Keeper of the Lost Cities: Unlocked by Shannon Messenger



Goodreads: Unlocked
Series: Keeper of the Lost Cities 8.5
Source: Purchased
Published: 2020


The first 500 pages of the book contain encylopedic matter about the characters, lands, animals, and vegetation of the Lost Cities, as well as some other additional content. The novella at the end follows Keefe as he wakes up trying to determine his mother’s legacy for him, and serves as a bridge from book 8 to book 9.

Star Divider


I wanted to love this book because I have been an enthusiastic (if not obsessed) fan ever since I read the first Keeper of the Lost Cities books. I have introduced a number of my friends to my series, and I love being able to talk over the latest installments, to argue Keefe vs. Fitz, and to guess what the next book will bring. But even I have to recognize that the series has been getting ridiculously unwieldy, in a way that some more cynical readers might even view as a blatant cash grab. Readers didn’t need book 8.5. They needed book 9 so this bloated series can finally end. And then maybe we can get a spinoff series instead of the repetitive story that never ends.

Part of my dissatisfaction with book 8.5 is how the book was marketed as a sort of must-have special edition for fans, the vague wording implying that there would be new bonus materials included. If that was not enough to lure them in, however, the marketing team clearly explained that the book also contains a novella that links books 8 and 9, so readers of the series actually have to buy this book if they want to know what is happening. Messenger famously ends every book with a dramatic cliffhanger, so of course readers would want to grab this latest installment. Unfortunately, it turns out that the novella is the one part of this volume worth having, even for hardcore fans, so releasing a 700-page volume and asking fans to hand over twenty dollars seems a little rude.

The first 150 pages of this volume are allegedly “registry files” for each of the main characters. For those who do not know, elves in the Lost Cities wear trackers around their necks so the Council always knows where they are. A registry file implies a list of times and locations, but what Messenger writes is actually a recap of the entire series so far, along with completely inappropriate musings (from adult Council members!) on things like the love lives of tweens and teens. It’s highly unofficial and a little disturbing. Not to mention boring. No one wants to start off their new book in a series with 150 pages of recap!

The rest of the bonus material is not much better. A lot of it is encyclopedia-type entries on everything from plants and animal life in the Lost Cities to lists of locations and of faculty members at Foxfire. There are lots of charts explaining what color jewels and what animal pendants everyone wears. Unfortunately, none of this information is new. It is all available in the previous eight volumes.

New content mostly includes a few personality quizzes, an Iggy coloring pages, some recipes, and some full-color portraits. A section from Keefe’s memory book with his scribblings about his feelings for Sophie will delight fans of that particular ship. But was all this worth paying for the full cover price? I don’t think so.

The novella itself is fine. It’s basically a standard Messenger plot with Keefe and Sophie worrying about things they can’t really control, Sophie going on a mission, the characters facing a dramatic climax, and then the standard cliffhanger ending. Sadly, however, this is all getting redundant, especially the “twist” ending, which is more upsetting than shocking because it is such a spectacularly bad idea. Messenger claims she had to do it this way because she needed to write Keefe’s POV, but his POV does not sound much different than Sophie’s, and I think she could have easily integrated this little interlude into book nine.

So the final verdict? This book is basically an encyclopedia of the Lost Cities that someone had the brilliant idea to attach to part of the series in the middle, instead of publishing it separately after book nine, because now fans have to buy it if they want keep up with the story. If they had published the encyclopedia on its own…well, no one needs to pay twenty dollars for information that’s already available in the other books, do they?

I have loved the Keeper of the Lost Cities series for years. But even good things have to end–especially if they want to remain good things. Publishing a book 8.5 instead of just ending the series already doesn’t really respect the fans and the time and love they have invested in Sophie’s journey. I don’t understand why Messenger doesn’t just wrap up this series and start another one in the same world. That way the story could stay somewhat intact, fans are happy that new content is still coming, and no one feels like they’re being milked for cash for a book that isn’t worth it.

2 star review

11 thoughts on “Keeper of the Lost Cities: Unlocked by Shannon Messenger

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