September 8, 2020

Series Review: Keeper of the Lost Cities

Allow me to introduce you to my new middle grade obsession: the Keeper of the Lost Cities series by Shannon Messenger. I had high hopes for these books after both Macky and Kristin fell in love with the series. And as you can already tell, I too fell head over heels in love with this series (and I’m already dying to read the next book, which is out in November!)

Keeper of the Lost Cities (and in this case, I’m referring specifically to the first book) is about Sophie Foster, an extraordinary girl who discovers that she’s an elf and that there is an entire world that she didn’t know existed. Sophie has to leave behind the life she’s known in the human world and get situated within the elven world with a new foster family, new school and all sorts of new things that have her mind spinning as she tries to get them all straight. But things aren’t going to stay simple, as Sophie soon discovers that she’s at the center of an elven conspiracy and that the worlds she loves (elven and human) are not at all safe.

It’s been years since I found a middle grade series that is compulsively readable, so much so that I find it so hard to set down the book once I’ve started it. I blitzed through the first book in one sitting, and then blitzed through the second through the fifth books in under a week. And that, in a nutshell, should tell you a lot about how much I like the Keeper of the Lost Cities series! It deserves the praise and attention it gets from reviewers and young readers alike because Messenger has written something very special.

While I have a lot of feelings about a lot of specific things that occur through this series (and will happily discuss with anyone who wants to know), I figured it would be simplest to give you the five reasons that I would recommend the series to readers younger and older alike.

1. Worldbuilding – The last time I felt so strongly about a story that combined the human world (and human knowledge/lore) with the fantastical was back in the days of Percy Jackson. Messenger weaves together her setting, cultures and magic system in clever ways that feel like such sensible conclusions to be making. I’m so impressed every time something is easily integrated into the world she’s been exploring through Sophie’s story since the very first book, and I love that it continues to grow with every new book in the series.

2. Storytelling – I’d give Messenger an A+ for this category. She takes the world, characters and plot and just mixes it all together perfectly. I love that the series has come so far from the starting point of the first book, particularly the way that events continue to occur that lead to the stakes getting higher and the obstacles more difficult (and thus, the story becomes more emotionally riveting). The way that Sophie’s circumstances (and those of her friends and family) continue to intensify feels organic and transitions quite seamlessly from book to book, and I love it.

3. Themes – I am a sucker for series that not only entertain, but also manage to integrate important themes into the story. It’s important for readers to be able to understand things like grief and anger, friendships and familial difficulties, just to name a few. While I can’t speak to what Messenger’s intentions might have been, readers can walk away from reading these books with additional knowledge that they could potentially feel comforted, seen or strengthened by.

4. Characters – One of the tropes that always gets me when I’m reading is the “friends that feel more like family”, and that’s a key feature of the series. Messenger has created (and continues to add to) the huge cast of characters that readers can fall in love with, led by Sophie Foster who is kindhearted, loyal and determined to do the right thing no matter what. Messenger succeeds in making the important players of this series memorable, even though we’re only getting the story from Sophie’s perspective. I really enjoy this huge cast of characters, particularly the friend group (all of whom have managed to endear themselves to me very quickly) and the involved group of adults that are tied to them one way or another.

5. Relationships – I’m not just talking about romance (though we’ll get to that in a moment); I’m also talking about friendships and families. Family is such a big part of Sophie’s story, particularly when she’s forced to leave behind her human family, ends up slowly getting integrated into a new elven one and still has no clue who her actual parents are. I loved the fact that Messenger didn’t make it easy for Sophie; our girl struggles with finding her place, as well as the usual butting of heads when it comes to the family who love her and want her safe, no matter what that takes away from her. The same thing happens with her friendships, where some of them start off on the wrong foot and wind up being some of the most loyal friends she’ll ever have or when she can’t prevent her friends from making decisions that she doesn’t like or acting impulsively. And don’t even get me started on the romance, which is technically non-existent unless you read between the many lines (up until a certain point, that is) and because Sophie always ends up concluding she has other things that take priority. I really appreciated Messenger’s way of making sure we see all these different relationships in Sophie’s life (whether it’s in a positive or negative way).

I love this series so, so much, friends. It’s got adventure and heart, in equal amounts, and set against a fantastical backdrop that has really come alive and grown with every novel that’s been released. I’m clearly a big Keeper of the Lost Cities fan (and a big Keefe fan, if you were wondering who my favorite character was), and I definitely will be anxiously awaiting the next book in the series. I’d highly recommend checking out this middle grade series if you’re looking for something new to try, and will say with full confidence that it’s worth the hype.

(Titled) Books in the Series: 
Keeper of the Lost Cities | Pub Date: October 2, 2012 by Aladdin | Add it on Goodreads | Buy the book!
Exile | Pub Date: October 1, 2013 by Aladdin | Add it on Goodreads | Buy the book!
Everblaze | Pub Date: November 4, 2014 by Aladdin | Add it on Goodreads | Buy the book!
Neverseen | Pub Date: November 3, 2015 by Aladdin | Add it on Goodreads | Buy the book!
Lodestar | Pub Date: November 1, 2016 by Aladdin | Add it on Goodreads | Buy the book!
Nightfall | Pub Date: November 7, 2017 by Aladdin | Add it on Goodreads | Buy the book!
Flashback | Pub Date: November 6, 2018 by Aladdin | Add it on Goodreads | Buy the book!
Legacy | Pub Date: November 5, 2019 by Aladdin | Add it on Goodreads | Buy the book!
Unlocked | Pub Date: Novembe4 17, 2020 by Aladdin | Add it on Goodreads | Preorder the book!


  1. I don't read that many middle grade books anymore, BUT this series I will keep reading and reading forever.
    Sophie is amazing and I glad that she is trying to breaking out of that chosen one trope.
    This series has it all- a conspiracy, big twists, and a group of friends trying to save the world.
    So glad that enjoyed this series as well!

  2. I have been meaning to read this series for a while- ever since Reagan (Peruse Project) exclaimed her love for them as well. Thanks for putting them back on my radar. You have convinced me that they are excellent. I think I will love them!

    Michelle @ Book Briefs


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