Rating: 5/5 stars
Series: Keeper of the Lost Cities, Book 5
Genres: Fantasy, Middle Grade, Young Adult
His cheer sounded forced. But she knew Fitz was trying.
That’s what they did now.
I don’t know what I expected from this book, but I certainly got more than I bargained for. More happiness, more stress, more heartache… just more. Messenger seems to do an amazing job at pulling emotions out of me and playing with them like that’s her job. Which, in a way, I guess it is.
You see, after reading Neverseen, I was really hoping for some good news in this series. Yes, there were some extreme highs in this book – and for that I’m grateful – but the lows were so much… lower than I would have expected. These lows were written so beautifully, so intrinsically to the story, that I can’t help but love them – even if I do hate that they’re there just a little bit.
Basically what I’m saying is this: if you’re going into this story hoping for a lighthearted and carefree read, you’ve got another thing coming to you. But wait! Don’t let that turn you off of this amazing story. Instead, be prepared for a dynamic cast and a world that is going to keep you guessing. Heck, even when things are rough for the main squad my heart is screaming out that I need more.
While yes this story can be dark at times, the joy that it brings me is endless. And, as I’ve questioned so many times throughout my life, what’s the good in good if you don’t have something compare it to? (Now this might just be the Philosophy major in me talking, so bare with me a second.) If you don’t have anything to compare joy to, how are you supposed to know you’re happy? Of course it sucks to go through hard times – even seemingly impossible times – but getting out of these struggles alive not only makes you stronger, it also makes you realize just how great other times in your life have really been.
Okay, tangent over (for now). In a more directly related to Lodestar itself thread, I continued to be shocked and amazed at the maturity and brilliance that the squad shows. While only teenagers, they’re willing to risk everything in order to help save people – and not just the people they care about. Sure as teenagers they don’t always go about things the right way. But what’s more important than that is their willingness to risk it all to help people because it’s the right thing. Sophie might just be a fourteen year old from a race that lives much longer than I can comprehend, but she is wise beyond her years. Heck, if she wasn’t so grounded I’d worry that the series was unbalanced.
Thankfully, Messenger manages to break my heart time and time again by proving she doesn’t really believe in plot armour. (Yes, that sentence was a touch sarcastic – but the wound is still fresh!) I say this hoping it doesn’t spoil the emotional impact of Messenger’s words. I say this as praise to Messenger, for keeping me on my toes no matter what I expect to happen. Even when it hurts, it hurts so good.
On a much happier note, I love the little teasing bits of relationship drama that gets thrown in during the strangest times. Heck, as someone who was once a teenage girl myself, I know any relationship conversation with your dad is going to be awkward. But a conversation about boys with your dad and your bodyguard while you’re trying to figure out how to save people? BIG OOF. Of course I felt a touch of secondhand embarrassment during these scenes, but I couldn’t help but grin at Sophie’s reactions to boy talk.
I also love how dynamic Messenger makes her characters feel. Even someone as happy and bright as Sophie can sometimes have a dark side, which is how people are in real life, too. Seeing the extent to which Sophie and her friends are willing to go for those they care about, ignoring the consequences, makes them feel real to me. Your loved one is a bad guy? Don’t worry, you’ll have a chance to punch them in the face.
The final non-spoilery note I’d like to make on this book is how Messenger isn’t afraid to touch on hard subjects. One of these that is touched on in Lodestar is the topic of verbal abuse. Many people brush off the severity of verbal abuse because there’s no tell-tale signs that it’s happened. Some lump it in with toxic masculinity and think that if they let it get to them then it’s making them less of a man/a person. (Yes I know these issues can be handled separately, but I find it important to point out they can go hand in hand.) Messenger isn’t afraid to call out verbal abuse when it happens – even if we are talking about fictional characters here. It’s important to show real people that these things happen, that it’s okay to acknowledge that it’s affected you.
Now, I know I’ve said this before but it won’t be my last time saying it: don’t be scared away from this series simply because it’s classified as “Middle Grade”. Yes, the characters are young. But so were the characters in Harry Potter and that doesn’t stop people from all ages loving the story and its world – or getting something out of the tale. The KotLC series is just like this. It’s filled with morals and lessons for both the young and the old[er]. It’s filled with jokes that children will understand… and a couple for when you’re a bit older (but don’t worry – nothing crude!). If you haven’t already picked up this series, I highly recommend you do. Who knows, maybe you’ll find a new favourite series like I did.
Okay, I’m going to jump straight into the meat of my feelings on this story. Messenger, how could you kill Mr. Forkle!? (Hey, I warned that there would be spoilers.) I don’t care that its emotional impact is huge. I thought Kenric‘s death was bad? OH BOY did I underestimate you ability to get under my skin, make me care for a character, and then twist my heart in two just because you can. Ugh. I don’t know why I didn’t see that one coming.
Ahem, sorry about that little outburst…
I can’t even say that I was blindsided by Mr. Forkle’s death. There were many times throughout the series I worried something serious was going to happen to him and the moment that he went back to find Edaline for Sophie I couldn’t help but thinking to myself “Well, this is it.” And the waterworks began – even before Sophie finds him.
Sophie has had some of the best parental figures in her life – whether I’m talking about Edaline and Grady, her human parents, or even the Vackers – but Mr. Forkle will always be the most dad-like to me. Yes, Grady is an amazing father to Sophie, but he hasn’t been there the whole time. Mr. Forkle was the one that stayed by Sophie’s side no matter what – from the moment her life was sparked. I can’t imagine having to live five lives in order to ensure that one life can be protected at all costs. But he did it – not just for the Collective, but for his Moonlark. And I just know she’s going to make him proud.
It definitely hurts that Sophie keeps losing the family that she has. This series starts off with her having to leave her human family forever, turns into her almost losing her adoptive family, then she struggles with feeling like a replacement daughter, finds her own “found” family, struggles with losing members of this found family, then she loses Mr. Forkle. Right when you think something’s going to go in Sophie’s favour (after more bad stuff, I know), you can’t trust that Messenger is going to leave it in a good place. Yes, Sophie’s found her (human) little sister again, but for how long will they be in each others lives? Also that comes on the tail end of the Neverseen kidnapping Sophie’s human parents.
So yeah, I guess it wasn’t a happy ending, after all. Curse you and your maniacal laughter in the acknowledgements, Messenger!!
Oookay, I’d like to talk about something happier now – you? Great!
How about Sophitz/? Or team Foster-Keefe? Dophie? Yeah, this little love square is a much happier topic to look at. Let’s start at the top of the queue, shall we?
I love how hard Fitz works at showing Sophie that she doesn’t need to be worried about that secret she’s been too scared to tell him. That he isn’t going to force her to tell him that she has a crush on him and is instead going to let her admit it at her own time. Of course, I loved their little almost kiss at the end of the story even more than his patience, but Sophie probably wouldn’t know how to handle that anyways. I guess it was a good thing that Keefe was there to break the two up before anything could actually happen (especially for Keefe).
I think it’s adorable that Fitz got Sophie and him cognate rings that snap their hands together and increase their mental synchronicity. Mostly because it forces them to hold hands even more than they already did but also because Sophie was too happy to receive them as a gift. The amount of times that their hands snapped together in this book is a good omen for the amount of times it’s bound to happen in the rest of the series.
The fact that Fitz doesn’t plan on getting his first list from the matchmakers for at least a year or two was also adorable. It’s clear that he’s waiting for the possibility for Sophie to be on his list (especially after that almost kiss at the end which totally gave away his crush on her), though it was also sweet for him to point out that his parents are a hundred years apart in age so there’s no rush to try and find the One when the One might not even be born yet. Not his true reason for waiting, but still a sweet sentiment.
While I love the other guys in this love square, Fitz remains my top choice for Sophie. They’d be the best for each other, regardless of what the rest of “her boys” would think. I doubt my opinion on that will change, but I’m only halfway done the series so I guess we’ll see.
Looking at team Foster-Keefe, I can’t help but think they’re cute but not right for each other. Sure Sophie is the only one that Keefe kind of listens to, and sure Sophie keeps Keefe grounded where he’d otherwise being flying more off the handle than he already does. But their relationship would be pretty one sided. Heck, Keefe stressed Sophie out a lot. Sure they’re cute together, but it’s a relationship that really wouldn’t last. Even if I am starting to think that Keefe and Sophie are the endgame…
Of course it’s hard to see Sophie brush aside Keefe’s flirting, assuming he’s joking when it’s clear (to me at least) that he’s not. The amount of times that he tells Sophie that when he seems to be joking the hardest he’s probably being the most serious is heartbreaking, especially since he “jokes” the hardest when he’s either scared for his life or flirting with Sophie and trying to woo her. It makes sense that Fitz was jealous over their twice daily mental check-ins when he couldn’t be there to limit the amount of flirting that Keefe was doing. Though it did force Fitz to step up his own flirt game with Sophie, a consequence that I don’t think Keefe was ready to deal with.
Keefe’s feelings for Sophie also explains why it hurt him the most when he lost her trust after going through so much together. He could stand his best friend hating him and the rest of his friends being mad at him, but he couldn’t stand the hurt that Sophie felt at his betrayals. It also makes sense why it was so hard for him to share his recovered memory with Sophie – he didn’t want her to think less of him for not being strong enough to stand against his mother.
Plus, it was adorable when Keefe’s abilities were boosted by Sophie’s enhancing. He could feel her feelings even more strongly and it caused him to blush – whatever it was he was feeling from her. Especially since he already knew that Sophie thought he was cute and she never denied it when he teased her about it. I gotta be honest, I think I like Keefe more as a character – just not for Sophie’s personality.
And, of course, we have Dex who Sophie actually managed to notice had a crush on her. I feel bad for him, but they really are better off as friends than as a couple. I, for one, hope that Dex ends up with someone who doesn’t baby him the way that Sophie does from time to time. Sure it would’ve been hard for her to revisit the Neverseen hideout in Paris with Dex, but she should have at least given him the choice. Sophie has a habit of leaving friends out of things because she thinks she knows better than them and it always blows up in her face. Just look at how Keefe reacted to Sophie not telling him about the note from his mom in Neverseen or how pissed Marella was that the whole squad disappeared and left her behind without a word.
While we’re on the topic of romance, I’d just like to say how cute I find it that Tam has an obvious crush on Biana. Part of me forgot how obvious this crush had been in Neverseen but when Linh pointed out that Tam has a thing for brunettes, it all came crashing back to me. I love the teasing the twins aim at each other. I also love how jealous Sophie gets every time that Fitz is blown away by Linh’s water manipulation. I’d be super impressed at her control, too.
When looking at Sophie’s powers, I can’t imagine how hard it has to be for her to want to help everyone and knowing that even her modified powers aren’t strong enough to help everyone. Heck, she can’t heal Prentice because his mind is so broken he doesn’t even remember who he is. Whenever she visits him in his mind, he appears as Jolie instead. At least when she’s trying to help Wylie he actually appears as himself – even if it is his six year old version of himself. I guess everyone finds solace in their own ways.
This desire to help is what ultimately caused Sophie to let Mr. Forkle trigger her Enhancing powers, even though it meant that she’d be in even more danger from the Neverseen than ever before. I know she wishes that she wouldn’t have to put her friends in danger at all, but at least this way she’s able to give them the best chance at defending themselves as possible. Though I also understand why Linh doesn’t want Sophie to touch her – her control is already tenuous enough. Not that I think I’d be able to handle her powers any better than she does; I just know it’s better not to tempt fate when you don’t have to.
On the other hand, Sophie’s dedication to her friends is so heartwarming. When Calla gave up her life to save her people, Sophie found it too hard to get to know any of the gnomes that filled her life. While she was grieving for this dear friend of hers (who I’m still not over losing, by the way) Sophie couldn’t bare to get close to another gnome. I love that it was Calla’s own great-great-grandniece, Flori, that finally got Sophie to start thinking about opening back up. They’re both grieving the loss of a loved one but at least they can do it together.
While Sophie and Brielle weren’t close, Sophie once again shows her dedication to those she cares about by wanting to go to Brielle’s death presentation. Being Grady’s bodyguard, Sophie had Brielle to thank for keeping him alive at the cost of her own life. I also believe that this brought the elves that Sophie represents and the goblins a tiny bit closer together. Sophie shows her unique take on life by wishing to mourn for this goblin whereas other elves probably wouldn’t have even thought about asking. Her pure heart and strong convictions are what I believe is going to get her through these dark times.
Though one good thing came out of this death – Sandor and Grizel. She made her intentions obvious from the start and I found it just adorable that Sandor admitted that he wasn’t as blind about things as he tried to appear. Oh, and the fact that he started letting Grizel get away with things just made their newfound relationship that much cuter in my eyes.
I can’t wait to see who the rest of the Collective truly are. We’re still missing 2 of Mr. Forkle’s identities and I think Physic is the other person who I can’t wait to find the true identity of. Of course, finding out the Squall was Dex’s mother was a pretty cool twist. Poor Dex, always feeling like the last one to know things – even when it comes to his own mother. Though it’s often harder to see things that are right in front of your face than it is to see things from an outsider’s perspective.
Thankfully, (is that the right word to use here?) Dex isn’t the only one who has family issues. And they’re not even the worst issues in the group. I think having Alvar as a brother is worse than not realizing your mother is one of the good guys. Of course, having parents that deny your relation is probably the worse ever. Sure Tam and Linh’s parents don’t deny they’re related but they do deny how they’re related. I understand that the elves have something against multiple births – at a time or per family – but I think it’s just dumb that the Songs tried so hard to convince their twins that they weren’t actually born at the same time. Parent of the year is going to neither of these awful people.
I can’t imagine how they’re going to make it up to their kids, or even if they can, but I love that Sophie stood up for her friends and put the Songs in their place. Sure it probably wasn’t her place to snap at them but she did it from a place of love. And it wasn’t like Tam and Linh were going to actually say any of that stuff to their parents. Someone had to.
Finally, Dex and his techy powers shined in this book. Not only did he manage to find a way to bypass needing Keefe’s blood to hail his mother, he was also the one that figured out the code that the Neverseen were using in order to trick the registry. While the key to the Lodestar navigational devices was simple, it took a smart person to figure it out. I was really proud of myself for figuring this out before the kids did (almost right after the symbol was shown to us and and we were given the list of registry codes) until I remembered that these books aren’t aimed towards readers that are 24 years old…. So now I’m just moderately proud of myself for figuring things out.
This might just be my longest review to date, and I didn’t even say everything that I wanted to about this book. However, there’s no way that I can deal with everything in this book just by rambling on by myself. If you have any thoughts on something I either talked about or left out, I’d love to hear about it. Heck, I’ve love to hear about your experience reading this series – if you’d like to share, of course.
Other reviews in this series: