Keeper of the Lost Cities Series Review

I recently finished the series Keeper of the Lost Cities by Shannon Messenger. The most recent book came out late last year, and I actually saw that one first. It’s what made me decide to start the series, because it had been a long time since I’d read any series longer than four books. Because this is a series, this will probably be a longer review than normal.

Since I’ve finished, there are several things I like about the series. However, there are also several things I dislike or think could be better. Since there are eight books, I’m not going to bother trying to find their synopses and put them all here. You can find those easily enough on Goodreads. Finally, there may be some minor spoilers, so read at your own risk.

I’ve found a nice spot on my bookshelf for the entire stack

So. Where to begin?

The series follows Sophie Foster, a young girl who discovers she is an elf. Not an elf in the way you’re thinking, though, but more like a higher society of humans with special powers and their own cities. The elven world is being pulled apart by opposing forces: the elven council, a group of evil rebels, and a mysterious society that Sophie is somehow connected to. Throughout the series, Sophie and her friends attempt to find out the plans of the evil groups and thwart them.

The first thing I like about this series, on a basic level, is the number of books and the fact that they are still coming out. I have no idea how many books the author is planning on writing, but I always love the anticipation for the next book in a series and the moment of going to buy it for the first time.

First thing I dislike about this series: book one. Shockingly enough, it’s called Keeper of the Lost Cities. Oh my goodness, book one was hard to get into at first. I think Messenger had not really found her style as a writer yet, and several chapters at the beginning of the book were too fast-paced to follow. It’s like the author wanted to give you questions so you’d keep reading to find the answers, but instead she raised so many questions and gave so few answers that I almost stopped reading. It was difficult to follow. However, this problem cleared up as the book continued, and the pacing evened out. Messenger’s writing definitely improved, in my opinion, as she wrote the series. She eventually found a style and stuck with it.

I really liked the world Messenger built. She did an excellent job describing the wonders of and differences between the realms of each major species (elves, dwarves, trolls, gnomes, goblins, and humans). The species are each distinct as well, with their own rulers, jobs, cultures, and wants. Overall, Messenger’s worldbuilding is definitely one of the best parts of the series.

On to my next issue. There isn’t a lot of character development considering there are eight books. Characters gain new information, of course, and react to it, but they don’t really grow much. They learn new things or shoulder more responsibility, but don’t change. One character changed a little and grew in his anger management, but then all of that went more or less out the door in a later book. So, while I like the characters, I wish we saw a little more development.

While the good guys or main characters may not develop much, the villains are wonderful. They are not bumbling, or clumsy, but actually have legitimate plans and goal. Goals that change and adapt with the story. Messenger really did a lovely job with the entire villainous organization, as they change leaders and plans multiple times.

Speaking of characters, Messenger has a lot. I gotta say, for the first few books, it took me a while to keep all the names straight, especially as more characters were added in. The thing is, the author has so many characters that are in between main and secondary level, they lack personality at times. A character may matter in the first books, but then is never a major part of the plot again. The main group of heroes is comprised of seven to ten people, depending on who you count. And that’s just the teenagers! If you add the adults involved, it’s even more. I like all the characters individually, but many seem to get lost throughout the story. It’s like they’re only there when Sophie needs their powers. They have little plot or storyline of their own, which contributes to the whole feeling of characters being underdeveloped.

The plot of the books from the first one to Legacy (book eight) is actually very well paced, after the initial trouble in book one. Messenger starts with a twelve year old girl in a new situation and shows her fears and struggles with making new friends, exploring her powers, and settling in to a new world. The first several books spend a lot of time in elven schools. As the characters get older, though, they move away from the classroom drama and school problems to dealing with a bigger threat that affects their whole world. Messenger made this transition beautifully, slowly easing the characters away from their normal, child-like setting and into a world where they can’t be children any more. They are forced to deal with much darker forces. I also appreciate that the nature of the threat they face gets darker and more serious as the books progress.

So, while the threat and setting does change to fit the new direction of the story, the plot itself doesn’t. In the last several books especially, the same thing happens at every major plot point. There are spoilers coming, so skip to the next paragraph if you don’t want to read them. Sophie and the Black Swan and the Council are always sort of invited into a trap/battle with the Neverseen, and they think they’ve got a great plan and have finally outwitted the enemy, but ha! Plot twist! The Neverseen saw it coming and ultimately have the victory, although some small thing usually happens that gives Sophie more information than she had before, or that protects more people for a slightly longer amount of time. It’s getting really repetitive, and I feel like the plot hasn’t actually gone anywhere in the last several books. Sophie isn’t really any closer to defeating the enemy than she was four books ago.

Okay end of spoilers.

Messenger also does an excellent job with the political problems in her world. The council is not always right, which forces the “good rebel group” to remain anonymous and undercover, and which explains some of the motivation of the “evil rebel group”. It’s an interesting situation that changes to adapt to different events in the fictional world, and I think she executed this portion of the story wonderfully.

I’m going to make this my last issue because this is getting really long. I don’t like the love triangle thing Messenger is trying to do. It’s an overdone cliche. In the first book, especially, the main character had pretty much every guy she met fall in love with her, even though she supposedly isn’t super pretty. We go back and forth about which boy she should be with, and Sophie is oblivious and insecure about the whole thing, of course. I don’t think the love triangle is necessary. There is so much else going on in the plot, and the addition of romance feels a bit forced in my opinion. On top of that, we’re clearly supposed to root for one of the guys more than the other, and Messenger uses a whole host of cliches by giving him a troubled family life, wanting Sophie to “just be happy”, and encouraging her to be with the other guy. I like the character well enough, I just don’t think the cliches fit here. They could have been done better, especially without the whole love triangle thing.

I give the series as a whole three and a half stars. I believe it could have been better, so I’m not going to give it four stars. However, I did like it, and it has a lot of good elements, so I want it to have more than three.

Yay! You’ve officially reached the bottom of this excessively long post! For your sake, I hope you skimmed.

Have you read Keeper of the Lost Cities? What did you think? Do you think my thoughts were accurate? Let me know in the comments!


Published by Blue

Hey y'all! I'm a teenager who loves hanging out with my friends and laughing till my stomach hurts. I always have a book in my hands or zipped up in my bag. I'll probably read through the apocalypse and not realize what's happened.

4 thoughts on “Keeper of the Lost Cities Series Review

  1. Hi! Lovely review! I’ve been a long time fan of this series and maybe was a bit too lovestruck thus hardly finding areas of improvement in the series. So thank you for this post which opened my eyes and made me more critical!

    Liked by 1 person

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