Tag Archives: Series

Keepers of the Lost City

Keeper Of The Lost Cities

Books 1-6 (7 is upcoming)

by Shannon Messenger

Aladdin press,

I am going to recommend this series, with a Big Caveat.  It starts out as a Middle Grade series with a female lead character and lots of magic in a story reminiscent of Harry Potter meets Percy Jackson.  It ends as more of a Teen Fiction series complete with love triangle and DRAMA. So without spoiling anything, travel with Sophie a changeling who thinks she knows about her past but in fact she is a lost child from an Elvin world where cuts are treated with potions, and the Elves are lead by a group of Councilors from the nobility, and all manner of magical creatures live in harmony with each other.

Sophie meets an intriguing cast of characters from Dax, son of a potions master. Keefe a more likable son of a Malfoy like noble. Fitz son of yet another noble and fellow Telepath. And many other characters who are fun and assist Sophie on her journey to discover the purpose of her existence.  There is pin trading, magic dodgeball, smelly foods, and troll poetry.  Mystery, secret messages, magic mirrors, and lots of hospital visits.

I really liked book one, there is nothing objectionable or too problematic for middle grade readers.  Its in the subsequent slide into love triangle and Sophie’s lack of growth into a strong capable heroine that gives me pause.  Its a fun series, but Sophie is a bit of a Mary Sue when it comes to powers (Oh no one has ever ‘insert magic ability/talent/skill’ here) but she never grows beyond the wilting, panic filled young girl we see in the first novel.



Here’s the problem. I Love CS Friedman. One of my all time favorite science fiction and dark fantasy writers. Not dark fantasy as in sparkly vampires, love triangles, or secret desires. Dark fantasy about demons that eat children, and magicians that use blood magic. And she does fantastic global politicking bad guys who deal in shades of grey.

This is the second in a series that has elements of “when Darkness Falls” and a bit of a new trend in alternate worlds and alternate reality. I liked book one a lot. It had action, and story progression. This story is well written, but the story treads water. I do not like the trend of dragging out a story to enhance book sales, but I guess as long as publishers are willing to sell books and we keep buying them it will be a tend that doesn’t go away soon.

We start back on our Earth (Terra Colonna, one moon, iPod, kindle, tech obsessed) and our cast of characters gets a little trimming. Jessica needs to fix her Mom and the only ones who can are Flesh carvers (their gift is molding bodies). So back to Morgana and her web of Seers on Virginia Prime (magic using, guilds and magic tech that doesn’t value untalented people.) But the only other person she takes is a newly found Rita still sporting a fantastic collection of bruises from the Gate explosion.

The action hops and stutters from dream to reality and the only thread that connects them is Jessica’s dreaming. I love that this is not a love triangle teen fiction. I love that the politics is trademark Friedman with betrayals, layers, and games…in other words smart and not basic. What I didn’t like is that I felt the book felt more like a short novella, or several chapters rather than a complete novel. Will I read the next one? Yes. If you liked book one, definitely read this, but maybe wait until book three comes out so the set up of this story can pan out in the next.

Parental note:
For this age range, not much. There is graphic torture death of a secondary character. And some nasty descriptions of death of animals and other kids. However, this is a teen fiction and not as bad as many books out there.

Time Warp in a Box

The Keepers: book1


The Keepers: The Box and the Dragonfly
by Ted Sanders (Author), Iacopo Bruno (Illustrator)
549 pages
HarperCollins (March 3, 2015)
Grades 4-6

This is a story I picked up after passing on it several times. The book cover and description sound interesting, but I just wasn’t sure I wanted to begin another long possibly protracted series for young readers. However, the school year is upon us and I decided to pick it up on the off chance that one of our students might request it.

Horace is a middle schooler in Chicago with an inability to keep track of his house keys. So when he stumbles upon a sign that seems to have his name on it, but in reality has “house of answers” on the sign he can’t resist and has to get a look inside. What he finds is more questions and lots of bins with labels like “unbinnable” or “sorted” and a ledger that writes in colored ink. When Horace discoveres a box that fits in his hand and feels like it belongs there, he is launched into an adventure against two groups: the Keepers and the Makers, of remarkable seemingly magical objects that possess the power to do amazing things. He and another young initiate Chloe must figure out what their artifacts do, and what side they are on quickly, before someone else makes that decision for them.

First the good. It is a fun junior fiction tale that has a secret society, magical/science artifacts, a big bad, and a boy/girl team. The bad, the first book is one ginormous set up. Oh yes, there is some action, and some pretty impressive world building, but I just didn’t think there was any character development or story progression. In the end, our characters ended right back where they started, just with more knowledge and no bad guy defeated. Oh, and I am not a big fan of scientific exposition within what is billed as a fantasy. These long discussions stalled the story and made for uneven reading. Because so little was accomplished I am thinking this series is slated to be a big one. For a young boy or girl who is a fan of action adventure stories with a dash of science, this is a great novel.

Parental Note: I really didn’t like the Chloe’ abusive drunken father or the solution/explanation of he’s ok it’s just the alcohol/artifact/situation…. There were some pretty distressing emotional reasons given for Chloe’ fathers depression that just don’t justify his behavior. Sorry, abuse is abuse. And to imply that it is ok to treat your children this way because their Mother walked out is inexcusable. It is also inexcusable to say living in filth is alright if he is good deep down inside. I really wanted to say don’t rescue him, let the bastard rot, but that is not how it is done in Junior Fiction stories.

Excalibur is where?


I received this book free in exchange for an honest review. Thank you Disney-Hyperion and Netgalley for allowing me the chance to read this. This is a Netgalley eBook review.

Age Range: 8 – 12 years
Grade Level: 3 – 7
Series: Odditorium
Hardcover: 448 pages
Publisher: Disney-Hyperion (January 5, 2016)

I am torn in this book. On the one hand it is a good solid second installment in an interesting steam-punk fantasy filled with magical robots, mythical creatures and a great bad guy. On the other hand some of the same problems I had with the first story are still here. Mr Grim is hard to relate to and our main character Grubb is as well. In fact the best characters are the supporting ones. Warrior Banshies, ninjas, spoilt faries and mad witches. The main character is a boy, but the strong female characters almost steal the story. The novel has an ever expanding cast of characters that collect a bit like the Oddita.
This story can drag a little and was hard for me to finish, which worries me about many of my younger readers. However, once I reached about the half-way mark the action picked up and it was interesting. This story wasn’t a hard read, and it is age appropriate in Lexile level, but it just didn’t grab me.
If someone asked for the second book we will buy it, but series are tricky things. They take up a lot of space on our shelves and unless it is wildly popular we tend not to carry many long running series preferring great stories that stand alone.

Parental Note: while the blood and gore is relatively ‘off screen’ Alistair takes on a bit of a darker role in this novel. He is Grubbs father and role model, but he does not make a very good one. In fact I wonder if Grubb is in more danger from Alastair than our Dark Prince. Some of that is explored, but given how abusive Grubbs childhood was, I kind of want better options for Grubb (and seriously, can he get a different name?)