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Keeper of the Lost Cities is an award-winning book series by Shannon Messenger aimed for children ages 8-12. However, it has also attracted hundreds of teen and young adult readers due to its riveting plot, intricate themes, and death-defying cliffhangers that will make you want to throw Neverseen against a wall.

Sophie Foster is an elf, but she’s lived with humans her whole life. When a mysterious boy shows her the world she belongs in, she struggles to fit into a new school, a new home, even new parents. But darker plots are brewing, and Sophie and her friends find themselves at the crux of an interspecial war, and are drawn into yet another world of rebels and resistance groups, ogres and gnomes. Will Sophie be able to bring peace back to the Lost Cities?

There are currently seven books in the series:

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  1. Keeper of the Lost Cities
  2. Exile
  3. Everblaze
  4. Neverseen
  5. Lodestar
  6. Nightfall
  7. Flashback
  8. Legacy

Unknown title for the ninth book.


Tropes include:

  • The Ace: Fitz, the “Wonder Boy”. He’s the best at everything, from telepathy to splotching. Until Sophie shows up.
  • Action Mom: Della Vacker. In Neverseen, she uses her Vanishing ability to stow away to join the Black Swan, where she naturally kicks ass.
  • Alicorn: Two:
    • Silveny
    • Greyfell
  • Almost Kiss: Sophie and Fitz almost kiss at the end of Book 5, but Keefe interrupts them.
  • Amicable Exes: Alden and Alina are technically this, though the latter tried to break up the former's wedding.
    • Averted with Ro and Cadael.
  • Angst Coma: Elven minds break from guilt, sometimes inducing a death-like coma.
  • Anime Chinese Girl: Linh Song and her brother Tam are actually described as “like they stepped out of an anime”.
  • Archnemesis Dad: Keefe and his dad, Lord Cassius. Lord Cassius was a cold, unfeeling father - could almost be classified as abusive - and he and Keefe never got along very well. One memorable moment is when Lord Cassius discovered that Keefe had been drawing in his school notebook, and in his anger he ripped all the drawings to shreds.
    • Tam and his father. Tam expresses great bitterness toward his father and obviously hated him when they still lived together.
    Tam: I melted down the chain [of my registry pendant] after I ripped off the crystal and threw it in my father’s face. Now if I ever face him again, he’ll see exactly how little I miss living in his glittering prison.
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  • Aerith and Bob: Justified. Sophie was born to a human family, and given a human name as a result.
  • All Girls Want Bad Boys: Sophie references this trope in an attempt to make Keefe feel better in Book 4.
  • Amnesiacs are Innocent: The Council decides they cannot punish Alvar for his involvement with the Neverseen because all his memories have been wiped.
  • Author Tract: Starts becoming this sometime around the vegetarian dinosaurs.
  • Badass Adorable: Sophie. Also Dex, who explodes things on a daily basis.
  • Battle Amongst the Flames: In Neverseen, the climactic battle takes place literally inside a ring of fire.
  • Beauty = Goodness: The Elves are all supremely beautiful, and are presented as the most peaceful and intelligent of the species.
  • Big Bad: The Neverseen is a rebel group who delights in killing humans, killing gnomes, and killing traitors.
  • Big Brother Instinct: Even though they’re twins, Tam is extremely protective of his sister, Linh.
  • Brother–Sister Team: Tam and Linh.
  • Boarding School of Horrors: Technically a Day School of Horrors, Exillium is a school for the “hopeless cases”. The food is horrible, the medical care is subpar, and the teachers hate their job. The students aren’t allowed to speak to each other or even give out their names, and they have to hide their faces behind masks. Their “ticket” to the next day’s class is a bead that gives you an electrical shock when you touch it. This all changes after a few choice words from Sophie to Councillor Terik.
  • Brain Bleach: When Sophie sees Silveny and Greyfell having sex. Ewwwwwww...
  • Bystander Syndrome: The Council (and the elves in general). Because of their indefinite lifespans, the elves ignore addressing problems that may cause trouble. Such as all the gnomes dying.
  • Chekhov's Gun: When Sophie interrogates Gethen in Lumenaria, there is an unobtainable sword in his cell signifying that prisoners can't do anything. When Fintan, Brant, Gethen, and Alvar destroy the castle with outward channeling, it breaks free and Gethen uses it to kill Mr. Forkle.
  • Chekhov's Gunman: Lots of these, including Sophie's old family, who get kidnapped by the Neverseen and Marella, who turns out to be a Pyrokinetic.
  • Child Prodigy: Sophie, who also has a Photographic Memory, got into Yale at age twelve.
    • Keefe is the only elf we know of who skipped a level at Foxfire.
  • The Chosen One: Sophie, the one and only “Project Moonlark”.
  • Cry into Chest: Sophie cries into Fitz’s shoulder in Book 1. Keefe cries into Sophie’s shoulder in Book 4.
  • Cold-Blooded Torture: Sophie and Dex were kidnapped, tortured, and burned by the Neverseen for information about the Black Swan - information that they didn’t have. Remember, these kids were thirteen.
  • Conflicting Loyalty: Keefe feels that he was “born” to be with the Neverseen, but he doesn’t necessarily want to follow his mother. It’s...complicated.
    • Jolie worked undercover for the Black Swan by infiltrating the Neverseen, but after she fell in love with Brant, who was with the Neverseen, she felt her loyalties shifting.
  • Covert Distress Code: “Swan song” is the Black Swan’s code word for a last resort.
  • Darker and Edgier: Everything starts going downhill once the ogres get involved.
  • Deadpan Snarker: Keefe Sencen.
    • Tam Song and Mr. Forkle.
    Tam: I can already tell [the trees’ shadowvapor reading]’ll be off the charts, since, y’know, the trees are dying.
    Mr. Forkle: That is what one would expect from a plague.
  • Deal with the Devil: It’s implied that Keefe made a deal with the Neverseen: he agreed to join their ranks in exchange for his mother’s life.
  • Death Wail: Oralie after Kenric’s death.
  • Disney Death: Sophie and Dex, after being kidnapped, were thought to be dead in the first book. They have a funeral and everything.
    • Alden’s mind broke in Exile, making him brain-dead which, by elf standards, is funeral-worthy. Fortunately, Sophie brings him back.
    • Fintan supposedly dies along with Kenric in Everblaze, but makes an appearance in Neverseen.
    • Sandor falls off a cliff in Everblaze, breaking almost every bone in his body. But somehow, he lives.
    • Fitz gets stabbed in the stomach but doesn’t die, thanks to the actions of a certain Black Swan medic.
  • Domestic Abuse: In Everblaze, Sophie suspects that Lord Cassius abuses his wife, even though this accusation is proven false.
  • Doorstopper: Flashback is an insane 845 pages long. (The other books are no walk in the park, either!)
  • Double Agent: Alvar is secretly working for the Neverseen.
    • Oralie stays on Sophie’s side, even when the rest of the Council is hunting her down. She even commits treason to keep Sophie out of the Council’s hands.
  • Double Reverse Quadruple Agent: Jolie Ruewen. An elite prodigy secretly working undercover for the Black Swan by pretending to join the Neverseen but she’s not sure if she’s actually for the Black Swan or the Neverseen. And let’s not get Brant mixed up in this.
  • Downer Ending: Almost every single book, with the exception of Book 1, has one. For example, Neverseen ended with Keefe defecting to the Neverseen, and Lodestar ended with Sophie discovering her human parents have been kidnapped by the Neverseen.
  • Dude, Where's My Respect?: Despite Dex being the best friend ever and blowing things up and fixing an iPod, he always gets the short end of the stick.
  • Epiphany Therapy: Needed for Keefe after he discovered his mom was probably dead.
  • Evil Is Burning Hot: Fintan and Brant are both Pyrokinetics, and work for the Neverseen.
  • Evil Makes You Ugly: Brant is missing an ear, a hand, and his face is “more scar tissue than skin”. That’s what you get for messing with a Ruewen.
  • Face–Heel Turn: Dame Alina, after being elected as a Councillor, tells Sophie she is “not afraid to make hard choices”. She doesn’t go back on her word.
    • Brant, suddenly turning on Sophie when she discovers he’s actually evil.
  • False Reassurance: Alden’s favorite phrase is “Nothing to worry about.” Even when there are definitely many, many things to worry about.
  • Fatal Flaw: Guilt would qualify for all of the elves. Most of the main characters' fatal flaw(s) is related to the way guilt manifests in them:
    • Personal loyalty gets Sophie into a lot of trouble over the course of the series. She can also be reckless, as well as indecisive.
    • Fitz has issues with anger, which cause him to lash out at others. This is deliberately exploited by the Neverseen in Book 7.
    • Keefe is extremely reckless, has low self-worth, and little regard for his own life. All of three come together when he volunteers to fight King Dimitar in Sophie's place in Book 6.
    • Tam holds onto grudges and prioritizes Linh’s safety above everything else.
    • Dex has an inferiority complex and struggles with jealously.
  • Gadgeteer Genius: Dex, the only Technopath who would think of stabbing a gadget with a stick to improve its signal.
  • Genetic Engineering Is the New Nuke: Sophie’s genes were tweaked by the Black Swan in order for her to have enhanced abilities.
  • Getting Crap Past the Radar: Silveny transmits to Sophie an image of her and Greyfell having sex, in a truly Too Much Information moment for a middle-school book series.
  • Girls Love Stuffed Animals: Sophie has a blue stuffed elephant named Ella that she can’t sleep without.
    • It’s not just girls, either! Fitz owns a sparkly red dragon named Mr. Snuggles (that’s an Elwin-named stuffed animal, mind you), and Keefe has a gulon named Mrs. Stinkbottom.
  • Half-Identical Twins: Tam and Linh are brother and sister, but identical in every other way - they have the same face, eyes, and hairstyle.
  • Hazy Feel Turn: Keefe - is he evil now? Or is he just working undercover?
  • Hope Spot: After the Downer Ending of Neverseen, it seems nothing will be okay ever again...then Prentice wakes up. Maybe all is not lost.
  • Humans Are Bastards: Yep.
  • I Am Not My Father: Keefe is an Empath like his father, Lord Cassius, and also has several marked similarities to his mother, Lady Gisela. He doesn’t want to be like either.
  • I Did What I Had to Do: Keefe made a Deal with the Devil in order to save his mother.
  • I Don't Like You and You Don't Like Me: Keefe hates Tam because he’s a pretentious bastard. Tam hates Keefe because he can’t be trusted.
    Keefe: Someone needs to tell Shade Boy the role of Troublemaker with Daddy Issues is already filled.
    Tam: The only people who refuse readings are those with darkness to hide.
  • Implicit Prison: Alvar is put under house arrest in Book 7, and is unable to leave the Vacker's property. Dex fashions a device called The Warden to monitor Alvar's every move.
  • Inevitable Waterfall: Used to the group’s advantage to escape Ravagog in Book 4.
  • I Will Protect Her: Tam is extremely protective of his sister, Linh, even choosing to go with her into banishment rather than let her go alone.
  • I Will Punish Your Friend for Your Failure: The Neverseen threatened to hurt Sophie if Dex didn’t give them the information they wanted.
  • Inhumanly Beautiful Race: Elves.
  • It's All My Fault: Guilt is a HUGE theme in KOTLC. This happens at least once every book.
    • The most important one is when Alden’s mind breaks because of the guilt of helping to break Prentice’s mind and leaving Wylie parentless.
  • Jerkass: Bronte is prejudiced against Sophie for her human upbringing (in the first two and a half books at least), and really doesn’t like that he can’t Inflict pain onto her.
    • After becoming a Councillor, Dame Alina goes from Sophie Supporter to Sophie Hater in less than twenty-four hours.
    • The Hekses are weaseling bastards who jump on the bandwagon and insult everyone under the sun.
  • Killed Off for Real: Jolie Ruewen was killed in a fire before the start of the series. Although we have never actually seen a body, Shannon Messenger has confirmed that she is truly dead.
    • Kenric was killed by Everblaze in Everblaze, leading to a Meaningful Funeral and Personal Effects Reveal. As with Jolie, we haven’t seen an actual body yet, leading to some theories of how he might have survived like Fintan, but most agree that it’s fairly certain that he is dead.
  • Love Dodecahedron: Sophie likes Fitz and Keefe, Fitz may like Sophie and/or Linh, Keefe may like Sophie and/or Biana, Dex may like Biana and/or Linh, and Tam may like Biana. And absolutely none of this is officially canon.
  • Luke, I Might Be Your Father: Sophie thinks that Kenric might be her birth father, although this is not confirmed.
  • Manipulative Bastard: Fintan, and Brant.
  • Master Actor: Keefe. In Neverseen, Sophie says Keefe deserves an Academy Award for his performance in Ravagog.
  • Meaningful Funeral: Sophie and Dex have a funeral that leaves Grady and Edaline stricken for a second time - first they lost their daughter, now they supposedly lost their adopted daughter, too.
    • Alden has a funeral that is incredibly tear-jerking.
    • Kenric’s Killed Off for Real funeral is rudely interrupted by King Dimitar, the ogre king. And Sophie makes a very poor decision.
  • Mary Sue: It's hard to not see either Sophie or the Elves as this, especially when Sophie's foster parents' memories are erased in the first book. Also, vegetarian dinosaurs.
  • The Mole: Alvar secretly works for the Neverseen.
    • So does Brant.
  • Muggle Foster Parents: Literal Foster parents. Sophie’s surrogate parents are humans, and Sophie herself thinks she’s human until Fitz arrives to tell her the truth.
  • Nice Job Breaking It, Hero!: In Everblaze, Sophie attempts to read King Dimitar’s mind, is found out, almost starts a war, and provokes King Dimitar into unleashing a deadly plague. Nice.
  • Nightmare Fuel: Sophie’s excursion into broken-Prentice-land in Exile.
  • No-Holds-Barred Beatdown:
    • Grady (rightfully so) burns off Brant’s hand when he admits to murdering Jolie. He would have burnt the rest of Brant’s body as well, if Sophie hadn’t snapped him out of it.
  • Noodle Incident: The Great Gulon Incident.
  • No One Could Survive That!: Sandor falls off a cliff in Everblaze, breaking almost every bone in his body, but survives due to Elwin magic.
    • Fitz gets stabbed in Neverseen but somehow lives.
  • Obfuscating Insanity: Brant pretended to be broken by the guilt of Jolie’s death, while in reality he was sneaking away to burn things for the Neverseen.
  • One-Word Title: Every book other than the first:
    • Exile
    • Neverseen
  • Parental Betrayal: Keefe’s mother, Lady Gisela, is secretly working for the Neverseen. Not only this, but she attempted to kill Keefe in Exile.
  • Parental Substitute: Grady and Edaline are Sophie’s foster, and later adopted, parents.
    • Sir Tiergan is Wylie’s adopted father.
  • Photographic Memory: Sophie and Keefe both have photographic memories.
  • The Plague: Yeah.
  • Plant Person: Gnomes.
  • Polar Opposite Twins: Tam and Linh. Tam is defiant, rebellious, and fiercely protective, while Linh is quiet, shy, and drawn into herself.
  • Prince of Pranksters: Keefe Sencen of the Great Gulon Incident.
  • La Résistance: The Black Swan. ‘Nuff said.
  • Ridiculously Cute Critter: Iggy the Imp. Also the verminion.
  • Screw the Rules, I'm Doing What's Right!: Sophie, too many times to count.
  • Second Super-Identity: Mr. Forkle is actually both Sir Astin and Magnate Leto.
  • Secret Identity: The Black Swan leaders all wear disguises and have code names: Mr. Forkle, Squall, Blur, Wraith, and Granite.
    • Mr. Forkle is actually both Sir Astin and Magnate Leto.
    • Granite is actually Sir Tiergan.
  • Self-Sacrifice Scheme: To make the cure for the gnomes’ plague, Calla sacrifices herself by turning into a Panakes tree.
  • Shipper on Deck: Sophie for Sandor and Grizel. Biana for Sophie and Fitz. Ro for Sophie and Keefe. Keefe acts like he’s this for Ro and Bo.
  • Significant Anagram: “Kofler” is an anagram for “Forkle”. Mr. Forkle is Leto Kofler’s Secret Identity.
    • “Tiergan” is an anagram for “Granite”. Granite is Sir Tiergan’s Secret Identity.
  • Sink-or-Swim Mentor: Bronte and his Inflicting sessions with Sophie.
  • The Squad: Sophie, Fitz, Biana, Keefe, and Dex. You could also include Tam and Linh.
  • Star-Crossed Lovers: Kenric and Oralie. They’re obviously in love, but they can’t be together due to the rule that Councillors can’t get married.
  • Superior Species: Elves.
  • Synthetic Plague: The ogres bioengineered the plague to get the gnomes to be their slaves.
  • Tears of Remorse: Dex at the end of Everblaze. He keeps saying, “I’m sorry, I’m sorry” after he permanently puts an ability-restricting circlet on Sophie.
  • Tell Me About My Father: Sophie repeatedly asks Mr. Forkle this question.
  • Token Evil Teammate: Coiffe, the sardonic, resentful Black Swan member. Makes sense when you learn he’s actually Timkin Heks.
  • Trigger Phrase:
    • In Book 4, the Neverseen trigger some of Keefe’s hidden memories with the phrase ‘Lodestar Initiative’.
    • In Book 7, Vespera’s voice triggers Alvar’s memories to return.
  • When Trees Attack: The gnomes can control trees to make them, yes, attack you.
  • Why Couldn't You Be Different?: Keefe’s dad, Lord Cassius, often expresses his wish that Keefe was more “like a Sencen”.
    • Tam and Linh’s father was ashamed that they were twins, and tried to pass off Tam as one year older. Tam and Linh refused to go along with it.
  • Withholding the Cure: King Dimitar used the cure to the plague as a bargain to get the gnomes to become his slaves.
  • Wizarding School: Foxfire, named after a glowing fungus.
  • You Have Failed Me: Wylie to Sophie in Exile. Wylie wants Sophie to wake up Prentice, but Sophie doesn’t know how.
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