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Keeper of the Lost Cities by Shannon…

Keeper of the Lost Cities (edition 2012)

by Shannon Messenger

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Title:Keeper of the Lost Cities
Authors:Shannon Messenger
Info:Aladdin (2012), Hardcover, 496 pages
Collections:Your library
Tags:fantasy, middle grade

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Keeper of the Lost Cities by Shannon Messenger


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For more reviews, gifs, Cover Snark and more, visit A Reader of Fictions.

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?

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.

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.

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.

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.

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. ( )
  A_Reader_of_Fictions | Apr 6, 2015 |
Super imaginative MG fantasy. I imagine that the pitch was "Harry Potter...but for girls!" The heroine is a Mary Sue, but the real star is the vividly realized setting ( )
  MadameWho | Feb 3, 2015 |
My feelings about this book are kind of a riddle wrapped in a mystery inside an enigma. Usually when books are billed as being "the next Harry Potter" I end up hating them because they are nothing like Harry Potter and I get mad that someone made me think it was. But this book is very much like Harry Potter, and for some reason that kind of annoyed me at times. Yet that was just a fleeting feeling every now and then, because otherwise I loved this book! There is action, adventure, impressive world building, suspense, and there are some pretty amazing characters. Quite frankly, I loved having a main character who was considered fascinating because she had brown eyes. That has definitely never happened to me. But who to trust?! I kind of wished that there was one authority figure that I completely trusted (like Dumbledore, of course), but I didn't have complete trust in any of them. There are many, many secrets being held onto by all the adults in this book, but in a way that added to the intrigue. I know there are at least 4 books planned in this series, but if the author does one book for every year of the character's school life, then there should be even more coming. I can't wait to get my hands on the next one. This isn't checked out very much in my library so I need to start talking it up because the kids will love it! If you or your student loved Harry Potter, I think you will both love Sophie, Fitz, Dex and Keene. I know I did. ( )
  Bduke | Oct 14, 2014 |
I really loved this book! It was one of the better fantasy books i've read, ( and I read a lot of fantasy...) I think the main reason I liked is book so much is because the main character is willing to do something for others even if it means the worst fir herself. ( )
  lizardferret | Feb 14, 2014 |
  scducharme | Jan 18, 2014 |
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At age twelve, Sophie learns that the remarkable abilities that have always caused her to stand out identify her as an elf, and after being brought to Eternalia to hone her skills, discovers that she has secrets buried in her memory for which some would kill.… (more)

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