Review: Keeper of the Lost Cities by Shannon Messenger
Release date: October 2nd, 2012
Series: #1 Keeper of the Lost Cities
Rating: Though I nearly DNFed in the beginning (they're ELVES?! She's HARRY FREAKING POTTER?! THEY'RE ELVES?!?!), ultimately I was charmed by this middle grade fantasy.
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.
The cover: 99% of the reason I wanted this. LOOOOK at it! And at Sophie's oh-so-glorious middle grade hair. Let's pretend I looked like that at age 12.
The story: I came so close to giving up on this one. I thought the beginning was a MESS. Normal-but-not-normal preteen girl suddenly discovers she is part of a magical world she never knew existed. Yeah, we've all read it before, but it's possible to pull this conceit off in a pretty original matter. Instead, for most of the beginning, I was rolling my eyes and saying, "Harry Potter. Ooh, that was Twilight-esque. OH MY GOD, THEY ARE *NOT* GOING TO A MAGICAL SHOPPING STREET AND INTO A MAGICAL POTIONS STORE CALLED SLURPS AND BURPS."
Sophie is your average twelve-year-old high school senior who can read minds (bwahahahahaha). One day, on a school field trip, a hot fourteen-year-old boy comes up and tells her she doesn't belong in the human world. Sophie begs and begs to know why, and eventually Fitz, hottie extraordinaire despite the fact that he is named Fitz, tells her: she is an elf.
|YEP THAT'S THE ONE|
I don't know why I snickered every time the world "elf" was on the page, but I did. It was so silly. Anyway, the world-building from this point on isn't bad, though it is, again, a little silly. The elves sequestered themselves away from the doomed, dirty humans a couple thousand years ago, retreating into the "lost" cities of Atlantis, Shangri-La, etcetera. Elves kind of suck for this. Anyway, Fitz shows up to find Sophie in the human world, and he's all:
Because it turns out Sophie is the specialest little snowflake that you ever did see. Anything an elf can do, Sophie can do better. No, best. Sophie can do it backwards and upside down and with her eyes closed and when she was a fetus. It was quite exahausting to spend the whole beginning of the book discovering all ninety-thousand of Sophie's mystical gifts. "No elf in a thousand years has had THAT ability! No elf has ever had BROWN eyes! No elf has EVER made me want to commit suicide before!"
|Oops, I angered the pretty.|
Aw, I kid, Legolas, really. It wasn't that bad. I was just feeling grumpy, and the book wasn't working for me. We spend a LOT of time establishing the world and Sophie's awesomeness. Messenger actually broke my heart when Sophie had to say goodbye to her human family forever... but then she skips right past it, and Sophie, while thinking of her family every now and then, never feels that pain again.
But then, things get better. Things pick up once Sophie finds a tentative, surrogate family, makes it past the
|"Elfing school? REALLY?"|
Yeah. Really, Legolas. But still, this is the point where the book gains a really delightful sense of humor. Sophie becomes less of an assortment of cool abilities and more of a sweet, earnest person, desperate to fit in somewhere and desperate to have a family. The friends she makes are what really sold the book for me. Dex the best friend is absolutely wonderful, even if he is one of 654323 male characters in love with Sophie. Keefe, who could be a Weasley triplet, is hilarious, and Fitz is pretty swoony for a pre-pubescent elf.
|"DAMN STRAIGHT. WE ELVES BE FINE"|
Never doubted it for a second, Legolas. And even though some Harry Potter parallels remain (oh, so you're known for getting sent to the hospital wing a lot, are you, Sophie?), the book becomes its own by the time big things are going down. All lot of the magical world-building feels dense and original and plausible. You learn WHY Sophie is the best elf in the history of elves, and it actually makes sense. There was a twist I didn't see coming at all. And the mystery is pretty engrossing.
Mostly, this book overcame it's rocky start by winning my heart (that sounds like a country song). Everything in the latter half of the book was completely adorable. Sophie gets a cute little animal sidekick, bonds with the bitchy mean girl, and has a couple really sad moments with her foster parents. Suddenly, I found myself caring. Also, jokes! This book makes funnies! I like funnies.
I really want to read the sequel so I can find out if all my inappropriate ships come to light. This book was such a bizarre journey for me, from open disgust to total adoration. HOW DID YOU DO THIS, BOOK? I DON'T UNDERSTAND THIS
|Stop looking so smug, you gorgeous creature.|
ETA: I forgot about Sophie's habit of PULLING OUT HER EYELASHES when she's nervous! Who does that? That is horrifying. That better be significant later on, because as a personality quirk, it is DISTURBING.