Review: Our Shadows Have Claws

Collage of the OUR SHADOWS HAVE CLAWS book cover. It is described in more detail below.

The book cover has a turquoise background. The title is printed in red. The names of all of the contributors are listed. From the top of the book, there are also four red claws that appear to be tearing into the book. There is one more very sharp claw at the bottom right corner as if the thumb is grasping there.Title: Our Shadows Have Claws: 15 Latin American Monster Stories
Editors: Yamile Saied Méndez & Amparo Ortiz
Contributors: Chantel Acevedo, Courtney Alameda, Julia Alvarez, Ann Dávila Cardinal, M. García Peña, Racquel Marie, Gabriela Martins, Maika Moulite and Maritza Moulite, Claribel A. Ortega, Lilliam Rivera, Jenny Torres Sanchez, Ari Tison, and Alexandra Villasante
Illustrator: Ricardo López Ortiz
Genres: Horror
Pages: 368
Publisher: Algonquin Young Readers
Review Copy: Electronic provided by publisher via NetGalley
Availability: 6 September 2022

Summary: Fifteen original short stories from YA superstars, featuring Latine mythology’s most memorable monsters

From zombies to cannibals to death incarnate, this cross-genre anthology offers something for every monster lover. In Our Shadows Have Claws, bloodthirsty vampires are hunted by a quick-witted slayer; children are stolen from their beds by “el viejo de la bolsa” while a military dictatorship steals their parents; and anyone you love, absolutely anyone, might be a shapeshifter waiting to hunt.

The worlds of these stories are dark but also magical ones, where a ghost-witch can make your cheating boyfriend pay, bullies are brought to their knees by vicious wolf-gods, a jar of fireflies can protect you from the reality-warping magic of a bruja—and maybe you’ll even live long enough to tell the tale. Set across Latin America and its diaspora, this collection offers bold, imaginative stories of oppression, grief, sisterhood, first love, and empowerment.

Review: [Content warnings: Body horror, death, murder, racism, and homophobia.]

OUR SHADOWS HAVE CLAWS is a thoughtfully compiled anthology, featuring a great mix of horror stories, and the illustrations that were present in my eARC did a fantastic job of evoking the atmospheres of the different stories. (Shoutout to the illustration for “¿Dónde Está El Duende?”, which is going to haunt me for a while.) There are monster hunters falling for monster rehabilitators, characters discovering their supernatural heritages, and several variations on being haunted or stalked by the otherworldly. There are triumphant stories, ambiguously ended stories, and downer ending stories, and the anthology felt very cohesive even with its broad theme of anything monster-adjacent in Latin America and its diaspora.

While not present in all of the stories, this anthology has a recurring theme of turning to supernatural elements to exact justice, whether that’s to protect land rights or end a predator’s hold on a neighborhood. (And, you know, sometimes it’s just satisfying for a cheating boyfriend to run into a monster who really doesn’t like men who disparage their girlfriends.) There are also multiple stories that touch on rediscovering or reuniting with your (supernatural) family or heritage, which will likely resonate with diaspora readers.

There is a lot to love about the stories in OUR SHADOWS HAVE CLAWS, and even the ones that didn’t speak to me had interesting elements that I enjoyed. A few of the standout stories for me were “¿Dónde Está El Duende?” by Jenny Torres Sanchez, for its chilling descriptions of what happens when el duende has you in its thrall; “La Madrina” by Yamile Saied Méndez for its lovely depiction of death and a second chance; and “Blood Kin” by Ari Tison for its portrayal of resisting global, corporate evils.

Recommendation: Get it soon if you’re a fan of monsters or horror in general. OUR SHADOWS HAVE CLAWS is an imaginative anthology that draws upon Latin America and its diaspora. The anthology is out just in time for Halloween, too, so it would be a great addition to a personal, classroom, or public library.