Keeper of the Lost Cities: Nightfall by Shannon Messenger

Nightfall is the sixth book in the Keeper of the Lost Cites series (which is currently 8.5 books long), and the events come as a definite surprise to anyone who has read the other five books before it.

In this book, the main character of the series, a powerful young elf named Sophie Foster, has to rescue her human parents from a Neverseen hideout called Nightfall. (The Neverseen are a deadly rebel group that formed in the Lost Cities, and they always seem to be out to get Sophie and her friends.) But Sophie knows that the Neverseen might be using her parents as a diversion to distract her from the larger issues at hand, so, no matter how painful it is, Sophie is forced to look at the bigger picture and accept that the threat looming over her human parents might not be the problem she needs to focus on. She helps her friend, Keefe Sencen, with the issues he has with his mother, Lady Gisela, (who also happens to be a leader of the Neverseen) and attempts to figure out the identity of the prisoner who escaped from the Lumenaria dungeon in the previous installment of the series. But all of these issues seem to come together in the end of the book, when Sophie and her friends (Tam and Linh Song, Biana and Fitz Vacker, Keefe Sencen, and Dex Dizznee) and her foster father, Grady Ruewen, enter Nightfall. There, they encounter some members of the Neverseen and discover who their new ally is–the former prisoner of Lumenaria.

While all of this was going on, they also had to deal with another enemy, one whose alliance with the Neverseen hit extremely close to home. Alvar Vacker, the older brother of Fitz and Biana, was found abandoned by the Neverseen in one of their old hideouts, bleeding to death. They had discovered that Alvar was a member of the Neverseen in the earlier books, but they’d never have guessed that the group would leave him for dead. He doesn’t give any information in his interrogations except for one, crucial detail, which readers will find out in the beginning of Flashback.

The reason why I love this novel is because of all the plot twists and the fact that the characters have realistic personalities. Their problems kept me rooting for them the whole time the book was in my hands, and the storyline stuck with me for a long while after I’d finished. This book (and the series it belongs to) is a magical read, and I would highly recommend it to anyone who loves the fantasy genre.

Nighfall by Shannon Messenger is available to checkout from the Mission Viejo Library. It is also available to download for free from Libby.

Neverseen – Keeper of the Lost Cities by Shannon Messenger

In the fourth book of this series, our main character Sophie and her friends escape to the Black Swan, having just figured out that there is a second rebel group (aka the Neverseen). To keep their families safe and avoid the Council’s punishment, they leave. Upon getting to the Black Swan’s hideout, they meet an old gnome named Calla. She tells Sophie that she helped make her during the experimental stage of her creation. She also talks about a plague that has been killing gnomes. Sophie, (being the curious girl she is), decided to do some research. Mr. Forkle has other plans. He wants to only use this time to read and research. Nobody liked that idea (especially Dex and Keefe)!

This is one of my favorites in the series. It has the best ending so far, and it is tense (but still exciting). I can see major character development within all of the characters, and it is when many memorable actions happen. Some of which are Fitzphie jokes, meeting the twins Tam and Linh, plus some miniature showdowns with various different people. I very highly recommend reading this series, you can get very invested in the series quite quickly.

-Izzy W.

Neverseen by Shannon Messenger is available for checkout from the Mission Viejo Library. It can also be downloaded for free from Libby.

Event Recap: Teen Writing Workshop with Shannon Messenger

shannon_messengerMany of you heard Shannon Messenger speak at the Mission Viejo Summer Lovin’ event last summer.  On Thursday, September 14, 2014, there was another event at the Rancho Santa Margarita Library.  Her teen writing workshop drew over 60 middle schoolers.  Messenger taught us some of the fundamental steps for beginning writers.  She explained characterization and world building as well as plot methods.  Within an hour, I began to feel like a better writer and reader.

One of the first things she recommended was to know your characters and to treat them like real people.  From her personal experience, she advised that you shouldn’t care what people think of you for saying in a conversation, “I want my character to do this, but she won’t let me!”  This cracked everyone up.  As Messenger continued, with a smile, she said we need to know our characters like we know ourselves by asking our character five questions:

  • What does your character want?
  • What does your character need?
  • What is your character afraid of?
  • How does your character feel about himself/herself?
  • What is your character hiding?

The next topic she addressed was building your story’s “world”–big or small, rich or poor, or even fantastic or realistic.  You also need to add in the history, culture, technology, transportation, and government.  The history can be pretty easy.  If it is a fantasy story, you can just make it up, but in a realistic fiction or historical fiction, you may need to research the location.  Culture consists of art, music, fashion, and sports.  The technology means acknowledging the inventions appropriate for your time period.  She advised that transportation can be tricky.  Is your character old enough to drive?  Or do you need to come up with some other means of moving from place to place? Finally, you need to define the type of government, laws, currency, language, and social structure.

The last big topic was “how to.”  Shannon Messenger said that adjectives are one contributing factor to a best-selling author’s success. Use your sensory words to describe different aspects of your town.  Such as, “She saw the blue sky and smelled the fresh scent of pine and evergreen.  As the aroma wafted to her nose, a memory flooded into her mind, and she heard her dad cutting down a Christmas tree for their house before he left for the army.  The scene brought tears to her eyes, and she felt one stray salty tear find its way into her mouth.  She tasted its bitter remembrance.” Using sensory language envelopes the reader in the scene.  In addition, Messenger recommended keeping an “idea journal” to keep track of your great ideas.  Messenger concluded by wishing us good luck and advising us to listen to the stories within us.

This was one of the most helpful writing workshops I have attended.  Shannon Messenger is one of my all-time favorite authors, and you can read my review of her Keeper of the Lost Cities series here.

-Maya S., 7th grade

Book Review and Music Pairing: Keeper of the Lost Cities, by Shannon Messenger

keeper_lost_citiesKeeper of the Lost Cities is about a girl named Sophie Foster who learns that she is not human. Shocker! She is a 12-year-old senior in high school and has been admitted to the most prestigious Ivy League schools. It all begins when she is sitting in science class one day, with ear-buds in, listening to music. The teacher asks her a question that she is not expected to know the answer, but her very rare ability, her photographic memory, helps her. Later, on a fieldtrip to a museum, an odd-looking boy tells her the words of her fate, “It’s okay, Sophie. I’m here to help you. We have been looking for you for 12 years.”

She has no choice but to go with him. She learns that his name is Fitz, and she is amazed at the lost world of the elves they have entered. Messenger provides some history and explains that the Ancients, the governing body for the elves, had a fight with the Humans a long time ago. When I read this, I thought of the song “Revolution” by the Beatles. After reading further, I realized not only is this not a revolution, but also it is the start of a broken bond. If the two groups had actually agreed, perhaps the world would be much happier. But, they didn’t. The Ancients wanted peace; however, humans wanted to go to war. So the two were separated, and the elves became forgotten to the humans except for the ones believed to reside in the North Pole. The forgotten elves actually live in areas called the Lost Cities. The human cities are known as Forbidden Cities to the elves, because nobody except for the Ancients and the Council members are allowed to enter them.

Sophie Foster starts school at the most prestigious school for prodigy elves. She learns that she is a Telepath with impenetrable brainpower, an elf who is able to read minds and transmit thoughts without anybody reading hers. She has always been able to read human minds. However, elf minds proved more difficult. And, another thing, it turns out a group of elves are out to get her. If this book was turned into a film, the song “When you wish upon a star” from Walt Disney’s Pinocchio is a symbolic song for the credits. Sophie wished that she could belong and not stand out as the only prodigy. I give this first book in the trilogy 11 stars out of 10! I loved it and the series so much that it is now my second favorite book series next to Harry Potter! Kudos, Shannon Messenger.

-Maya Salem, 6th grade