Rating: 5/5 stars
Series: Keeper of the Lost Cities, Book 3
Genres: Middle Grade, Fantasy, Adventure
While this is the only series of Messenger’s I’ve read, I can’t believe how much I’ve loved every book from it as much as I have. I can’t stop myself from flying through the pages, devouring everything in this world and then begging for more. I find it nearly impossible to put the books down once I’ve picked one up. I just have to finish the book cover to cover otherwise I won’t be able to think of anything else.
No? Just me? That’s cool. It’s cool, I swear.
I will admit that hearing about Messenger’s summer read-along for the series was a good motivation to pick it back up after a full month of reading other things. Sure I wasn’t reading the same book as Messenger was advertising for the read-along week, but it still gave me a reason to pick up this amazing book.
One of my favourite things about this series is that the characters feel like real 13/14 year olds. From things such as Sophie blushing when she says something that can be taken out of context to things such as Dex being awkward about his crush, the characters really seem to act their age. Not every book does this well but Messenger has found a way to make sure that her teenagers feel their age, not as if they’re adults living the lives of teenagers.
Another thing that I really enjoy about this series is the way in which the prologues work. They give you a sense about what the main conflict of the series is but they don’t give anything away. If anything, it’s such a tease of a “spoiler” that the prologue makes me want to read even faster to see what the heck Messenger is talking about!
Messenger’s writing is so good at laying out clues for the reader to piece things together. While I pride myself on being able to see through most of the puzzles and mysteries in books, Messenger has been good at stumping me. Even when I do figure things out, it’s rarely ahead of the actual reveal more than a chapter or two. Even though the clues are there, they’re such obscure or complex clues that unless I’m actively trying to piece things together – which is hard to do when I’m devouring the story so quickly and not giving myself time to think – that I’m pleasantly shocked when things come to pass. Messenger has to be one of the best authors I’ve read at being able to keep me guessing for so long into the series. Even a lot of mystery novels I read aren’t able to keep me guessing for so long.
To me, the most shocking thing in the volume would have to be that Bronte isn’t the person I hate the most in this world. Don’t get me wrong, I still don’t like the guy. But it’s obvious that there’s evil in the world that’s so much worse than Bronte.
I will always love Dex’s crush on Sophie and how hard he tries to hide it. He’s awful at hiding it, but at least he’s trying? I also love how he refuses to let it interfere with his friendship with Sophie. That’s a really mature thing for him to do at his age, not many adults are even able to do this.
I’ve also got to admit that while I love Keefe teasing Sophie and flirting with her, I feel bad for Dex when it happens. It doesn’t help that whenever Keefe flirts with Sophie she doesn’t take him seriously. Sophie honestly thinks that Keefe’s just being his usual, quirky self. Poor Dex. I also feel bad for Biana whenever this happens as it’s really obvious that she has a thing for Keefe.
Another one of Keefe’s quirts is his love for sparkly poop. I doubt he’d be thrilled to actually have to deal with Silveny’s poop, but he sure loves to talk about it!
Speaking of crushes, I can totally understand Fitz’s frustration that Sophie is willing to confide her issues in anyone other than him. He’s the reason that Sophie was brought to the elven world in the first place, you’d think that’d make him Sophie’s first choice for confidants. Of course Dex is her best friend, but there’s obviously more to it than that. Sophie’s crush on Fitz is stopping her from being willing to place Fitz in danger – even when he’s the best person to help her out with stuff.
When Sophie was finally willing to let Fitz in, I couldn’t help but smile. Trusting Fitz allowed her to to let down her impenetrable mental shield enough to let him speak directly in her mind. That’s a huge leap forward for Sophie! It does make me wonder if the reason Fitz lost his access to Sophie’s mind was because her mind got fixed or if it was because he lost her trust after raging at her for the events in Exile. It’s really hard to gain someone’s trust back after breaking it so thoroughly.
On top of that, Fitz was able to stop Sophie’s mind from breaking after the attempted healing of Fintan. I truly believe that she was distraught enough over the thought of killing everyone there that her mind was starting to fracture. It was her trust in Fitz’ words that stopped her mind from breaking.
I do have to wonder why the Black Swan left a note at Sophie’s human house, though. Sure it wasn’t a recent note, but she’d shown no indication to wanting or needing to go back there since going to live with the elves. Since she knows that the house had basically been reconstructed in an elven city, her home in the human world was only just a building. Heck, her going there in this book wasn’t anything she’d planned to do.
I guess the Black Swan figured she’d go to the house eventually, but there are so many better drop sites for a note. Sites that Sophie is way more likely to go to.
On a completely different note, if anyone tells me they don’t like Elwin, I’m going to be very confused. He’s slowly working his way to being my favourite character in the series – he’s definitely my favourite adult! I love that he got annoyed with Sophie for not going to see him when Brant burned her wrist. Even though she kept claiming that it was only a bruise, it wasn’t responding well to the medications she was taking and Elwin would have no problems dealing with a bruise. Sophie gets injured enough that I doubt Elwin would want her going around with a “bruised” wrist – just in case.
While reading this book I questioned how Brant never manifested, even though he obviously had power over fire. Of course, I figured that Brant didn’t realize he had this power and it was only manifesting because his mind was broken. Brant burning Sophie’s wrist made me wonder how no one had put two and two together since I was sure his broken mind had made him act out in similar ways. Then, I had to wonder if Brant accidentally killed Jolie with the power that he didn’t know he possessed when they got in an argument.
When I realized (only around 3 pages before the big reveal) that Brant was the apprentice pyrokinetic working with the Neverseen, my jaw nearly hit the floor. I had to wonder if he was actually crazy or if he was just faking it. Heck, I know his mind was broken, as Sophie went in to fix it and that’s why he burned her, but how much of his “personality” was real and how much of it was an act? Did he kill Jolie on purpose?
Realizing that Brant was the reason Jolie made Vertina swear not to reveal anything to someone who didn’t know the password was bitter sweet. The one person she should trust the most, the one person she loved enough to risk having a “bad match” with, was the one person that Jolie needed to fear above all else. My heart broke a little bit for her.
The fact that the password was “Swan Song” made this even more bitter sweet. It showed Jolie’s commitment to the Black Swan at all costs, even if it cost her the life she expected to lead. Heck, it showed that this was her final fight, her final chance to do something with her life, even after she was dead. I don’t know for sure that Jolie knew she was going to die when she went to confront Brant, but I have to believe she expected something unpleasant to go down.
When it became apparent that Keefe was being tracked above the rest of the crew, I had to wonder what it was he touched that the rest of them hadn’t. Sophie had been with him most of the time, but she didn’t constantly need the skin of her hands burned off the way that Keefe did. It makes sense that the tracking beacon was Keefe’s family medallion as he really cared about that thing. It hurts that it was proof that Keefe’s mom was the one to betray them, but it makes more sense than Keefe’s dad being the bad guy.
Sure all of the hints were there to make the reader think that Keefe’s dad was the evil one of the two, but he made too easy of a scapegoat. It sucks that the injury that Sophie noticed was from the throwing star that Keefe hit her with in Exile. I can’t imagine him feeling good about hurting his own mother. It also can’t feel good to know that your mother has been playing you throughout your whole life.
And can I just say that a polygot’s mimicry is super freaky? I know it’s a useful tool, but I hope that Sophie doesn’t master this skill of her too quickly. *Shudders*
I enjoyed the mini mystery of where the gnomes have gone that is brought up throughout this story. I had to wonder if these beings were working with the Neverseen of their own volition or if they were being forced to do the work. I know it’s never a good thing when someone goes missing, but it’s interesting to see the reasoning behind these disappearances.
While I said earlier that I no longer thing Bronte is the worst person in this world, I don’t think he’s a great guy either. For one, he’s extremely condescending when talking to Sophie. Sure he’s an ancient and she’s a 13/14 year old, but that doesn’t change the fact that she’s been working hard to help save his world from causing its own destruction. Heck, the guy is so filled with hate and anger that when Sophie projects happy thoughts into him, it legitimately causes him pain. I can’t imagine trying to live your life so full of anger that you physically can’t be happy.
Of course, this instance shows just how mature Sophie can be as she doesn’t condemn him for this revelation. Instead, she’s able to understand that Bronte lived a long life and this caused him to be the person that he is. Not everyone is going to be the most personable or friendly, but that doesn’t make them evil.
I have to admit, this book made me question whether Master Leto was a telepath. On page 234 he was just too good at reading Sophie for it not to be a possibility. Of course, he could have a different mental ability. But I truly think that he’s a telepath. There’s also things that he’s said which make it clear that he works with the Black Swan (I mean, come on. He knows too much) so him being an unregistered telepath makes sense.
Earlier, I briefly touched on Fintan’s healing. I think the most important thing that I took away from this scene was how important it is to pay attention to what’s going on around you and to trust the people you surround yourself with. If Fitz hadn’t been there to pull Sophie out of the healing, I can’t imagine how much worse things would have been. The council needed Sophie to help collect the ingredients to put the Everblaze out – what would they have done without her? Not only that, but Sophie got so caught up in trying to pry out Fintan’s secrets that she didn’t even know things were happening around her. If her trust in Fitz hadn’t been so strong, there’s no way that the person performing the healing with Sophie would have been able to pull her out of Fintan’s mind.
The biggest part of this lesson for me was Kenrick’s death. I’m not blaming Sophie for it, as there was literally nothing she could have done once Fintan set them on fire, but it was certainly heartbreaking. Kenrick gave his own life trying to protect Sophie, Fitz, Tiergan, Alden, and Oralie from the Everblaze. His attention to what was happening allowed him to protect the others that were in just as much danger as he was. His bravery saved their lives, though at the cost of his own.
Oralie cared so much about her role as a Councillor that her and Kenrick never got together, since both could not happen at the same time. While my heart broke at Kenrick’s death – I liked him so much I temporarily hoped he was a bad guy just so he wasn’t actually dead – I’m sure that Oralie’s heart shattered. It was so obvious that they cared deeply for each other. I can’t imagine losing that sort of love and commitment in such a traumatic way.
Another thing that boggles my mind is the council’s hesitancy on healing Prentice but their willingness to heal Fintan. Sure Fintan held secrets about the Neverseen, but Prentice unjustly had his mind broken. Do they really think that Prentice wouldn’t have been able to help them deal with the Neverseen? He would have helped so much more willingly than Fintan ever would have. Not to mention the fact that Prentice has a son that’s been without both of his parents for years – and who knows Sophie has the ability to heal his father.
I briefly thought that the Black Swan had given Sophie a way to sneak into Prentice’s cell in order to heal him, but they’d actually just come up with a plan for how to trick and trap the Neverseen. Sure it didn’t work out as neatly as they’d hoped, but it was a good plan to start out with.
At first, I was excited when Alina was announced as Kenrick’s replacement for the council. However, it quickly became clear – at her ceremony to become a councilor – that she wasn’t going to act the same way that she had run Foxfire. Her speech showed her coldness towards Sophie and everything that her crew was trying to do – even though as the Dame of Foxfire she was always understanding and tried to be helpful to Sophie and her friends. She really let the power go to her head the second she got any.
While Sophie can be very smart and intuitive at times, at others it’s clear just how young and inexperienced she can be. Heck, how could Sophie grow up in the human world, surrounded by human mirrors, and not understand that it was a human mirror that was needed in order to break Jolie’s code? Sure she might have been surrounded by Elvin mirrors for a couple of months, but she spent the first 13 years of her life living in the human world, surrounded by human objects such as their mirrors that invert things. Jolie’s journal was titled Reflections so that alone should have given Sophie the clue that she needed in order to use the human mirror that Jolie possessed.
While on the topic of Jolie, I have to admit that I was relieved when it became apparent that she isn’t Sophie’s biological mother. Heck, it would have made things really weird with Grady and Edaline being Sophie’s adoptive parents.
I have to say that I was disgusted when the council used Dex’s power dampener on Sophie as a punishment for trying to help the council do their jobs. It’s disgusting that they were willing to put a young child through such agony just because they were scared of the repercussions of their own inability to do their jobs. The fact that Emery was so happy to place it on Sophie was disgusting. You should never be that happy to cause anyone that level of pain. I understand that being a councilor sometimes requires you make hard decisions, but that wasn’t a decision that should have ever been made. It was made in fear and it’s obvious.
I’m proud of Dex for standing up against the council and taking the stupid dampener off of Sophie so that she can be at her full power in order to defeat Brant. Heck, if she still had the dampener on during this scene I can’t say for sure that she would have been able to talk Grady down from killing Brant. If he had, they certainly wouldn’t have been able to tell the Black Swan about the ambush waiting for them!
Knowing about the ambush really kept the casualties to a minimum. While I feel bad that there were any deaths at all, I’m glad that so many were spared. I can’t imagine what it would have been like if Sandor had died instead if just being extremely injured during this fight. As it was I know it was hard for Sophie to leave for the Black Swan without him by her side.
I’m proud of the whole crew for being willing to risk exile in order to join the Black Swan and do what needs to be done in order to save the planet. Even more than that, I was pleasantly surprised so learn that all of the parents stood behind this decision. They didn’t let their children sneak out – no, they sent them off with promises of luck and lots of love.
Oh, and screw you Emery.