Review: Keeper of the Lost Cities by Shannon Messenger

I received this book for free from BEA in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

Review: Keeper of the Lost Cities by Shannon MessengerKeeper of the Lost Cities by Shannon Messenger
Series: Keeper of the Lost Cities #1
Published by Aladdin on October 2, 2012
Genres: Adventure, Fantasy
Pages: 496
Format: ARC
Source: BEA
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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.

True friendship can sometimes be indistinguishable from rampant cruelty. Case in point: Gillian (Writer of Wrongs) encouraged me to read my ARC of Keeper of the Lost Cities, which has been sitting around since I got it at BEA 2012. Okay, fine. To be entirely fair to Gillian, she did say “don’t do it” more than she said “read the thing,” but still. I never would have made this poor life choice if Gillian’s reviews of the series weren’t so FUCKING. FUNNY. Keeper of the Lost Cities was even more ridiculous than I could possibly have imagined and reading it was fun but also dear Gansey what the fuck did I just put in my brain?

gif haldir collapsing lotr
That’s how my brain feels, Haldir.

I’m honestly at a bit of a loss in what to say about Keeper of the Lost Cities. I’m just still unable to believe that this book exists and was written by an adult. Everything about Keeper seems like it was devised by the mind of a child, which I suppose could be seen as a bonus, depending on the audience. My jaw dropped over and over as new heights of ridiculousness were achieved. Seriously, this has to be some kind of record for silly. That did make Keeper a fun read in a way, especially with Gillian sitting by (because standing is exhausting) for me to chat with about every new development. Following are some ridiculous details from Keeper of the Lost Cities:

  • All elves have blue eyes, except for Sophie, who has brown eyes.
  • Sophie pulls out eyelashes whenever she’s tense.
  • All dinosaurs are vegetarians.
  • Gnomes basically work as house elves, but it’s okay because they too like it. Keep your SPEW, Hermione.
  • In elf school, kids lick their lockers to open them. They have a new Bertie Bott’s Every Flavor Beans flavor every day.
  • WHAP means “wash hands and present,” as everyone knows.
  • Purple vegetarian glop tastes like a cheeseburger.
  • Yeti pee cures burns.
  • “It wasn’t until her lungs burned that she realized she’d stopped breathing.”

There are a lot of crucial failings in Keeper of the Lost Cities, but let’s start with the most obvious: this book hardly has a plot. The reader meets Sophieflake as she’s finishing up her senior year in high school. At age 12. She’s a genius with a photographic memory, which of course earns her the jealous hatred of her classmates. But then, lo, a hot boy appears to tell her that she’s an elf, not a human, and that he’s an elf too.

gif lotr haldir head raise
Of fucking course, right?

Sophie’s whisked off to the elf kingdom where it’s promptly discovered how special of a Sophieflake she truly is. Without any training, she’s the most skilled telepath that ever was. She attends (Mozilla) Foxfire (*cough Hogwarts cough*), the school for noble and gifted elves (judging people on their class: it’s not just for humans!). There she dominates about half the subjects and barely gets by in others, especially alchemy (Potions).

As Sophie attends Foxfire, the reader gets to enjoy such highlights as: Splotch ball, Sophie putting the mean girl in her place, and mundane details on every teacher in the place. Prepare for a whole lot of characters, many of whom probably are not going to matter in the slightest, at least in this book. Everyone who meets Sophie will either love or hate her; there is not other option with the Sophieflake. Prepare also for Sophie’s descriptions of everyone’s beauty and/or failings; girl is shallow.

If Jensi’s friends were human, they wouldn’t been skinny, with acne and braces. Since they were elves, they were fairly good looking—or they could’ve been if they hadn’t slicked their hair into greasy ponytails. They stared at her like they’d never seen a girl up close before. One of them even drooled.

These boys will continue to drool and be disgusting, even though all elves are hot. Such fun, right? So far, they exist solely for others to judge and ridicule them. How can we understand how special the main characters are if other people aren’t nasty?

She was extremely petite, and her uniform looked like it spent the night balled up on the floor, but she still looked pretty. Maybe it was the way she’d twisted some of her hair into tiny braids, or her huge, ice blue eyes.

Marella comes off much better through Sophie’s judgment filter, but it’s still so frustrating how she’s evaluating the attractiveness of everyone she meets, be they peer or teacher. Also, not exactly nice that she’s judging petiteness there. Or there’s this one, to describe her new guardian/father figure, which just creeps me out:

Grady laughed beside her, and she whipped around to get a better glimpse of her new, dinosaur-riding guardian. With his chiseled features and feather-covered tunic, she couldn’t decide if he reminded her more of James Bond or Robin Hood—which felt wrong. He was so unlike her chubby, balding dad she wasn’t sure how to relate.

What you cannot expect for most of this massive book is any sort of plot. Sophie will go to school and be the most special Sophieflake, constantly discovering new abilities and constantly bitching about how hard things are for her. She will remember that she misses her human family about once every hundred pages, which I find to be a truly realistic reaction of a middle grader to losing their family they supposedly loved. There’s also a lot of foreshadowing about what the eventual plot might entail, but mostly it’s just Sophie doing things and meeting people without any sort of plot arc whatsoever.

gif lotr haldir
You’ll go lots of places for no apparent reason. Haldir wouldn’t do that to us.

The plot, such as it is, appears on page 395. THREE HUNDRED AND NINETY FIVE PAGES INTO THIS BEHEMOTH. That’s when Sophie finally get her mission and finds out that only she, Sophie the Bear, can prevent forest fires. Sure, it’s obvious that’s what her mission’s going to end up being, but there’s no pressure. The timing is relaxed, and Sophie doesn’t think of the fires raging in the human world until people remind her. That whole thing is set on the back burner, as it were. Mostly the plot’s an excuse for View Spoiler » Well, okay, to be fair, the plot also allows Sophieflake to level up to Sophiesnowfall; she’s not just one flake now!

Sophie, special brown-eyed elf, attracts immediate male attention and female loathing. She’s warm for the form of Fitz, school golden boy with the teal eyes and boring personality. Rare are the times she encounters Fitz without literally falling on him or bumping bodily into him. Then she blushes. Every damn time. Even though she’s twelve and he’s fifteen, which is rather icky.

gif lotr haldir hug
Sophie’s got it bad, much like Haldir.

Boyfriend possibility number two is Dex Dizznee (do not get me started on these names, because they’re a fucking essay in and of themselves). Dex is an awesome Weasley twin sort of kid, pulling pranks. For approximately two chapters. Then he morphs into JealousMan. He wants Sophieflake with all the wanting a twelve year old can muster, and he gets pissed every single time she talks to Fitz or anyone in his family. That doesn’t get old at all. Darling Dex hasn’t figured out that jealousy is totally not going to win him fair lady, but he’s never going to stop trying.

Finally, there’s Gillian’s favorite, who isn’t really a love interest yet, but is definitely the best potential elf boyfriend: Keefe. Frankly, I feel like Keefe’s too awesome for this whole book. He’s this snarky, witty, rebellious elf boy, who makes fun of all the others. He’s desperately needed because everyone else takes life so fucking seriously. Thankfully, he’s not pining for Sophie’s love at this point either. Bless Keefe for existing and mocking everyone. If only he could get some better friends. And a better book.

gif haldir talking lotr
Like LOTR?

Curse this book and series. Keeper of the Lost Cities isn’t good by any means, but I’m totally reading the rest of them, joining Gillian in the madness. Even worse, I’m now curious about Messenger’s YA series, because I’m so curious if it’s like THIS. I’m going to try to resist, but I don’t know if I can.

Favorite Quote:

Ummmm, well, I laughed the most at this one, but that’s probably not a recommendation precisely.

“We have colonies of everything. Mammoths, saber-toothed tigers, dinosaurs.” He laughed when her jaw fell slack. “Every species exists for a reason, and to allow one to die off would rob the planet of the unique beauty and qualities it provides. So we make sure they all continue to thrive. Grady and Edaline train the animals to be vegetarians by feeding them gnomish produce; that way they won’t hunt one another once they’re moved to the Sanctuary.”

Pretty sure nature wants for their to be predators and prey, but what do I know?

Tl;dr – Review in a GIFfy:

gif haldir lotr great evil
Haldir’s not pleased with your addicting series, Gillian.

7 responses to “Review: Keeper of the Lost Cities by Shannon Messenger”

  1. hahaha, I noticed this series a while back through Gillian’s hilarious reviews and I’M SO TORN ON THIS, MAN. It sounds fun but also really bad but I kind of still want to read them? What is this crack?

    Haldir hug = Debby dead
    Debby (Snuggly Oranges) recently posted…ARC Book Review: Dream a Little Dream by Kerstin GierMy Profile

    • Christina Franke says:

      Curse Gillian’s humorous reviews. They sort of alternate between being a major trial to get through and being so funny by accident. I’m not making quick progress through book two. Sophie’s already fallen in sparkly poop, though, so the quality’s still high.

      It was really hard finding Haldir gifs. Poor Haldir.

  2. I’d heard this was really similar to Harry Potter but GEEZE is it ever. Yeti pee cures burns. Good to know. Lol Dex Dizznee?? That’s a real name?? Good grief. I’ve had this one on my shelf for a while but haven’t touched it since I read Let the Sky Fall. While not nearly as ridiculous as this one sounds, it was still not good. And good gawd, pulling out her eyelashes is really terrible. Was that supposed to be some sort of cute quirk of hers? Because I knew someone that used to do that and it was some freaky shit. Sounds like this one is going to continue collecting the dust bunnies.
    Bonnie @ For the Love of Words recently posted…Waiting on Wednesday – The Book of Speculation by Erika SwylerMy Profile

  3. Gillian says:



    I’m so happy rn
    Gillian recently posted…Looking Forward: AprilMy Profile

  4. Lyn Kaye says:

    OMFG, I have this book! And now, I am going to fucking read this book! Because you and Gilly have put darkness in my heart, and now I have to see this shit for myself!
    Lyn Kaye recently posted…Book Review: The Winner’s CrimeMy Profile

    • gracetrash says:

      Hey there! I’ve read the series for so long, before I realized the flaws and I just wanted to say that it gets better. I understand the frustrations but it. gets. better.

      • Emmy says:

        GRACETRASH: It does get better. I actually have degrees in literature & read the series because my daughter wanted to read it. I am hyper aware of the level of ridiculousness in all of these books. Things often smell terrible– way too often in fact (Messenger is obsessed with smells)–and Sophie’s eyelashes drive me crazy. But overall as you did, after a while, I got over it & enjoyed the plots for what they were. These books aren’t intended for an older audience–they just aren’t & they aren’t intended to be literature. But kids love them $ I am happy to support any series kids love to read. This series has a huge following amongst middle school girls, so power to it. I really wish there was more representation for minorities. But honestly–that’s my only true complaint. As a mom, I learned to suck up my degrees in literature a long time ago & fugue out how to stomach loads of books with rainbow fairies & magic puppies. This is definitely way, way better than those. And I definitely think the plot succeeds in being enormously compelling for the age group it targets…somehow…but it sure is an odd phenomenon.

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