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Book Review

Keeper of the Lost Cities by Shannon Messenger has been reviewed by Focus on the Family’s marriage and parenting magazine. It is the first book in the “Keeper of the Lost Cities” series.

Positive Elements

Spiritual Content

Sexual Content

Violent Content

Crude or Profane Language

Drug and Alcohol Content

Other Negative Elements


Pro-social Content

Objectionable Content

Summary Advisory

Plot Summary

As a 12-year-old high school senior, Sophie Foster is used to feeling different. What she has not gotten used to is her ability to hear other people’s thoughts. It is a secret she has kept hidden since she was 5.

While on a field trip with her classmates, Sophie notices an attractive boy watching her. When he sees she has brown eyes, he begins to leave, but then he notices her painful reaction when a group of kindergarteners come near. Their thoughts are like knives in Sophie’s brain. The boy asks if she is a telepath and admits that he is one, too. He introduces himself as Fitz and tells her that they have been searching for her for 12 years.

Sophie is skeptical when Fitz tells her she is an elf, until he teleports her to the elf capital of Eternalia. Humans called it Shangri-la. He explains that they were able to travel so quickly because elves can leap on light waves. He then takes her to the city of Lumenaria, where all the other worlds come together: gnomes, trolls, dwarves, goblins and ogres. Humans are no longer allowed because they wanted to rule instead of living peaceably together. Fitz takes her back to San Diego and tells her he must talk to his father about her but will be back the following day to visit.

On her way to school the next morning, a strange man tries to abduct Sophie, but her neighbor, Mr. Forkle, scares him away. Sophie could not hear the abductor’s thoughts. When Fitz appears outside her school, he convinces her that she must have been mistaken because no one else knows her location.

Fitz takes her to meet his father, Alden. Alden brings Sophie before a council of 12 elves called the Councillors. These elves will decide if she should attend Foxfire, the most prestigious elf school, to develop her abilities. Although two of the Councillors believe she is ready, one named Bronte disagrees. He insists they test her again at the end of the year.

Alden tells Sophie that she must leave her human family, as they cannot know that elves exist. Sophie agrees, but only if the elves will erase her from their memories. She does not want them to spend their lives grieving for her. He allows her one more night at home to say goodbye and bring mementos to remember them by. When Fitz comes in the morning, she brings only a scrapbook and her favorite stuffed animal, a blue elephant named Ella.

Sophie is sent to live with new guardians, Edaline and Grady, who run an animal sanctuary. Although elves usually live for hundreds of years, their only daughter died in a fire. The couple still grieves her loss and has become reclusive since her death.

When Edaline takes her shopping, Sophie meets Dex, an elf her age. The two quickly become friends, and he offers to help her navigate her first day of school. Sophie quickly settles into her new classes. Besides Dex, she makes friends with a girl elf named Marella and a friend of Fitz’s named Keefe.

She begins telepathy training with a special mentor, Sir Tiergan. Tiergan has agreed to mentor Sophie because he believes his friend, Prentice, helped to hide her among humans. Prentice was exiled for his actions. Although the most powerful of telepathics, even Tiergan cannot probe Sophie’s mind.

Sophie begins to feel at home with Grady and Edaline. She is surprised when Fitz’s younger sister, Biana, invites her to their house because Biana seemed to dislike her earlier. The two become friends, much to Dex’s displeasure, as he thinks Biana and Fitz are snobs.

Sophie manages to pass all of her midterm tests. Grady and Edaline take her out shopping for presents to give her friends for the school’s celebration after midterms. She is rattled when it appears Keefe gave her a silver pendant, but he later tells her he did not send it.

Things become more mysterious during a homework assignment when Sophie accidently captures light from a star that no one but the Counsillors know exists. The capture was highly dangerous and calls for the evacuation of the school and a tribunal.

Because Sophie was unaware of the danger involved, she is not exiled. Alden asks her to start keeping a journal of her thoughts and dreams, hoping they might point to other things hidden in her brain. At home that night, she is shocked when she looks at the cover of the photo album she brought from home. It is of her beside a sand castle she built. It looks exactly like the castle where the tribunal was held. She is too scared to tell Alden that she built the castle before she had seen it.

As Sophie becomes desperate to discover the truth about her identity, she convinces Tiergan to share some of what he knows. His friend Prentice was a Keeper for a group called the Black Swan. He was exiled for not sharing his knowledge of where Sophie was hidden. The Black Swan are insurgents who want to incite a rebellion. Sophie is afraid she must be something bad if they created her, but Tiergan assures her that she may have information they want, but she, herself, is good.

As finals approach, Dex convinces Sophie to try an elixir all the kids use to help her clear her mind. When Sophie takes it, she has an allergic reaction. She barely makes it to the school physician in time. Sophie remembers having a similar reaction when she was younger, but the doctors could not figure out what had caused it.

Sent home to recuperate, Sophie is woken up by a loud screech. Grady and Edaline try to calm a giant prehistoric bird. Sophie is able to read its mind and knows it is seeking fire. Much to Edaline’s horror, Sophie sets a fire. The bird dives into it, clearly happy, but Edaline is furious. Seeing Sophie near the flames reminds her of her own daughter’s death. The bird turned out to be a flareadon, a type of pterodactyl that needs fire to keep warm.

Tensions rise in the house when Grady and Edaline appear to start work on a secret assignment. Sophie asks Fitz if he knows what is going on, and he tells her it has something to do with the fires that have been plaguing human cities. They believe the Black Swan is trying to send a message. That afternoon, Sophie finds a book about Pyrokinesis in her locker. A page about something called Everblaze is marked.

Sophie decides it is time to tell Alden about the mysterious gifts. He tells her the Counsillors forbid him to investigate the fires in the human world, though he suspects they are Everblaze. He also says that he does not believe she has biological parents; rather the Black Swan for some unknown reason may have created her. At home, Sophie accidently learns Grady and Edaline have stopped adoption proceedings for her. Heartbroken, she sinks into a depression.

She receives another anonymous gift, a silver orb with a note saying she must help Connor, Kate and Natalie Freeman. When she holds the orb, she sees her human family, huddling on the floor of an evacuation facility. Another gift, this time a flareadon pin inside a bottle, arrives with a note giving her directions. Sophie realizes that the gifts would allow her to travel to the human world, collect a sample of the fire and bring it back, proving it was Everblaze. She teleports with Grady’s flaredon and sends the creature to collect the fire in a bottle.

While she waits to hear if she will be exiled for breaking the law by visiting the human world, Sophie learns that Alden forced Biana to be friendly to her so he could keep a closer eye on her. Devastated, Sophie runs to a set of caves to be alone. Dex tracks her down, but the two are drugged and kidnapped by mysterious men.

The kidnappers try to read her mind, but cannot. She learns that they are not part of the Black Swan. She suspects the leader is an elf named Fintan, a wielder of Everblaze. Sophie has been telepathically reaching out to Fitz, who believes she drowned in the caves. Before the kidnappers can kill her and Dex, someone rescues them but must leave them alone to find their way back to safety. When the kidnappers find them again, Sophie uses every ounce of her concentration to teleport her and Dex to safety. Unfortunately, she used so much energy saving Dex, she begins to fade to darkness.

Fitz is able to find her, and although she is on death’s door for several weeks, she makes a full recovery. She missed her school finals, but her teachers evaluate her abilities based on her recent exploits and give her a passing grade. She discovers that the man who freed her from the kidnappers was her neighbor, Mr. Forkle. But no one knows his true identity. As she leaves the tribunal, Grady and Edaline ask for permission to adopt her, and she is thrilled to accept their offer.

Christian Beliefs


Other Belief Systems

This is a fantasy with elements of contemporary realism. No other religion is actually discussed, but mythical creatures are said to be real. Elves, dwarves, ogres, trolls, as well as dinosaurs and unicorns live within the Hidden Cities, kept from humans so humans cannot dominate them. Elves used telekinesis to help humans build the pyramids. Elves sunk Atlantis so humans would not find it.

Authority Roles

Sophie’s human parents are caring and loving. They impose punishments when they feel Sophie has been disobedient. Her elf guardians are all very kind and loving. Grady is willing to lie in Sophie’s defense so she will not be exiled. Alden makes himself available to talk to Sophie whenever she has concerns. He may not be willing or able to answer all of her questions, but he does listen to her and try to help her.


The language is very clean. The word pee is used in reference to a recipe for a burn medication.

The violence is not graphic. Sophie runs out into the street and nearly gets hit by a car. The car strikes a streetlight that almost falls on her. Sophie receives several burns, one from a faulty alchemy experiment, one from collecting the Everflame and another from starlight.

Someone has set fires in major human cities that eventually begin to kill people. In PE, the students play a telepathy game in which they must mentally force a ball of paint to explode on their opponent. Sophie excels at the game until she is matched with Fitz. She pushes out with her mind and sends the two of them flying back into opposite walls, knocking them unconscious.

Dex puts a chemical in a snobby girl’s shampoo that causes her hair to fall out. Dex and Sophie are kidnapped and kept drugged for 10 days. Sophie hears the kidnappers talk about how they need to kill Dex to hide the evidence. One promises to kill Dex quickly, so he will not suffer. He also threatens to kill Sophie since she will not give up the secrets in her mind. The kidnappers electrically shock Dex, rendering him paralyzed for a time. Sophie becomes so angry that she is able to telekinetically push pain into their minds so the kidnappers are incapacitated.


Although Sophie is attracted to Fitz, nothing romantic happens between them. Keefe often teases Sophie that another elf has a romantic crush on her.

Discussion Topics

Get free discussion questions for this book and others, at FocusOnTheFamily.com/discuss-books.

Additional Comments/Notes

Lying: Sophie lies several times about what she can remember because she is afraid. She also breaks a promise not to investigate the Everflame on her own. However, when she steals the midterm test from her teacher, Sophie immediately feels remorse and confesses. Although she does not have to accept the punishment, she does so willingly because she feels guilty. Grady offers to lie to the Counsillors, telling them that he used his abilities to force Sophie into going to the human world to collect the Everblaze.

Environmentalism: Although the elves say they consider all creatures equal, it is apparent that they think humans are reckless, violent and uncaring about their environment. Some do not think humans are worth saving.

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Book reviews cover the content, themes and worldviews of fiction books, not their literary merit, and equip parents to decide whether a book is appropriate for their children. The inclusion of a book's review does not constitute an endorsement by Focus on the Family.

Episode Reviews



Readability Age Range

8 to 12


Shannon Messenger






Record Label



Aladdin, an imprint of Simon & Schuster Children’s Publishing Division


On Video

Year Published





We hope this review was both interesting and useful. Please share it with family and friends who would benefit from it as well.

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