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Literature / Keeper of the Lost Cities

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Keeper of the Lost Cities is a series of middle grade fantasy novels by Shannon Messenger.

After a brain injury when she was five years old, Sophie Foster has been able to hear the thoughts of others. While this might sound useful, it's been nothing but a pain to Sophie; she can't turn it off and she can't tell anyone for fear of being turned into an experiment. It's just another thing that makes her different from her peers: despite being only twelve, she's already a high school senior. Due to all of these differences, she's resigned herself to never fitting in, not even among her loving family.

Then, during a class trip to a museum, she meets a boy whose mind she can't read. This has never happened before, and the stranger somehow knows about her secret ability. He introduces himself as Fitz, telling her that she's an elf and a Telepath. Apparently, his father, Alden, has been looking for her for twelve years. Though skeptical at first, Sophie quickly believes his story when he shows her the Lost Cities, lands inhabited by elves and other fairy tale creatures.


In the blink of an eye, Sophie's entire world is turned upside down; she leaves her human family to live with a pair of elves who become her new guardians. She attends an elvish school called Foxfire where she has to unlearn all of her human knowledge while also learning how to hone her telepathic abilities. She manages to find a few friends in Dex, a laid-back carefree boy who hates Fitz; Marella, a girl who doesn't care about what others think of her; Keefe, an Empathic mischief maker; and Biana, Fitz's younger sister, all of whom make the transition into her new life a little smoother.

Unfortunately, Sophie still can't quite manage to totally fit into her new world. Despite only recently learning about the existence of elves, she somehow knows confidential information that only the ruling elves are privy too. As her life with her kin develops, Sophie will discover that not everything is peaceful in paradise, and her existence may be one tiny piece in an ever-changing puzzle.


The series includes the following titles:

  • Keeper of the Lost Cities (2012)
  • Exile (2013)
  • Everblaze (2014)
  • Neverseen (2015)
  • Lodestar (2016)
  • Nightfall (2017)
  • Flashback (2018)
  • Legacy (2019)
  • Unlocked (2020): An interquel book that's part epilogue to Legacy, part companion book to the series as a whole.
  • Stellarlune (2022)
  • An untitled tenth novel

In January 2021, it was confirmed that a film adaptation was in development, with Ben Affleck set to direct and co-write.

This series includes examples of:

  • Accidental Misnaming: Sophie introduces Dex to Fitz in the first book and he soon forgets it, calling him "Deck" as he leaves. The annotated version confirms that this was unintentional on Fitz' part.
  • 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.
    • The same can be said of Edaline Ruewen and her sister Juline Dizznee. Using their Conjuring and Frosting abilities, they both effortlessly manhandle Ro, an ogre princess famous for her fighting abilities, given her people's superior strength and the brutal training she received from her father. Much like Della, Edaline's abilities surely come from the fact that she used to work for the Council alongside her husband as a noble. Juline's abilities are likely a result of being a member of the Black Swan.
    • Silveny
  • Actually Pretty Funny: In Flashback, when Sophie tells Keefe about Silveny being stubborn and evasive and he points out that that sounds like Sophie herself, Sophie admits that he's on the mark.
    "Still being weirdly stubborn," Sophie corrected. "I'm worried she's hiding something. But I'm hoping I can wear her down."
    Keefe laughed. "Sounds like what I'm always saying about you."
    "Oh—that was a good one!" Ro said, raising her hand for a high five.
    "It was," Sophie had to admit.
  • Aerith and Bob: Justified. Sophie was born to a human family and given a human name as a result.
  • All Trolls Are Different: Trolls go through seven life stages. As newborns, they are physically strong but mentally weak, and as they progress through subsequent stages, their strength decreases and their mental facilities increase. Empress Pernille, a Stage Six, is tiny.
  • 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.
  • And Here He Comes Now: In Nightfall, Physic arrives at Choralmere just as Mai is asking about her.
    "How long do you think it'll be before your Physician arrives?" Mai whispered.
    A knock rang through the house in answer.
  • 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”.
  • Annoying Younger Sibling: Dex's younger siblings have a penchant for embarrassing him in front of his friends.
    All three of them screeched to a halt when they noticed Sophie, Fitz, and Biana.
    "You'll have to excuse our daughter," Kesler said, glaring at Bex. "She's developed a gift for figuring out the most embarrassing thing she can possibly say and then saying it. We're working on it."
  • 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.
  • The Ageless: Elves stay eternally young. Gnomes might too, as Calla lived for millenia.
  • 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.
  • Arranged Marriage: In Flashback, it's revealed that Ro and Bo were put in an arranged marriage so that they don't have to face each other in a fight to the death.
  • Arson, Murder, and Jaywalking: In Neverseen, when a character is describing how humans twisted the elves' gifts to them: "But they took the gifts we gave them and twisted them into weapons, or bargaining chips for their political agendas, or soggy, chemical-filled Twinkies."
  • Asskicking Equals Authority: The ogre ruler is chosen by victory in battle. Any willing candidates spar to the death, and whoever is left standing becomes king or queen.
  • Author Tract: Anytime the elves get outraged at how barbaric humans are.
  • Awkward Kiss: In Nightfall, Sophie and Dex share a very awkward kiss with a lot of bumping into each other — the first kiss for both of them — which gets them to conclude that there is no spark between them.
  • 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 Equals Goodness:
    • The elves are all supremely beautiful and are presented as one of the most peaceful species, though this is played with as their society is shown to have its own flaws and prejudices.
    • The Vackers are heroic and described as exceptionally beautiful even among elves. In Flashback, it's said that Alvar — who had been working with the villains — had never been as effortlessly attractive as his younger siblings.
  • Betrayal by Offspring: In Neverseen, Alvar is revealed to be working for the Neverseen by spying on his father.
  • 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.
  • Blindfolded Trip: In Lodestar, Sophie is blindfolded for the walk to meet Gethen, since he's being kept in a high security location.
  • 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.
  • Casanova Wannabe: Dex's little brother Lex tries to act like a young ladies' man, only for his father to block him and give him a talking-to.
    "He's just jealous," the boy told Biana. "He knows the ladies like me better."
    "Okay," Kesler said, grabbing the boy's arm before he could wrap it around Biana's waist. "Looks like we need to have another talk about appropriate behavior around girls, Lex. Rule number one—we do not touch them without their permission."
  • Change the Uncomfortable Subject: In Everblaze, when Sophie's friends are talking about how they manifested their special abilities and turn to her, she quickly changes the subject, since her awakenings were traumatic.
  • 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 channelling, 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.
  • Childhood Friend Romance: Jolie met Brant when she was six. They became instant best friends and eventually ended up getting together.
  • Childish Tooth Gap: Dex's younger brother Rex has a missing front tooth.
  • 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, because of his Photographic Memory, which also allows him to skip classes without failing his exams.
  • The Chosen One: Sophie, the one and only “Project Moonlark”. Subverted because she was literally genetically engineered for this purpose while the usual recipients of this trope usually are because of a prophecy or supernatural ancestry.
  • City of Gold: The goblins live in cities made of gold.
  • Cliffhanger:
    • Lodestar ends with Sophie meeting her human sister, who recognizes her.
    • Nightfall ends with Alvar waking up and not knowing who he is.
  • Clockwork Creature: Tinker's home has clockwork animals of her own design walking around.
  • 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 twelve, by human standards.
  • Commonality Connection: Keefe and Fitz became friends because they were fellow outsiders no one else wanted to hang out with. Keefe was "the weird kid who'd just skipped a grade", and Fitz was always disappearing to go on secret missions for his dad.
  • 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.
  • Cool and Unusual Punishment: In Flashback, Leto warns Keefe — who is currently skipping his elvin history session — that he can become very creative with his punishments. When Keefe expresses curiosity, Ro shuts him down, since as his bodyguard, she has to be there for them, too. Leto, knowing her dislike of elvin history lectures, agrees and tells her, "And I found an entire room filled with recordings of speeches from the Ancient Councillors that I think you'll find particularly enjoyable." Ro promptly starts dragging Keefe back to his session.
  • Covert Distress Code: “Swan song” is the Black Swan’s code word for a last resort.
  • Cute Clumsy Girl: the trope is taken to its full extent in the First Book, where Sophie is described as being extremely clumsy and uncoordinated - she's unable to walk on short heels - even by human standards and is a total klutz by Elvin standards. As usual with this trope, it is only used in non-critical settings as comic relief or a way to make her seem relatable or endearing to other characters, and Sophie becomes conveniently capable whenever she has to do something crucial, even under the effects of stress. This is even completely forgotten in the subsequent books, when Sophie turns out to be a natural at throwing goblin stars, a discipline that asks a lot of coordination and she never practiced before, outmatching all of her friends, who have superhuman coordination.
  • 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.
    • Fintan.
    Oralie: A life serving the ogres is no life at all!
    Fintan: Funny, I thought death from disease was far less of a life.
  • Death Wail: Oralie after Kenric’s death.
  • Declaration of Protection: Tam is extremely protective of his sister, Linh, even choosing to go with her into banishment rather than let her go alone.
  • Deliberate Values Dissonance: Elvin society has its own flaws, such as prejudice against the Talentless, multiple births (e.g. twins and triplets), and certain Talents (e.g. Shades and Pyrokinetics). This is behind the motives of numerous characters, such as the Black Swan, who seek to do something about it.
  • 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.
  • Ditch the Bodyguards:
    • In Exile, it's mentioned that Sophie has tried many times to ditch her bodyguard Sandor, to no avail.
    • In the Keefe short story, Keefe tries to sneak out to join Sophie but is stopped by his bodyguard Ro.
    • Biana often uses her invisibility to sneak away from her bodyguard Woltzer.
  • Domestic Abuse: In Everblaze, Sophie suspects that Lord Cassius abuses his wife, even though this accusation is proven false.
  • Do Not Call Me "Paul": Ro hates being called by her full name, Romhilda.
  • 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.
  • Dramatic Unmask: In Everblaze, one of the Neverseen members' hood comes off, revealing that the person underneath was not Lord Cassius as previously thought, but Lady Gisela.
  • 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.
  • Egocentric Team Naming: In Exile, when Sophie, Fitz, Biana, and Keefe are preparing to play base quest, Keefe expresses his preference for teaming up with Sophie and her getting to use her special ability: "I vote for The Unstoppable Team Keefe! Or Team Foster-Keefe if you're one of those egomaniacs who needs your name in there. I can share some credit."
  • Embarrassing Initials: Sophie's human sister is Amy Rose Foster. In Everblaze, Sophie says she doesn't think their parents realized the initials spelled 'arf' until it was too late.
  • Embarrassing Pyjamas: In Neverseen, the Black Swan give Sophie and her friends colorful furry onesies to use as pajamas while they're staying at Alluveterre, in the hopes that they would be embarrassing enough to discourage them from meeting after curfew.
  • Embarrassing Tattoo: In Flashback, Ro, who had expressed disdain for sparkles on numerous occasions, ends up getting a tattoo reading 'Sparkles Rule!' after losing a bet.
  • Epiphany Therapy: Needed for Keefe after he discovered his mom was probably dead.
  • Evil Gloating: In Neverseen, when Sophie and Biana run into a Neverseen member in Brackendale, Sophie tries to egg him into talking about the group's plan. However, he doesn't fall for it.
  • 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 favourite phrase is “No reason to worry.” Even when there are definitely many, many things to worry about.
  • False Utopia: Elvin society is introduced as having no war, No Poverty, and no crime. It's later revealed that the elves discriminate against Talentless and the Council has swept problems under the rug for centuries, which only gets worse when they punish Sophie and prosecute the Black Swan to restore the citizens' trust in them.
  • Family Theme Naming: Dex and his younger siblings have rhyming names: Rex, Bex, and Lex.
  • Fantastic Nature Reserve: Elves keep a couple of every endangered species, fantastic or known to man, in the Sanctuary to protect them from human pollution and hunting. They have never let a species go extinct and protect several species human think have disappeared long ago. In order to avoid predation, the animals are exclusively fed vegetarian food that can taste like meat.
  • Fantastic Underclass: Talentless elves, who live in "working-class" cities, attend the Sucky School Exillium (at least until Sophie convinces the Council to improve it), can only marry other Talentless or they'll get the scorn of being a "bad match," and are generally looked down on.
  • 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 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.
  • Fingore: In Neverseen, the Black Swan say they'll have to freeze off Gethen's fingernails to remove the tracker substance from them, disturbing Sophie enough to enter her nightmares. They later assure her the process was painless and that they'd only made it sound more painful to frighten him.
  • Flashy Teleportation: Alicorn-style teleportation splits the air with a thunderous crack.
  • Forgot About His Powers: In Nightfall, Sophie and her companions need to transport an unconscious person. Sophie hefts his shoulders off the ground and calls for someone to get his legs, before Tam reminds her that they can just move him telekinetically.
    "You Foxfire people always forget the obvious," Tam told her, floating Alvar's body off the ground. "Remember telekinesis?"
    Sophie's cheeks burned. "Right. I guess that's smarter."
  • Full-Name Ultimatum: In the first book, when Sophie is trying to sneak out and is caught by her family, her mom calls her by her full name when demanding that she tell them what's going on.
  • Gadgeteer Genius: Dex, the only Technopath who would think of stabbing a gadget with a stick to improve its signal.
  • Gasshole: Iggy the imp makes very stinky burps and farts.
  • Genetic Engineering Is the New Nuke: Sophie’s genes were tweaked by the Black Swan in order for her to have enhanced abilities.
  • Get Out!: In Everblaze, after Sophie and Grady tell Brant he can be healed, he screams at them to get out because he doesn't want to be healed.
  • Getting Smilies Painted on Your Soul: In Everblaze, Sophie inflicts happiness on Bronte during a session with him. The results aren't pretty — he starts laughing uncontrollably, crying and becoming hysterical.
  • Girl Posse: At school, Stina is sometimes accompanied by two other girls described as her minions.
  • 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.
  • Hands-On Approach: In book 1, Dex puts his arms around Sophie to help her adjust a stellarscope, making her blush.
  • Hazy Feel Turn: Keefe - is he evil now? Or is he just working undercover?
  • Heroic Sacrifice: In Neverseen, Calla turns herself into a Panake to save the gnome species from the plague.
  • Hiding Behind the Language Barrier: In Flashback, Tarina switches to an archaic troll dialect during her first meeting with Sophie so she can tell her some information without letting the others around them know, since Sophie's ability as a Polyglot allows her to understand the language.
  • 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.
  • Humans Are Special: Although they have finite lifespans, do not have superpowers, are less beautiful and on average less intelligent, humans have one ability that has led the Neverseen to see them as a threat and an example to learn from. They are immune to guilt. Which means that unlike, they are able to commit atrocities if it means protecting themselves and their loved ones, without their mind breaking down. However the fact that ogres and goblins are warrior species and thus use violence, just like the Neverseen themselves who kill with limited mental consequences makes one skeptical about the uniqueness of this particularity granted to humans.
  • Humiliating Wager: In the beginning of Flashback, Keefe and Ro have a bet on how long the Tribunal will take. If it lasts until sunset, Ro wins, and Keefe has to wear ogre armor (which looks like a metal diaper) to school instead of his uniform. If it's done in an hour, Keefe wins, and Ro has to start calling him Lord Hunkyhair. Keefe ends up winning. Later in the book, they bet on whether Sophie will be able to pull off a telekinetic move. If she can't, Ro wins and gets to shave Keefe's head. If she can, Keefe wins, and Ro has to get a tattoo reading 'Sparkles Rule!'. Again, Keefe wins.
  • Hypocritical Humor: In Exile, when Sophie, Fitz, Biana, and Keefe are dividing into teams for base quest and deciding to play without special abilities, Keefe comments:
    "Lame. I vote for The Unstoppable Team Keefe! Or Team Foster-Keefe if you're one of those egomaniacs who needs your name in there. I can share some credit."
  • 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 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.
  • Ignoring by Singing: In Neverseen, when Sophie shares the news that Silveny is pregnant, Keefe keeps begging for everyone to stop talking about alicorn mating and birthing, eventually covering his ears and leaving the room, singing, "LALALALALA! I CAN'T HEAR YOU!"
  • Immortality Begins at Twenty: Elves stop aging once they reach adulthood. Their only sign of old age is Pointy Ears.
  • 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.
  • Inconvenient Attraction: In Neverseen, Sophie is anxious over the prospect of Fitz finding out about her crush on him and wishes she could get over it to make everything easier.
  • Inevitable Waterfall: Used to the group’s advantage to escape Ravagog in Book 4.
  • Informed Attribute:
    • Thorough the series elves are stated to have no concept of sexism. However, they abide by gender stereotypes, to the point Keefe was mocked by other elves for braiding and generally taking care of his hair because he is a boy. Similarly, they are said to have no concept of racism and do not take race into consideration when choosing a partner. However, every black (except Livvy/Docor Asian character in the Books are related to each other and the Song family has been Asian-coded (Sophie describes them both as anime characters and K-pop stars) for generations. Most of the couples — at least those who have children — are monoracial as well. The fact that elves even have races identifiable to humans is indicative of the dissonance between what is stated by the author and what is represented in the books, as the main reason humans have is because they tended to keep to their own race when mating in the past, which wouldn't have been the case for elves, and Elvin families should have become a blend of all races with time.
    • Telepathy is supposedly a rare talent, but the most common talent amongst known characters.
  • Innocent Blue Eyes: Elves, who are stated to be a peaceful species who created a society where poverty has been eradicated — and know no concept of racism or sexism according to Word of God — have blue eyes. Sophie is the only exception to the rule, but it is because she was genetically engineered.
  • 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. Humans are resistant to it.
    • 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.
  • It's Quiet… Too Quiet: In Neverseen, while walking through the forest at Brackendale, Sophie realizes what feels wrong about the place — it's far too quiet.
    That was when Sophie realized what was wrong with the forest.
    It didn't rustle.
    Or crackle.
    Or make any of the sounds trees normally made.
    Other than the roaring boobrie, the whole place seemed to be holding its breath.
  • 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 weaselling 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.
  • Kissing the Ground: In Nightfall, after Keefe gets off of a rough boat ride, he shouts, "SOLID GROUND!" and bends to kiss the rock beneath him.
  • Last-Name Basis: Keefe often calls Sophie by her last name.
  • Let Me Get This Straight...: In Exile, Keefe summarizes the situation once he's brought on board with the new plan:
    Keefe: So, let me get this straight. We don't know where we're going, or how long it's going to take us to get there, and we're flying to meet the Black Swan—who may or may not be evil murderers—and this whole thing could be a trap?
    Sophie: Pretty much.
  • Let Us Never Speak of This Again: In Everblaze, after Bronte recovers from having happiness inflicted on him, he turns to Sophie and Kenric and says, "We will never speak of this again."
  • 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.
  • Metaphorgotten: In Nightfall, when they're trying to figure out what to do with Alvar:
    Sophie: And he can't fool us if we're on to the game, right?
    Biana: Unless there's more than one game.
    Sophie: So we take the player off the field, or... I'm losing track of this metaphor.
  • The Mole: Alvar secretly works for the Neverseen.
    • So does Brant.
  • Moment Killer:
    • In Exile, as Sophie has an emotional goodbye with Grady and Edaline before departing with Keefe and Silveny, Keefe breaks the moment by commenting on how "hardcore" they are with goodbyes.
    • In Flashback, Fitz and Sophie have just confessed their feelings for each other and are about to kiss when Sophie receives a telepathic cry for help from Silveny.
  • Mood-Swinger: Lady Redek has mood swings due to a brain injury from a fall. One character recalls a conversation where she laughed, cried, and screamed at them within minutes.
  • Muggle Foster Parents: Literally. Their surname is "Foster". Sophie’s surrogate parents are humans, and Sophie herself thinks she’s human until Fitz arrives to tell her the truth. It is taken to another level as Sophie was implanted into her mother as an embryo and was effectively birthed into her human family.
  • Named After First Installment: The first book takes the title of the series, thus presumably being a Protagonist Title.
  • Narrative Profanity Filter:
    • In Neverseen, "[Keefe] shouted a bunch of words that would earn him a month of detention".
    • In Nightfall, after Keefe makes a risky move despite Sophie's protest:
      Sophie shook her head, her brain too clogged with words she wasn't supposed to say to come up with a response.
    • In Flashback:
      • When Ro has to call Keefe "Lord Hunkyhair" after losing a bet:
        Ro said it, all right. Along with several ogre words that weren't very nice.
      • When Ro finds out who Sophie's ogre bodyguard will be:
        The last name made Ro unleash an impressive string of ogre curses.

        Ro muttered a few more creative words under her breath.
      • Tarina unleashes "a colorful array of Trollish words" the first time she teleports via free-falling.
  • 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.
  • No-Holds-Barred Beatdown: In Everblaze, 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, which took place three years before Sophie arrived at Foxfire. It has been mentioned by characters, but not explained.
  • 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.
  • No Sparks: In Nightfall, Sophie and Dex have an awkward kiss which gets Dex to realize that there is no spark between them and they are better as friends.
  • 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.
  • Oddly Common Rarity: Throughout the books, telepathy is stated to be a rare Talent at multiple times. However, an overwhelming majority of the elves we are introduced to turn out to be Telepaths, and Telepathy is the most represented talent within the main cast and within the Council itself. Plus, it doesn't help that somehow, most known Talents are said to be rare, when at least one has to be common.
  • One Steve Limit: Averted with Marella and Maruca, as lampshaded by Tam in Lodestar.
    "There's a Marella and a Maruca?" Tam asked. "Yeah... I'm never going to be able to keep that straight."
  • One-Word Title: Every book other than the first:
    • Exile
    • Neverseen
  • OOC Is Serious Business:
    • In the first book, when Sophie is leaving her human family, she realizes that she's going to miss her Annoying Younger Sibling Amy, and that even though they fought all the time, the fighting was actually fun. She rushes over to hug her, and her parents gasp.
    • In Exile, when Sophie visits Everglen after Alden has fallen into a serious condition, Biana is unkempt and un-made-up, in contrast to her usual immaculacy.
    • In Neverseen, the morning after Keefe finds out some hard-hitting news, his normally studiously rumpled hair is flat and un-styled.
    • Tinker usually only speaks in questions, so when she makes a direct statement, it usually indicates special circumstances. The first time she does it is when she is told about Dex designing weapons. She is shaken, and murmurs, "He shouldn't."
      The words were hushed and simple—but coming from someone who only spoke in questions, they hit with a thud.
  • Our Dwarves Are All the Same: Dwarves are mole-like creatures with pointed faces who burrow through the earth like moles.
  • Our Elves Are Different: Elves look like beautiful humans with eyes in various shades of blue and ears that grow points as they become ancient. They have psychic powers, are psychologically vulnerable to guilt, and have a technologically advanced society.
  • Our Gnomes Are Weirder: Gnomes are peaceful plantlike creatures with green teeth who can communicate with plants and have them do their bidding.
  • Our Goblins Are Different: Goblins are tall, muscled, gray-skinned creatures, live in cities of gold, and honor their warriors.
  • Our Ogres Are Hungrier: Ogres are rock-colored creatures with apelike proportions and are a Proud Warrior Race with advanced knowledge of microbiology.
  • Overly Narrow Superlative: Referenced in the dedication of Nightfall:
    For Nadia and Roland, best niece and nephew an aunt could ask for (and not *just* because you're the only ones—though that does help) ;)
  • Over-the-Shoulder Carry: In Flashback, Ro is dragging Keefe back to his session when he makes a needling comment about her and Bo. She responds by tossing him over her shoulder and stomping out.
  • 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 Sexuality Squick: In Neverseen, Della mentions that she initially rejected Alden's advances because of the pressures that come with nobility. Fitz and Biana are put off by the talk of "advances" between their parents.
  • Parental Substitute:
    • Grady and Edaline are Sophie’s foster, and later adopted, parents.
    • Sir Tiergan is Wylie’s adopted father.
  • Parting Words Regret: In Lodestar, Sophie is frustrated with Grady and Edaline for sending her to stay at Dex's instead of letting her stay to help defend from a potential attack. She is about to glare at them as she leaves, but then realizes that if something goes wrong, it could be the last time she sees them. So instead, she tells them she loves them.
  • Percussive Therapy: In the first book, Sophie throws rocks at a cave wall while in a terrible place emotionally, taking some comfort in the sounds of the rocks shattering. When she runs out of rocks, she kicks a boulder.
  • Photographic Memory: Sophie and Keefe both have photographic memories.
  • The Place: Exile and Nightfall are titled after plot-important locations.
  • The Plague: The gnomes fall to one in Neverseen.
  • Plant Person: Gnomes are plantlike creatures.
  • Pointy Ears: Elves aren't born with these, but their ears become pointy over time. Elves who have lived long enough to grow them are known as Ancients.
  • Poison-and-Cure Gambit: In Neverseen, the plague creator blackmails the gnomes into servitude in exchange for the cure.
  • Polar Opposite Twins: Tam and Linh. Tam is defiant, rebellious, and fiercely protective, while Linh is quiet, shy, and drawn into herself.
    The twins might look similar, but their personalities were opposites. Linh was a baby bird. Tam was a stalking tiger.
  • Portmanteau:
    • In Everblaze, when Fitz starts scheming with Sophie and Keefe, Keefe suggests that their team name could be "the Keefitzter" (a portmanteau of "Keefe", "Fitz", and "Foster"). Then Biana appears and insists on being included, adding in her own name to make "Keefianaitzter" and "Keefitzeriana".
    • In Neverseen, Keefe comes up with name portmanteaus to describe team-ups and groupings: "Sophitz" and "Fitzphie" for Sophie+Fitz, "Keefex" for himself+Dex (Dex suggests "Deefe", which Keefe declares "lame"), "Sophex" and "Deephie" for Sophie+Dex, and "Sophorkle" for Sophie+Forkle.
    • Lodestar:
      • Keefe comes up with "Keefoster" for himself+Sophie and "Dophie" for Dex+Sophie.
      • After Biana and Dex are left out of an excursion, Biana suggests they should form their own group called Team Bianex, then—agreeing that it's not the best name—comes up with "Dizznacker" and "Vackiznee" as alternate portmanteaus.
    • Nightfall:
      • Tam comes up with "Keephie" for Keefe+Sophie, and Keefe with "Dexphie" for Dex+Sophie.
      • The gorgodons are part gorgonops, part flareadon, part argentavis, and part eurypterid. Fitz wonders, "Wouldn't that be a gorgentaveridon? It seems like the argentavis and eurypterid should be in the name."
  • Post-Scarcity Economy: In the elves' society, everyone receives a huge "birth fund" equivalent to around 5 trillion human dollars. As Della explains it, "Money is something we have, not something we need. No one ever has to go without." Since they're so long-lived, they work just to fill the time and for the joy of it.
  • Relative Error: When she first meets Tam and Linh, Sophie wonders if they're boyfriend and girlfriend, since they're sitting close together and sharing a fruit. It is only once she sees their faces that she realizes they're brother and sister.
  • La Résistance: The Black Swan. ‘Nuff said.
  • Ridiculously Cute Critter: Iggy the Imp. Also the verminion.
  • Running Gag: Fitz and Dex going "wow" when they see Linh's Hydrokinesis.
  • 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.
  • Secretly Selfish: Oralie becomes this when it is revealed she is Sophie's biological mother. While the Moonlark Project was vital and ultimately helped to save the Lost Cities more than once, her reasons for taking part in it are borderline selfish. Indeed, she states the fact that it was "her only way to have a child", as Councillors are forbidden from having families, as one of her main reason for taking part in the Project, even though by doing so she knowingly condemned Sophie to being Unmatchable, and had the gall to look distraught when she was told about it. It doesn't help that the only concern she expresses when Sophie confronts her is whether or not her test tube baby will out her and destroy her career, plus the fact that she was perfectly able to keep herself from having a relationship with Kenric, even when giving in would only have had consequences on her and not an innocent child. She does express her love and care for Sophie afterwards though, apologising profusely.
  • See the Invisible: Normally, gnomes can see Vanishers when they turn invisible because they can see "glints of life" gathering on their skin.
  • Self-Sacrifice Scheme: To make the cure for the gnomes’ plague, Calla sacrifices herself by turning into a Panakes tree.
  • Series Continuity Error: In the first book, Stina's family's name is given as "Logner" when they first show up, but is "Heks" in the rest of the book. The annotated version of the book points out the mistake — according to the author, she'd gotten confused by her notes, thought she'd forgotten to give them a last name, and asked her editor to add it in. Other printings have corrected it.
  • 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.
  • Shout-Out: At the start of chapter 15 of the first book, Fitz is reading a book titled Twenty-Five Ways to Catch the Wind, a reference to the Sky Fall series by the same author.
  • Significant Anagram:
    • “Kerlof” is an anagram for “Forkle”. Mr Forkle is Leto Kerlof’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. Who are more beautiful than humans, smarter than humans, nicer than humans, richer than humans, more technologically advanced than humans etc. ...
  • 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.
  • Teleport Interdiction: Force fields can be set up to prevent light leaping to or from an area.
  • Tell Me About My Father!: Sophie repeatedly asks Mr Forkle this question.
  • That Came Out Wrong: In Lodestar, Sophie and Keefe hold hands as they levitate through an area. Sophie has recently manifested as an Enhancer, which makes her enhance the abilities of whomever she's touching — in this case, Keefe's empathic abilities. Keefe, who has not yet been informed of this, voices his observations:
    "So, quick question," he said as they picked their way through an especially dark hallway. "Is there a reason I keep getting this crazy rush every time I touch your hand?" He cleared his throat when he realized how that sounded, "What I mean is, your emotions always feel strong. But now they're on another level."
  • Token Evil Teammate: Coiffe, the sardonic, resentful Black Swan member. Makes sense when you learn he’s actually Timkin Heks.
  • Too Much Information: In Neverseen, Silveny shares memories of mating with Greyfell with Sophie, who is thoroughly squicked, as are her friends when she tells them about it.
    "Gah!" Sophie said, shoving the last images out of her mind. TMI, Silveny. Too. Much. Information!
  • Transflormation: When gnomes die, they turn into plants. Neverseen reveals the Panakes are former gnomes who transformed themselves.
  • Translation Convention: Most of the dialogue in the series is in the Enlightened Language, the language of elves. When another language is spoken, which Sophie can always understand, the text is still presented in English.
  • Tree Buchet: In Neverseen, when Sophie's group needs to make a getaway, Calla makes a tree bend down, put its branches around them, then straighten up, catapulting them through the air.
  • Trickster Twins: The Dizznee triplets are a whirlwind of chaos — stampeding through the house, screaming and shouting at each other, and leaving a mess behind.
  • 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.
  • Two Aliases, One Character:
    • In Neverseen, one of Mr. Forkle's other aliases is revealed to be Sir Astin, Sophie's mentor for The Universe in Level Two, and his true identity to be Leto. The Black Swan member Coiffe is revealed to be Timkin Heks, and Granite is revealed to be Sir Tiergan.
    • An inversion in Neverseen: Sophie's investigations into the identity of the Boy Who Disappeared turn up a former Exillium student named Ruy Ignis. However, later they are revealed to be separate people.
    • In Lodestar, the Black Swan member Squall is revealed to be Juline, Dex's mother and Edaline's sister.
  • Vegetarian Carnivore: Grady and Edaline train animals like t-rexes to stop hunting and go vegetarian. It helps that gnomes can grow plants with the taste and texture of meat.
  • Villains Act, Heroes React: From the very start, the heroes, the Black Swan and the Council do nothing but attempt, with very mixed results, to stop the evil plans of the Neverseen. To the point Sophie can't help but feel discouraged by the fact they are always one step late on the villains, allowing innocent lives to be lost because they want to keep the moral high ground, when they don't simply put a spanner in each other's work. The one time Sophie decides to take the initiative in Book 8.5, burning the Neverseen hideout to impede for once, she is berated by the adults and her friends. While they say she should have made the decision with them, they mostly scold her because they claim she has now waged war on the Neverseen, put her allies in danger and stooped as low as their enemies, even when said enemies have been killing and torturing their ranks and innocent bystanders from the start.
  • Vocal Dissonance: Sandor is a tall, muscled goblin with a soft, high voice described as sounding more suited for a bunny or chipmunk.
  • Wham Line: In Neverseen, when Sophie is examining a memory of Keefe's, she hears Lady Gisela tell the Boy Who Disappeared, "Then perhaps you should go to Exillium. Ruy is having no problems there." This reveals that contrary to what was assumed prior, Ruy and the Boy are separate people.
  • 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, who is the reason why his own father chose to let his mind be broken and thus abandon his family, doesn’t know how.