Pros: Real setting, great characters, intriguing story
Cons: Necessary world building slows things down at first
The Bottom Line:
With a rich fantasy world
You will get lost in
Shannon Messenger's Debut is a Keeper
Last spring while waiting to get a book signed, the person in front of me struck up a conversation. It turned out she was an author herself with a book coming out in the fall. It sounded so good, I had to get it. I just finished reading Keeper of the Lost Cities by Shannon Messenger, and I loved it.
Sophie Foster has a secret. At five, when she hit her head in an accident, she developed telepathy. Now as a twelve-year-old genius (about to graduate from high school), she is tired of hearing everyone's thoughts. And most days, she just struggles to find a place she belongs.
One day while on a field trip, she runs into a boy named Fitz who has a shock for her - she isn't human. He shows her a completely hidden world that she is truly part of. Joining that world means leaving her family behind. But would she be safe if she stayed in the world she knows? And why was she sent away? What secrets might her sudden return reveal?
At this point, any series for middle grade readers is going to be compared to Harry Potter and to a lesser extent to Percy Jackson. (I know I couldn't help but think of similarities between those two as well.) And those looking for them will certainly see them thanks to the premise. But to me, it isn't where the author starts, but how she ends things that truly matters.
The world that Shannon creates for her characters is truly rich and detailed. I was pulled in and always had a hard time returning to our world when I had to put it down. And the details are different enough from the other series that you won't feel like you are just reading a retreat. This is an original work in every sense of the word, and you'll be pulled in as you read. Fortunately, we do have Sophie to guide us through the world since she is learning as well. Many of the things she discovers and her reactions to them are pretty funny, yet I found everything believable.
The downside of creating an entire new world is that it takes a little time to set up. I found parts of the story slow in the beginning as this was happening. But I understand the need to do so and can't picture the book written any other way.
Even in the beginning, the plot introduced several threads that made me curious and want to keep reading. By the time I hit the second half, I was hooked, finishing the book in a day. In fact, I was late getting to some friends' house because I was so close I had to know what happened.
And I was amazed at how quickly the characters snuck up on me. I was enjoying the book and getting to know the characters, but around 100 pages in, I suddenly found myself as emotionally affected as Sophie was with what she was having to do. From there on out, I was fully invested in her story. The rest of the characters are just as rich by the time the book is over.
And the writing itself? You'd never know this was a debut. It is strong and flows so well it is easy to get lost in the story. I even found a few phrases that were so creatively written they leapt off the page at me.
This book is my entry this week for Marvelous Middle Grade Monday hosted by...Shannon Messenger. And no, I'm not writing a positive review because she hosts it. I really did love this book. But do check out the other entries linked at her blog.
You'll be hooked in no time and want to move on to the rest of the Keeper of the Lost Cities in order.