Author Shannon Messenger has won numerous awards for The Keeper of the Lost Cities series and the Skyfall series. Drawing on her background in cinematic arts, she writes fast-paced adventure stories that have featured on The New York Times bestseller list and proven popular in many countries around the world. The first book in the Keeper of the Lost Cities series was first released in 2012. There are currently eight books in the series, with a ninth book due for release before Christmas. Known as 8.5 it has fans in a frenzy of anticipation.
I have not been reading this series for very long – I only picked up Book 1 in June this year – but I was immediately drawn into the characters’ unresolved issues and their magical world. Now I am up to Book 5 and my enthusiasm for finding out what happens next is undimmed. I have not been this engrossed in a fantasy series since Harry Potter and his friends captured my imagination and dominated the literary landscape.
Of course, the good thing about coming to a series late is that there is no waiting! The next book is right there in the bookstore or on the bedside table, which really gives the reader an incentive to push through and get to the next exciting episode of the story.
So, without any spoilers, I can say that Book 5 is just as riveting as the first four. There is just as much action, danger, perilous questing and testing of trust and loyalty. There is an ongoing tension between the group of friends and mentors surrounding Sophie that keeps the reader engaged and invested in the outcomes.
There are also many more elements revealed about Sophie’s new world and her mysterious history: I was expecting that by now there could not be too much more to introduce us to! Sophie is proving to be a very brave young lady, who thinks broadly about issues affecting her community as well as the specifics of those people closest to her. For example, she is deeply committed to saving a prisoner who has been scarred by his experiences in the custody of the despicable and mysterious group known as the Neverseen.
Fitz and Keefe, friends introduced in Book 1, make many appearances in the storylines in this book. Their friendship is holding together by the merest threads following events in Book Four. We can feel the underlying romantic tensions and jealousies, though Sophie plays it cool and is focussed on other things. Keefe is causing Sophie a lot of angst because of his foolhardy actions. Fitz is a huge support to Sophie when she is requested to use her special powers for the advancement of the Black Swan’s goals. There is a very sad scene toward the end of this book when one of Sophie’s beloved friends is killed in an attack by the Neverseen.
Like the Harry Potter series, this is getting a little darker with each book, and the story is becoming more sophisticated in its themes. Ultimately, it is safe to assume the story is heading to a fight between good and evil, and characters will end up on one side or the other. Right now though it is all highly ambiguous, and we are not sure who to trust, which keeps it interesting!
Competent readers 10+ will enjoy this series. Parents will also find it a good series to read as a family as there is much to discuss and enjoy by reflecting and discussing together.