Keeper of the Lost Cities by Shannon Messenger
Publisher: Aladdin (Part of Simon and Schuster)
TOTAL RATING: 3.8 STARS
In this delightful start to a whopping 8 book series, Shannon Messenger has managed to capture lots of the joy we felt when first reading such magical middle grade like Harry Potter. Indeed, I know for some people the similarities are a little on the nose and I can totally agree that some of the things the book does are very tropey and cliche, but Keeper of the Lost Cities brings enough new stuff to the table as well as keeping the tropes clean and well written, a classic mistake found in other forms of the post HP, magic score vibes we all see regularly today on our shelves.
Sophie is a normal twelve year old… if normal means she’s incredibly advanced for her age as a senior in high school. Added on top of all this Sophie can hear thoughts! Obviously, life isn’t all easy street for our girl Sophie and that’s before she finds out she’s not human and becomes thrown into the magical world of elves and Everglen.
One of the first things that impressed me about this story was the depth of it. Now, obviously, a 500 page middle grade had me like WTF, but looking at the very chucky margins and the large chapter headings, I feel like this book got padded out by at least 30 extra pages than needed, but that doesn’t take away from the expert way Shannon Messenger dropped her breadcrumbs throughout the novel. Added on top of this, it helps to have interesting characters, and while Sophie is a little bit precious cinnamon roll at times, with sudden (and convenient) powers that materialise but its didn’t stop me from enjoy the story.
Also, I’m guessing that as a character, Sophie is supposed to resonate with younger readers and not cynical 30 year olds! (oh dear… given away me age now)
The world has been carefully looked after and grown and feels real and fleshed out, rather than left as a second thought. The school, Foxfire, while obviously inspired by Hogwarts, retains a little unique charm and the benefit of our world working alongside it helps to ground us to the story with actual places.
Now, KOTLC (I can’t spell it out every time) isn’t without it’s flaws. The writing for me was very basic, but again this has to be taken with a pinch of salt and think about the primary reader of the book, but that being said, there’s a little bit of inconsistency with certain portions of the book. Some parts are given much more development in the book with characters, scenes and pacing dedicated to them while other plot points shoot past like racing cars.
That being said, I was caught out by some of the authors ability to have me getting to the end only to drop the big reveal and then I had to flick back to the beginning to start searching the text more closely for those breadcrumbs… boy, she really nailed that part of the plot.
And that only added to my enjoyment of the book.
Now, clearly, you don’t need my opinion to see if this is a good series… Publishers don’t hand out 8 book series to any old garbage!
But I would suggest anybody who enjoys magical schools, world behind our own and any of the other blended/contemporary fantasies that are a little more grounded in realism rather than swords and dragons for example, will find a length and in depth series to binge, if this success of a first book is anything to judge by.
Final Thoughts: This book will end up a Keeper on your shelves.