Sunday, December 13, 2020

Book Review: Unlocked by Shannon Messenger (Keeper of the Lost Cities #8.5)

Stars: 5 out of 5
Pros: Fun guide and activities for fans plus the next part of the story
Cons: Lots of spoilers if you aren’t up to date
The Bottom Line:
Unusual book
Guide, yet continues story
Fans will be happy

Unlock Something Different – and Special – with this Book

It’s been months since Shannon Messenger announced she would be releasing something different this year.  Yes, she has released another book in her Keeper of the Lost Cities series.  However, Unlocked is being promoted as book 8.5 in the series.  While non-fans won’t enjoy this book, fans will love it.  I know I did.

Here’s a brief reminder about this wonderful series.  It stars Sophie Foster, who was raised by humans until she learned she was an elf.  But she’s a very special elf designed to help her world overcome flaws many are trying to ignore.  Unfortunately, that has led her to plenty of danger as she learns who in her new world she can trust.  Along the way, she’s made some wonderful friends and been adopted by two wonderful elves.

If you are looking at pure page count, you won’t be disappointed.  This is another long book, weighing in at 750 pages.  But instead of being all story, the first 500 pages are a guide to the series.  We get character descriptions, as collected and written by the Council.  There are profiles of the Councilors.  We get a map of the Lost Cities (which blew my mind).  We learn about the other species in the series.  There are descriptions of animals and plants, a couple of fun quizzes, three recipes, and so much more.

If you are thinking, “This sounds like great background before I jump into the series itself,” again, I’m going to caution you to not do that.  This book assumes you know what has happened in the previous 8 books, so there are some pretty significant spoilers.  As a fan, it’s kind of fun to be reminded about stuff that has happened and what we’ve learned.  But it’s going to ruin a lot of the fun if you haven’t read the series yet.

Then final 250 pages of the book are a novella.  Yes, I know, 250 pages would be a complete novel in many series.  But for this series, 250 pages is definitely short.  It picks up after the events of book 8 and splits time between Sophie and her friend Keefe as they deal with the fall out of Legacy’s climax.  There is a lot packed into those 250 pages.  If you are a fan of the series, you NEED to read this part to find out what happens next.  This isn’t filler; important stuff happens here that is going to set up the next book in the series.  Because, yes, there is a cliffhanger again.  (Really, are you surprised?)  Even though the story is only 250 pages, it feels like a complete story and is satisfying.  It had me laughing at parts and crying at others.  Including the last few pages.

Remember how I said if you weren’t already a fan of the series this book wasn’t for you?  You need to fix that.  Back up to the beginning of the series and get lost in Sophie’s world.  It is wonderful.  You’ll be so glad you did, and then you, too, can fully enjoy this book.

Unlocked is at once a love letter to fans and the next step in the story.  If you are one of the series many fans, you’ll love every page.

Need the background?  Here are the rest of the Keeper of the Lost Cities books in order.

This book is part of this week's Marvelous Middle Grade Mondays.


  1. I've only had one or two students who are fans of this series, so I'm just as glad I didn't invest the money or shelf space. Someone always loses book 3. I feel bad, since a lot of librarians love this series, but I just don't have the fantasy readers that I did twenty years ago.

  2. I have really enjoyed this series, but I've somehow gotten behind—I've missed books 7 and 8, as well as this one. This sounds like a neat addition to the series, both with the novella and the extra material! Thanks for the great review!

  3. I'm also woefully behind in this series (finished book 3). Never heard of any series doing an 8.5 but it sounds like Shannon pulled it off. Thanks for featuring on MMGM. I'll catch up in 2021.

  4. I am a huge fan of this series and have finally reached the Novella. I like the break in 8.5 because it has given me special insights given -- more detail than I knew. Can't wait to start tonight! Also have my great granddaughter hooked on the series (started two years ago) and she finished the book in three days. She was thrilled with it! For those of us who started at the beginning, this is year 9, and I've had to reread books to remind myself of certain events. I am getting a better picture of what is happening. Enjoyed your review, and thanks for not spoiling the ending for me!

  5. This sounds really great for fans! I need to get a bit farther in the series before I pick this one up. This would be perfect for my niece, my sons, and their friends, who are all big fans.

  6. I only read the first couple books in this series. I'm not much of a series reader, but I know a lot of people love these books. Thanks for telling me about this one.


Thanks for stopping by. In order to combat spam, I moderate most comments. I'll get to your comment as soon as I can.