Keeper of the Lost Cities by Shannon Messenger

Are you like me? Okay, that’s a pretty bad question (and for the most part, I hope you’re not like me, because you probably are pretty good at being you). But are you like me in that you just seem to have a soft spot in your reading heart for escapist fantasy? Does it help if there’s a school in a strange land and magical powers (but rules for them), a young main character who is somehow special and leaves his or her normal family behind to fulfill his or her destiny? Well then, have I got the series for you.

(Did you click the link? The joke only works if you click the link. Actually, you’re probably smart enough to have figured that one out on your own.)

But really, Shannon Messenger’s debut novel, the Middle Grade work Keeper of the Lost Cities is bound to draw some comparisons to Harry Potter. Quick, raise your hand if you think any book being compared to Harry Potter would be something to avoid taking a look at. Anyone? Bueller?

Well, let’s avoid doing too many comparisons and look at Keeper as its own work. Because it really is good, and deserves that treatment.

Sophie Foster (hah! Just caught the last name — totally fits) is a 12-year old who has been able to hear other people’s thoughts ever since she hit her head when she was 5. She can’t control it, and it’s actually quite annoying. Can you imagine hearing the part of the sentence that your mom purposely didn’t say, trying to spare your feelings? When you know your sister is the favorite of the family, and there’s no denying that truth because you can hear everyone think it? Not exactly enjoyable.

Well, it turns out Sophie doesn’t have to be the favorite of the family, because she is destined for more. You see, Sophie. . .is an elf. And her true home is not where she was raised. Her true home can only be reached by riding a beam of light. And that is where she soon finds herself.

This first book is all about Sophie learning of her powers (she is one of the most natural and powerful telepaths around), learning of the world of creatures thought to be myths or extinct (the people who house her [since she has no parents there] also take care of dinosaurs, because, you know, they’re not really gone), and trying to figure out who she is and where she came from. That is probably the most interesting part of all (and the part that I’m not going to say anything about because it would spoil it for you, but it’s cool!).

Everything Sophie discovers seems to also have a twinge of mystery attached to it, though. Why do so many of the adults around her seem to be holding information back? Is she dangerous? Why does she seem to know things that only a handful of people — and certainly nobody her age — have ever heard of? Is she on the good side or the bad side of some brewing tension? And what is the deal with the wildfires that are plaguing the humans? Is she somehow related to that?

There’s so much to talk about with this book, but I really should stop. It’s great, though. It took me about 100 pages to really buy into the world, but once I did, I was hooked. I can’t wait to find out what happens next!

I highly recommend this book to anyone who likes books like the Harry Potter series. It’s not as good if you compare them head-to-head, but it’s a wonderful read on its own merit. It’s good for probably 4th grade and up. Maybe 5th grade. I don’t know; I’m not too good with those elementary ages. The publisher says ages 8-12, so I guess you can let that be your guide. I read it when I was 27, though, and I really liked it.

Be sure to grab this one when it releases October 2nd!

My rating: 5 out of 5 fish! 

The Raven Boys by Maggie Stiefvater

 

Wow. This one. . .this one is quite good. I’ve only read one other Maggie Stiefvater book: The Scorpio Races. That one was a Printz Honor Book, but something just didn’t quite click for me. Well, whatever didn’t work for me was not Stiefvater herself, because The Raven Boys just about blew me away.

The story revolves around not quite the raven boys (we’ll get to them), but Blue. Blue is a teenage daughter (I think she’s 15? 16? I remember reading it in the book, but I didn’t write it down) of a local psychic. And not only is her mom psychic, but a lot of others with this second sight live in their house. So it’s something Blue’s had around her her entire life. And, before you ask: yes, they’re really psychic. But more on that in a bit.

The thing is, Blue doesn’t have this gift.

No, Blue’s gift is even more interesting: she makes their senses stronger. She’s like the windex on a foggy window, or a juiced-up battery in a dying flashlight. She’s like BASF: “we don’t make a lot of the products you buy. We make a lot of the products you buy better.” That’s Blue, but in the psychic realm.

Well, we’re thrown into the story because Blue is hanging out in what used to be a church on St. Mark’s Eve. With one of her psychic housemates. You see, on St. Mark’s Eve, those who are going to die in the next year are seen. Not a bad thing to know when your business is running a psychic house. The thing is, Blue — not psychic — sees someone that night. Gansey. But how could she see him? Well, there are only two reasons: either she’s his true love. . .or she killed him. And given a particular prediction about Blue, there’s a good chance it’s both.

Gansey is a raven boy, so called because of the logo on the sweaters of the preppy school they attend: Aglionby. He is quite interested in certain energies. Things psychics would know about. Can you see where this might be headed? Blue and Gansey (and his group of 4) are bound to cross paths. What happens once they do (it’s a touch slow until they do, but once they do, HOLD THE HECK ON)? You MUST read this and find out.

I loved this book. Absolutely loved it. Like The Unbecoming of Mara Dyer, though, I wasn’t sure how to categorize it by genre. Is it fantasy? Well, sort of. Is it realistic fiction? Again, sort of. So I think I’m going to go ahead and create a genre just for books like this: realistic fantasy. Books that could take place in the real world, if just one small thing were true. And that small thing makes the world a vastly different place. Is there a name for this already out there? Probably. Please let me know what it is. But anyway, this book is total amazeballs.

Buy this one when it comes out September 18th. And then read it by September 19th.

My rating: big ol’ 5 out of 5 fish.