Rating: 5/5 stars
Series: Keeper of the Lost Cities, Book 4
Genres: Middle Grade, Fantasy, Adventure
Elwin laughed. “I should’ve known you’d find a way to end up here” (p. 425).
Have I mentioned this book made me cry? A lot? I’m starting to think books make me cry easier than I thought… I didn’t used to be so impacted by books and the stuff that happens within their pages. Perhaps it’s because authors like Messenger come around to play with my emotions like it’s a fun thing to do. I don’t need to care about characters, I’m just fine being a husk of a human, I swear.
Despite how emotional this book made me, or maybe because of it, this was an amazing read. I know I’m going to need to take a little break from the series after finishing this book in order to give my emotions a break, but I also know that I won’t be able to get back to this world quickly enough.
Not only is the main plot so well written that it’s made me cry on multiple occasions, Messenger also does an amazing job at sussing out subplots that add to the story rather than detract from it. Personally, I love the fact that she’s got a subplot going in which humans are polluting the planet and that’s why the elves have to try so hard to save it. This mirrors what’s happening in real life and as these books are aimed towards younger readers, Messenger is doing an amazing job at showing future generations why it’s important to take care of the planet we live on. She makes it seem like the pollution is almost a tangible thing in such a beautiful and quiet way that this awful fact almost seems palatable.
I also found it impressive that it’s so clear Messenger did a lot of research while planning this series. She’s able to seamlessly fit in a history lesson while the crew is making their way to their destination at the start of the book. Not everyone would be able to make a showing of history and world building flow so organically, so for this I applaud Messenger.
Can I just say how cute it is that on page 27 Fitz hints towards knowing Sophie’s feelings for him? His sneak peek into the emotional center of her mind might have shown him a little more than he bargained for!
Even worse than that, I can’t imagine having to tell your crush all of your deepest secrets. That can’t be easy for either Sophie or Fitz! Part of me was sad when Keefe prevented Sophie from telling Fitz that she likes him, but a bigger part of me was relieved that it didn’t have to happen just yet. I mean, Keefe’s crush on Sophie is a good enough motivation to have him break things up – or at least prolong the inevitable – as long as he possibly can. Even if this secret will prevent them from becoming cognates just let.
Part of me will always think that Fitz was hoping that Sophie’s secret is that she likes him, though I don’t actually know for sure that’s true. Whether it is or not, it’s my head cannon now. I think they’ll be adorable together and they’re the real endgame of this series. Another part of me is sure that, no matter what Keefe ends up doing in the rest of the series, him and Biana will end up together. Unless another love interest comes along, these are the two power couples I’m betting on coming out of the series. Also, Dex deserves someone really great for himself.
Okay, now to the real meat of the story. In usual Messenger fashion, the book starts off with a bang. At the end of the first chapter the crew is surprised by a councilor breaking up their escape attempt. Thankfully at the start of chapter two we find out that it’s just Orelia who’s there to wish them well and to give Sophie Kenrick’s cache. Let’s just say it’s a good thing that she did because the crew really needed the cache throughout this book!
Another adult that I adore in this series – and makes his entrance in this book with his usual dazzle – has to be Mr. Forkle. While he drives me crazy at times, like I know he does Sophie, I can’t help but admire how much he does to help out the crew. And he does all of this on top of leading an organization that’s geared towards saving the planet.
The fact that the Black Swan’s main base of operation is in a place where nature is rebuilding itself despite the destruction humans caused on the surface is just icing on the cake. It shows how seriously the Black Swan take their work. They want to save the planet from any type of devastation – including the devastation the Neverseen are trying to cause. By re-purposing a place that the planet has made healthy again, the Black Swan are able to show their commitment to the planet in a subtle way while also showing that it’s possible to live in harmony with nature.
Speaking of adults I adore – Emery. While he’ll always be my favourite adult, he’s slowly making his way towards being my favourite character in the entire series. At the beginning of the book, Mr. Forkle talks about how their best physicians are working on trying to fix the pathogen and in my notes I wrote “unless E is working on it, they don’t have the best of the best”. So yeah, I called Emery working with the Black Swan because he’s such a badass. And also he’s the best of the best. You can try to change my mind on this, but you won’t succeed.
Heck, even towards the end of the book when Sophie brought the gnome to Foxfire to be treated by Emery, he didn’t even bat an eye. He was his usual lovable self and joked that even being an exile he should have known that Sophie would end up in his Healing Center. Emery was even upbeat about the whole situation – minus the gnome being sick with the plague – saying that he was sure everyone would be allowed back at Foxfire before too long.
On a more lighthearted note, I can’t be the only one that thought it was really adorable that when Fitz is recovering from almost dying he very sleepily mutters “Miss you” to Sophie. So yeah, definitely endgame right there.
Going back to the very beginning of the story – well, pages 120 – 124 at least – I really liked the fact that everyone’s pendants had a different message. Sophie’s was the most obvious (Glad you made the right choice) while Keefe’s was the most cryptic until the very end of the story (Do not lose your way). My personal favourite has to be Della’s (For when you need to look closer). As the only adult joining the Black Swan at the moment, I found it really impactful that it’s hinted at the Della still has a lot to learn. It shows that not only the crew who are teenagers need to learn, but everyone is continuously learning throughout their lives. You’re never done learning, even when you’re out of school and in the real world.
Take for instance learning about the Black Swan and their leaders. They all wear disguises when meeting with the crew for the longest time. Heck, midway through the book I was convinced that Mr. Forkle was actually Tiergan. I’ve got to be honest, though. Even after reading Everblaze and hypothesizing that Leto’s a telepath, I didn’t expect him to be Mr. Forkle. It does make sense, however, considering Master Leto is also Sir Asten, her level 2 Universe Mentor. I mean, having so many personas to take care of, it’s understandable that he could also be Mr. Forkle.
While Leto’s cover surprised me, I wasn’t surprised at all to learn that Tiergan was Granite. Sure, I thought he was Mr. Forkle at first, but that’s just because the first book in the series made it so obvious that Tiergan is a part of the Black Swan. I knew he had to be an important member of the society, and I wasn’t wrong about that. Just who he was in the society was difficult for me to pin down.
I can’t wait to learn who Physic is.
Oh, and I can’t believe that Silveny’s pregnant. I’m so glad that Sophie was able to convince the councilors to set the alicorns free as that really is the safest place for them to be.
Going back to the main plot of the story, I found it really impactful that Edaline was the conjurer that decided to help the Black Swan and show Sophie how to protect her cache. Not only does it show Edaline’s growth as a character, it shows just how caring and understanding she is about what Sophie and the crew need to do in order to help stop the Neverseen. I can’t imagine it was an easy decision for her – heck, she couldn’t even be awake to say goodbye to the crew when they first left – but the important thing is that she decided to be on the side of good. Edaline knew that Josie joined the Black Swan for a reason and that she, too, believed in the same cause.
I love that Edaline brought Iggy alone and, to quote my own notes, Mr. Forkle is evil for trying to send Iggy away. IGGY MUST STAY!
I’ll always feel bad for Keefe, having to find out that the parent he thought was the mediocre one and not the bad one ended up being the evil parent in the end. Even worse than that, Keefe had to find out that his mother erased part of his memory and used him as a spy against his friends.
I love the fact that Keefe let Sophie help him try and figure out his lost memory (memories?). It allowed Sophie to show Keefe that his drawings are actually good, despite what his parents told him while growing up. It was a chance for Keefe to see that his life is actually worth something, even though his parents made him think he was useless for years. It allowed Keefe to get some much needed confidence – even if that confidence did end up biting Sophie in the butt at the end of the book. Heck, if Keefe’s drawings are good enough to look like pictures, that’s a talent that should be fostered. He may have been ignoring his skills for years as his parents told him they were useless, but I truly believe that a skill as amazing as Keefe’s should be cherished.
Of course, keeping the note from Keefe’s mom from Keefe was a bad decision from the start. Sophie should have known that keeping this secret from Keefe – after telling him she wasn’t going to keep secrets from him – was going to be the wrong call. I understand wanting to protect the ones you love, but you can only protect them so much before your trying to protect them actually becomes harmful. Sophie’s still young, and I understand that she needed to learn this lesson the hard way, but it really was a difficult lesson for her to have to learn.
I imagine that having one of your closest friends “betray” you like that, and steal your cache by mimicking your voice, had to be almost as hard as the Vackers finding out the Alvar was working with the Neverseen all along. Alden worked so hard to find Sophie and he thought that Alvar was helping him in the search for a long time when in reality he was just trying to help the Neverseen find Sophie. I can’t imagine finding out that your son/brother was secretly working against you and your friends and family the whole time.
Bringing it back to the lighthearted for a moment, as Messenger is so good at doing when things get dark, I can’t help but need to discuss Mr. Snuggles. I fully understand needing something to cuddle when you’re not feeling well. Heck, haven’t most people had a cuddly stuffed animal when they were growing up that they leaned on for emotional support? I know that Fitz made Sophie swear not to let his secret out, but living in the same treehouse it was inevitable that Keefe was going to find out about Mr. Snuggles.
The timing of this scene was a perfect way to break the tension of the crew’s run in with the council, Fitz’s almost death, and the seriousness of everything the crew was trying to do. I can’t imagine trying to break Prentice out was an easy decision for the Black Swan to make, and it definitely didn’t go according to plan. Having Mr. Snuggles become common knowledge was perfect.
It also makes it even better that near the end of the story Keefe gets his own fuzzy buddy – a fluffy green gulon named Mrs. Stinkbottom. The name really makes me think of Glitter Butt!
I wonder if anyone else in the crew is going to end up with a furry buddy before the end of the series. Possibly one of the twins? That would be cool to see.
While I’m sure that Tam and Linh are going to be huge parts of the rest of the series, there’s not much I want to say about them right now. As readers, we were barely introduced to them in this book. Sure we find out that Linh is a hydrokinetic that’s scared of water, and Tam is a very powerful shade, but we don’t really get a chance to learn about them as people. I can’t wait to do just that in the rest of the series, which is when I’m sure I’ll have something to say about these new characters.
While I still have notes on a lot of the story, there isn’t much more I feel actually needs to be touched on. One of the last things I want to discuss is the fact that elves count their age from the moment of conception, not from the moment of their birth. I can’t imagine how weird it must have been for Sophie having to realize that according to her new society she’s actually 9 months older than she’s always thought. It makes sense why Mr. Forkle made sure Sophie knew that she was implanted in her human mom’s uterus as close to “conception” as possible. In a society where you’re born upon your conception – since elves know when they’re pregnant and they don’t have the difficulties associated with carrying a child to term that humans have – it makes sense that this would be an important thing to keep track of.
The second biggest shock of this story, to me, had to be Keefe’s “betrayal”. I use quotations here because Keefe seems to believe that going to work with (for?) the Neverseen is the only way that he can protect not only his mother, but also his friends. Heck, if he was joining the Neverseen to actually join the Neverseen, he wouldn’t have given Sophie a way to get home safely the day she follows him and learns about his “betrayal”. I feel like Keefe felt as if he didn’t have a choice in the matter if he wanted to protect everyone he loves. I’m not saying it was the right choice, but I also can’t say for certain that it was the wrong choice to make.
The biggest Shock (yes, with a capital S) for me would have to be Calla’s arc in this story. Messenger has a way of making me care for a character – no, love a character – and then make them deal with the most awful things imaginable. Sure, Calla sacrificed herself in order to save her people. Sure, she found out the secret of the Panakes despite the ogres having destroyed the gnomes’ sacred trees so many years ago. Sure, I figured out what the ultimate sacrifice would be before it was laid out for the reader. But none of that made what happened hurt any less.
Calla quickly became one of my favourite characters in this series. Heck, she managed to surpass Biana in my list of favourites and Biana’s been pretty cool since joining the crew. I don’t think that Calla’s unselfish ways, her pure heart, and her eagerness to help should ever go unnoticed. Not only did she give her life up for her people, but she showed Sophie such love and devotion in the short time that they knew each other. Calla might have known about Sophie Sophie’s whole life, but the fact that she was able to basically become family in such a short period of time just goes to show how amazing Calla really is.
The last thing I feel that needs to be mentioned has to be the cliffhanger at the end of the book. While I’m glad that Prentice is awake finally, I was too emotionally distraught by Calla’s death – and Keefe’s “betrayal”, I guess – to actually find this cliffhanger to be impactful. I’d never say that this was the wrong way to end the book, because I actually feel like Messenger did a really smart thing by making this the cliffhanger instead of Keefe’s betrayal, but it definitely wasn’t as impactful as I feel Messenger meant it to. At least, it wasn’t for me.
After falling in love with Calla for a full book, and learning to love Keefe and all of his quirks throughout the first four books of this series, getting the payoff of Prentice being awake didn’t pack the punch I was expecting this plot point for have. I’m sure this will be a very important plot point in Lodestar, but at the time of finishing this book, all I can do is mourn Calla. I sobbed like a baby when I realized that she was going to give up her life to become the cure – you can even ask my roommate.
Oh, and screw Alina. I don’t know what she did to Prentice to make him comatose for so long, but she’s currently the councilor on the top of my list.