Series: Keeper of the Lost Cities #6
Published: Nov. 2017
Sophie is looking for her parents–the human parents she’d forgotten she’d had, until it was too late. The Neverseen have taken them to Nightfall. But only one person knows how to get there. And Sophie isn’t sure she should trust one of the villains.
“Woo! Team Foster-Keefe is back!” –Keefe
I recognize that the Keeper of the Lost Cities series is not well written and that it often borders on farce, especially with its love square (pentagon? hexagon?) and the fact that the characters give themselves ship names. Still, I have loved every ridiculous minute of the series until now. In Nightfall, the series has finally lost its way. There is no clear point to the story or to any of the characters’ actions. Many of the characters we have come to know and love fall by the wayside, as Shannon Messenger struggles to handle her large cast. Altogether, this is a disappointing installment that feels very much like the stereotypical “middle book”: it is doing nothing but taking up space.
For a long time, I could not get my bearing in the story and I feared that it had been too long since I had read Book Five. However, I think the real reason I could not understand the plot is that it is not really understandable. Sophie and Co. are working with a previous villain because…why? Did she do anything to earn their trust? No. Is there any evidence that she is working against her former allies? No. Is there any particular reason that she needs to ally herself with Sophie and Co. Again, no. She keeps asking them to perform tasks for her, but it seems pretty evidence that she could perform the tasks herself, if she really wanted to. She just chooses not to…because she’s holding out an increasingly foolish hope that her son will join her in her quest.
Meanwhile, Sophie and her friends continue to be all but useless. They fail to do a single thing in this book without the aid of Lady Gisela. It makes the book read like a video game full of side quests. Instead of fighting the Neverseen or going after her human parents (which is the ostensible goal), the Black Swan keep running errands for their enemy, bringing her back items and information in exchange for very little. Lady Gisela is running the show with impunity because apparently everyone in the Black Swan is out of their depth here. This makes it difficult to root for them.
Also making it difficult to root for the Black Swan is the fact that there are just too many of them at this point and Messenger is not adept at handling them all. Dex has faded into the background for several books now, reappearing as necessary to bestow technology before disappearing again. Fitz has faded away, too. (In part, Fitz’s disappearance seems to be so we can play up the Keefe relationship for at least two books now, even though Sophie and Fitz are clearly going to get together in the next book–all the rules of YA say so. I can imagine readers being furious at this bait-and-switch.) Other characters like Tam, Linh, Grady, etc. seem to be playing bit parts, popping up when their powers are needed. Even Amy’s character receives less time than might be expected. Though we hear so much about how humans are not really useless and she can help, etc., she does not help the mission in any way. She’s really just there so Sophie can decide that she loves her after all (despite totally forgetting about her for months) even though “they’re not really sisters.” (I do think this is a slap in the face to adopted children everywhere.)
Messenger’s handling of Mr. Forkle, however, disappointed me most of all. Even though the books are supposedly all about pointing out how the Elves are prejudiced against multiple births, Mr. Forkle’s story does not help the case of twins. His story makes twins a real “Other.” It seems, you see, that he and his identical twin brother are basically the same person. (I’m sure no reader can imagine real twins getting upset when people treat them like freaks or act like they’re interchangeable, like they’re the same person.) So much so, that, even though he explains he wanted everyone to mourn the death of his brother, we don’t and neither do the characters. They show up to his funeral and plant his seed and then it’s back to normal, like he never existed. Because his brother is really him, after all. His life and loss don’t count. Ouch.
I have been an enthusiastic fan of the Keeper of the Lost Cities ever since I read the first book. I have recommended the series to just about every reader I know and gotten at least three peopled hooked on the books, too. So I do not criticize Nightfall lightly. I love this series. And that’s exactly why I’m so disappointed that this book does not hold up to the rest.