I first read Keeper of the Lost Cities on October of 2020, for the Stone Soup Book Club. I had nothing to read, and the book was in my favorite genre: adventure fantasy. I had previously enjoyed many fantasy series: Harry Potter, Wings of Fire, How to Train Your Dragon, Artemis Fowl, The Chronicles of Narnia, and Percy Jackson, of course. Basically, 90% of my personal library is just adventure fantasy. And so I thought, Well, why not? It’s not like anything bad could come of trying out a new fantasy book. Little did I know I was not only right, but I would develop a massive obsession with every aspect of Keeper of the Lost Cities.
The protagonist of Keeper of the Lost Cities is a girl named Sophie. At the start of the story, Sophie is an outsider, amazingly smart with a photographic memory, and she has just been invited to Yale University at twelve years old—but she has a secret. Sophie can read minds. She always knew she was strange, but soon finds out that she is an elf in a human world. Another elf, an older boy named Fitz, introduces Sophie to the Elvin world. Sophie has to come to grips with the fact that her human parents and little sister cannot be her real family, because she is an elf. Worse, she must leave her human family and her pet behind when she goes live with the elves.
Sophie has many adventures in the scattered estates and cities the elves call The Lost Cities. She finds out more about her powers of telepathy, meets a goblin and lots of gnomes, learns to use a “leaping crystal,” and even fights against kidnappers.
Keeper of the Lost Cities is the first book in a series of ten. One odd detail about the numbering of the series is that the tenth book is labeled “Book 9,” because the ninth book is labeled “Book 8.5.” All other books have regular numbers. I have just finished Book 9, and it is a major rollercoaster of emotions, overflowing with revelations that tie into previous books. Every time a question is answered, ten more are raised—but more on that later. I would probably recommend Keeper of the Lost Cities to ten-year-olds and up, because there is plenty of blood, gore, pain, and cruelty. I would not recommend it to people who throw up or have nightmares easily.
To be honest, on the outside, you would not think of Keeper of the Lost Cities as much different from any other fantasy book, complete with goblins, trolls, ogres, dwarves, gnomes—and elves, of course. But what makes Keeper of the Lost Cities different from most other fantasy series is its riveting plot. It shows you what you are supposed to think, then says it just in case you missed it, and two chapters later, when you are positive you know what is going on, it reveals that the total opposite is true. Shannon Messenger does not just tell you the story, she makes you feel like you are experiencing it, without holding anything back. Keeper of the Lost Cities is emotional, and jarring, and soothing, and chock-full of sadness, and joy, and anger, and love, and the best part is that when you read the book, you can feel the main character’s emotions as well as sensations. Keeper of the Lost Cities is deep, yet light, and humorous, yet tear-jerking, and this might just be me, but flipping through its pages, lost in the story’s embrace, Keeper of the Lost Cities feels like an old friend, there to comfort me and help me through whatever I’m going through, or just make me laugh, or put a smile on my face. That’s why Keeper of the Lost Cities is my favorite book series of all.
Keeper of the Lost Cities by Shannon Messenger. Aladdin Paperbacks, 2013. Buy the book here and help support Stone Soup in the process!