Title: Keeper of the Lost Cities
Author: Shannon Messenger
Genre: Fantasy, Middle Grade/Young Adult
Publication date: October 2012
Hardcover: 496 pages
Blurb (from Goodreads):
Twelve-year-old Sophie Foster has a secret. She’s a Telepath—someone who hears the thoughts of everyone around her. It’s a talent she’s never known how to explain.
Everything changes the day she meets Fitz, a mysterious boy who appears out of nowhere and also reads minds. She discovers there’s a place she does belong, and that staying with her family will place her in grave danger. In the blink of an eye, Sophie is forced to leave behind everything and start a new life in a place that is vastly different from anything she has ever known.
Sophie has new rules to learn and new skills to master, and not everyone is thrilled that she has come “home.” There are secrets buried deep in Sophie’s memory—secrets about who she really is and why she was hidden among humans—that other people desperately want. Would even kill for.
In this page-turning debut, Shannon Messenger creates a riveting story where one girl must figure out why she is the key to her brand-new world, before the wrong person finds the answer first.
Stand alone or series: Book 1 in a planned series
How did I get this book: local library
Why did I read this book: I’ve been following Shannon’s blog for a long time and was really excited to travel on her journey from finding an agent to the publication of Keeper. I was thrilled when I saw it in my local library so I took it home and read it.
Overall, I liked the novel. I thought the premise was good and younger middle graders I think will appreciate it for what it is.
Sophie is a unique character in that she was raised for the first 12 years of her life as a human only to find out she’s really an elf. As the story unravels, the reader discovers more behind the cover-up and about the mysterious Black Swan organization that may be to blame for all her problems. She is likable and it’s easy to understand her problems and why she reacts the way she does. I think the 9- 11-year-old group will find the story easy enough to follow along and will find Sophie someone they can relate to.
There were some very interesting creatures and concepts from feathered dinosaur pets to catching elements like lightning and tornadoes in bottles, and using elderberries to transmute iron. I thought the settings were quite magical, from the capital city of Eternalia (the human’s Shangri-la) to Everglen, to Atlantis.
The characters are all memorable and well-developed. There were times Messenger had me guessing about a couple of the characters, wondering if they were on the good side or the bad. I giggled and smiled a lot, even laughed out loud a couple of times. I adore her friend, Dex. I think Fitz is hot and if I was 12 years old, I’d have a crush on him, too. Elwin is amazing and I will be interested to see if Fitz’s friend, Keefe, will have a bigger role. I like him a lot too, and there is an intriguing backstory with him as well that I would like to see discovered. I am quite suspicious of several characters and I will be interested to see who the real ones are that Sophie can trust.
There was a fair amount of action and Sophie gets herself into a decent amount of trouble without asking for it. There is a heartbreaking moment between Sophie and her elf guardians that may bring a tear or two a young reader’s eye. Of course, Sophie finds a way to overcome her issues, but not without some difficulties. Again, I think the problems and solutions are suitable for the younger age group in the middle grade age span.
There ware many similar elements of Harry Potter. Sophie attends a school for ‘special elves’ of ability. She excels in most of her classes except alchemy (Harry’s, of course, was potions). There is a Councillor who doesn’t like Sophie (Harry had Umbridge, among others). And, like Harry, Sophie is The One to save the world. There were other glaring similarities but I don’t think younger middle grade readers will be upset by them.
Personally, I didn’t like Sophie’s new family, and I thought more needed to be explained and revealed as far as they were concerned. They seemed not quite polished enough, like something was missing. I wanted more interaction between Sophie and Edaline, more angst. The issues there seemed to resolve themselves too easily. The ending happened too fast, too conveniently, and yet, I was happy to see the issue resolve the way it did.
One of my biggest peeves in the story is Sophie’s age. She’s 12-years old for most of the novel, yet I kept thinking she was much older. She has pretty much full reign to go where she pleases in her new world without her guardian’s permission. She’s super pretty, super talented and has three hot guys pursuing her. There are passages that don’t sound like something a 12-year old would think. There were times I had to stop and think, ‘How old is this girl supposed to be?’ I even had to go back and make sure years didn’t go by at any point. She seems much older than 12…more like sixteen with Dex and Fitz around 17 or 18.
I was a little disappointed in the plot line as I’m not sure what it is. There are a lot of questions that never got resolved except for the heartbreaking issue surrounding her guardians. I’m sure most questions will be answered in the follow up novel, but I’m still confused as to what the actual plot was in this one. If it was to find out who set the fires in her hometown of San Diego and what happened to her parents…well, that wasn’t revealed. If it was about Sophie attending her first months in elf school…we might have a winner there. If it was about Sophie finding out who she is and what she needs to do to save the world…nah, not there, either, though it was eluded to in the novel. By the end of the novel, Sophie is still in the dark as to who she is and what her purpose is…and so are we. Don’t get me wrong. The story was enjoyable. It’s enchanting and a delightful read. There are twists and turns; I’m just not sure what the overall plot was.
The book is a bit long, 488 pages in hardback, but I don’t think its length will deter young readers, especially those who still have their parents read aloud to them at bedtime.
With all that said, I still enjoyed the book and would recommend it to others. I did giggle and smile a lot, and I really enjoyed going on the journey with Sophie as she discovers more about herself, her life and the multiple realities of the worlds. I’m definitely looking for the sequel, Exile, which is due to release later this year. I give Keeper a solid 4 stars.
- Most Anticipated Middle Grade Releases of 2013 (novelnovice.com)
- Keeper of the Lost Cities Review (commonsensemedia.org)
- Shannon Messenger’s Debut is a Keeper (epinions.com)
- Joint Review: Keeper of the Lost Cities (the booksmugglers.com)
- Keeper of the Lost Cities – Kirkus Reviews (kirkusreviews.com)