying away from his perspective. It's dangerous in this Twitter-shaming world, which makes it braver and more refreshing in a way, even if the author's views don't entirely match every one of his readers'. Here's hoping that instead of closed-minded controversy, Shadowhouse Fall provokes some great discussion with teens and their parents who are struggling with how to address these very timely topics.

The fantasy story really ramps up here, with more curious characters and a whole tarot-like power-play game. It adds a nice layer of mystery and keeps readers guessing. Who should Sierra trust? There's a West Side Story feel when rival factions clash (as in, it's more posturing and trash talk than anything). The action is sometimes hard to follow, especially since the rules of how spirits can harm or otherwise affect the living aren't clearly drawn out. Readers may feel at times, but the story still excites. Just as exciting: This thought-provoking series is just getting started.

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