Keeper of the Lost Cities

by Shannon Messenger

I read this one at my ten-year-old’s urging. Yes it’s over four hundred pages, but the pace moves incredibly quick so it didn’t feel all that hefty. It’s perfectly tailored for middle-grade readers. My kid is so excited about this series and has been pestering everyone in the house to read it- including my husband who mostly reads philosophy and history. I wasn’t really in the mood for fantasy but went ahead and you know, I can see why she likes it so much. The story is exciting and fast-paced, the main character is really appealing to preteens, and it has enough unique ideas to feel like something new (though some of them are decidedly odd, like the kids having to lick a small panel on their lockers to open them – it reads their DNA).

Sophie is twelve when she finds out she has special powers (beyond her super smarts- she’s a high school senior at twelve). The headaches she’s always suffered from are because she’s telepathic and can’t block out the thoughts of all those around her. Then she meets a slightly older boy who’s also telepathic- and finds out she’s not human after all. She’s an elf, and someone has been searching for her. Sophie is quickly taken to the hidden cities of the elves, where she’s relieved to find she can’t hear everyone’s thoughts (elves are good at blocking, and have lots of strict rules about using magic abilities on others) then struggles to fit in all over again. Here, she doesn’t know the strange customs, hasn’t had the magical training, but still stands out for having unusual talents and special powers. Some resent her for this, so she has to deal with jealous girls at school (very much a Harry Potter-like setting) and an instructor who is nasty to her. But she also has a personal mentor, makes some new friends pretty easily, and soon has the attention of several boys. There’s some confusion over where she will live, one elf family wants to adopt her but they are still struggling with overcoming a loss of their own many years ago (elves live practically forever so death is rare and no one seems to know how to act towards the grieving couple).

So. Most of the story is Sophie navigating her new school, learning how to handle some of her powers, and struggling to master new skills that the other kids kinda take for granted. The people she lives with keep magical and rare creatures (including brilliantly feathered dinosaurs!) which felt more like background decoration than anything else. I guess I expected too much of that part. There’s school competitions and sports that use telekinesis, and a very nice-sounding tradition where kids give each other gifts at the end of finals. A lot of fun and quirky details. But! There’s also all this angst over hidden information. Sophie apparently has memories and knowledge locked in her brain by some unknown entity, and a rebel elf group is apparently trying to manipulate her and/or extract the info from her head. There’s a big mystery about her past, spies and intrigue, and a kidnapping. It quickly became the kind of story I’m not really keen on, but I finished it so that I could discuss with my kid, who is well into book three of the series and eager to have me read along with her! Let’s see how far I get.

Borrowed from my daughter (she bought the entire eight-book set).

Rating: 3/5
488 pages, 2012

One Response

  1. Hmmm I like the sound of this one, though I’d like to hear more about the magical creatures, too. I suspect the same things you didn’t like wouldn’t work for me either.

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