‘Shadowshaper,’ by Daniel José Older

This is the Brooklyn that stands to be lost. The Brooklyn that is under threat from various directions, not all of them magical. “Vincent had been killed by the cops three years back,” Sierra tells us, identifying the young man in a portrait on a ­cement wall. In that elegantly understated line, Older establishes police ­violence as an almost environmental threat, unpredictable and inevitable as a storm.

Gentrification is another source of danger. When Sierra walks a few blocks to see her friend Bennie, she gets “funny stares from all sides — as if she was the ­out-of-place one, she thought. And then, sadly, she realized she was the ­out-of-place one.” While her friend Izzy might enjoy sitting in the new, expensive coffee shops and writing poetry, the threat inherent in the shifting cultural landscape is highlighted when Sierra is chased through the streets by spirits bound into an enormous malevolent shadow: None of the white people in that neighborhood will help her. Their assumptions about who she is could get her killed.

In urban fantasy, the city often takes the role of the dark forest of fairy tales, the place where magic can be found, often alongside great danger. The city is where the witches and the wolves live. In the city, we triumph or we get chewed up and spit back out. Not so, here. Older’s Brooklyn is a village, a community harassed by outsiders who want to rob from it, corrupt it or erase it. Menace lurks at the periphery — academics wanting to steal culture, policemen intending to steal lives and real estate agents pushing out ­residents.

via ‘Shadowshaper,’ by Daniel José Older – NYTimes.com.

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