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“I want you to promise you will just be a normal, happy thirteen-year-old girl. Go to school. Make friends. Get crushes on boys. Have fun. No more worrying about secret messages or plots or rebellions. Leave that to boring grown-ups like me,” Aldin. –Keeper of the Lost Cities
Keeper of the Lost Cities #1
by Shannon Messenger
Twelve-year-old Sophie Foster has a secret. She is a telepath with the ability to hear the thoughts of everyone around her—something that she’s never known how to explain, and has made her an outcast even in her own family. But everything changes the day she meets Fitz, a mysterious boy who appears out of nowhere and can also read minds. She discovers there’s somewhere she does belong, and that staying with her family will only put her in grave danger. In the blink of an eye, Sophie is forced to leave everything behind and start a new life in a place very different from her own.
Sophie has new rules and skills to learn, and not everyone is thrilled with her “homecoming.” There are secrets buried deep in Sophie’s memory, secrets that other people desperately want. Secrets they might even kill for. . .
Keepers of the Lost Cities is a fast-paced adventure that will keep readers on the edge of their seats. Sophie is thrown into the elven world, where she struggles to understand the events around her. Sophie worries about her human family and the intense fires that are raging in the human world. The adults in Sophie’s world don’t want to share valuable information about the fires that are affecting the human world. Despite being told not to worry, Sophie doesn’t stop investigating. However, it soon becomes clear that someone is trying to manipulate Sophie. But who?
Like Sophie, readers will be amazed by the elven world and find wonder around every corner. Besides learning new abilities, Sophie is also surrounded by interesting characters. Even though there are a lot of characters to keep track of, each person is unique and easy to remember. While there are several cute boys that make Sophie blush, Sophie has no romantic feelings for anyone.
Keeper of the Lost Cities has a sweet conclusion but does not resolve all the conflicts. Messenger draws the reader into Sophie’s life and the mystery surrounding her while leaving a lot of unanswered questions that will have the readers reaching for the next book in the series, Exile. Even though Keeper of the Lost Cities is geared towards middle school readers, the plot focuses on universal feelings that readers of all ages can relate to.
Anyone who has ever felt out of place will relate to Sophie, but the true gem in Keeper of the Lost Cities is the unique world and the host of interesting characters. The story has unexpected pockets of humor, such as when the healer tells Sophie that the medicine she needs isn’t so bad and he’s thankful he doesn’t “have to use the yeti pee balm.” Another positive aspect of the story is the full page black and white illustrations scattered throughout the book.
If you’re looking for a fun series that will engage middle school readers, Keeper of the Lost Cities and its sequels need to be on your child’s reading list.
- Sophie is taken hostage. “A cloth across her lips stifled her cry for help, and a sedative’s sweet aroma stung her nose when she inhaled, making her head spin.” Sophie wonders if she will be killed.
- Sophia and Fitz are injured during a game called Sploching. Sopia remembers “flying backward through the room. Fitz’s crumbled body.” Both are taken to the Healing Center. They are given something to “ease the pain.”
- Three elves kidnap Sophie and her friend Dex. “A pair of arms pulled her to her feet and smothered her scream with a meaty hand. She tried to fight back, but a cloaked figure swooped out of the shadows and shoved a cloth over her mouth and nose. Something sickeningly sweet burned her throat and nostrils and her head instantly clouded. . . A third figure had Dex with a viselike grip, and clearly no amount of struggling or fighting would help him escape.”
- When Sophie has difficulty breathing, a kidnapper removes her gag. “It felt like they pulled off her lips when they ripped the gag away. Her throat was dry and a sick, a sour taste coated her tongue. . .”
- The kidnappers tie Sophie to a chair. “She was strapped to a chair, bound by her wrists and ankles.”
- When Sophie refuses to talk, a kidnapper uses his abilities to burn her. Sophie “screamed as the burning increased—like her skin was melting.”
- Sophie and Dex escape, but the kidnappers find them. “The goon sneered as he tied her ankles. The cold metal wire cut into her skin. . .”
- In order to help Sophie, Dex channels his energy, and “a beam of energy whizzed past [Sophie]. . . Another blast from the melder missed Dex and he slammed the leader to the ground and knocked the weapon from his hand. The other goon grabbed the weapon and blasted Dex in the chest.” The melder hits Dex several times. “Dex flew backward and collapsed on the ground, his body jerking in seizure.”
- When the kidnappers hurt Dex, Sophie channels her hate. “It clouded her mind until it consumed her. . . She pushed the anger and darkness out of her mind, needing to be free of it. When the last ounce of hatred was gone, her vision cleared and all three figures were slumped on the ground, holding their heads and writhing in pain.”
Drugs and Alcohol
- In order to make her family forget her, Sophie uses a sleeping gas. However, “the idea of drugging her family made her physically ill.”
- When an imp is injured, an elf “smeared a yellow salve over the wounds.” The imp is also given water from “a bottle of Youth.”
- While at home, a man swallowed “his wine in one gulp.”
- Sophie is injured often and given a vile of medicine to heal.
- One of Sophie’s friends gave her an elixir that contained limbium, “a rare mineral that could supposedly clear her mind.” When Sophie takes the elixir, she has a severe allergic reaction. The elixir made her head feel “fuzzy,” and made her feel like she was on fire. Then she passes out.
- Sophie tells the elf doctor about her stay in a human hospital. She had an allergic reaction and the doctors “injected [her] with a bunch of medicines and steroids and told [her]to be more careful.”
- A classmate calls Sophie a superfreak and a loser.
- Idiot is used several times. For example, a mean girl calls Sophie an idiot.
- After Sophie blows up an experiment, she thinks, “I am officially an idiot.”
- Sophie asks one of her friends, “Why are you being such a jerk?”
- In Lumenaira, all the other worlds come together including “gnomes, dwarves, ogres, goblins, trolls, and elves.
- Elves have different powers. (Not all powers are listed.) Some are Empaths and can feel other’s emotions. Some are Banishers who “let light pass through their bodies, so they can turn invisible, even when they move.”
- Other elves are Flashers that can “manipulate light the way [they] want it.” A Conjurer can move something. An elf explains, “I can bring it here with my mind. It’s kind of like teleporting, but with objects.”
- Sophie is a Telepath and can hear other people’s thoughts. During a school field trip, “kids’ thoughts were stinging, high-pitched needles—and so many at once was like an angry porcupine attacking her braid.” Eventually, Sophie is taught how “to shield her brain from unwanted human thoughts . . . and how to transmit her thoughts into someone else’s mind.”
- Sophie discovers that she can use telekinesis. A car swerved and hit a streetlight, which “plummeted toward Sophie. . . Her hand shot up into the air, her mind pulling strength from somewhere deep in her gut and pushing it out through her fingertips. She felt the force collide with the falling lantern. . . The bright blue lantern floated above her, somehow held up by her mind.”
- Elves use pathfinders to light leap. Using a pathfinder, Fitz and Sophie travel to the elf’s world. To help Sophie travel safely, someone gives her a nexus. In order to travel using a pathfinder, “your body has to break into tiny particles to be carried by the light, and the nexus holds those particles together until your concentration is strong enough to do it for you.
- Prentice tried to hide Sophie’s location. He “was captured, he sacrificed his sanity to keep [Sophie] hidden. Now he lives in exile, his mind a shattered, useless mess.”
- Sophie uses a spyball to see her human family. Using the spyball, she sees there are fires and “people are dying. Losing their homes. My family is camped out in an evacuee center right now afraid for their lives.”