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Flashback: Keeper of the Lost Cities, Book 7

Book review by
Mary Eisenhart, Common Sense Media
Flashback: Keeper of the Lost Cities, Book 7 Book Poster Image
Little is resolved in colossal teen-elf epic installment.

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Kids say

age 10+
Based on 1 review

A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this book.

Educational Value

In between the fantasy, magic, and elixirs, there's some real science. DNA plays an important role in numerous plot threads. So do the elves' efforts to save animal species from extinction.

Positive Messages

Difficult choices where all the options are bad come up often. Strong messages of friendship, family, loyalty, kindness, courage and self-sacrifice. Working together with people you don't especially like, and the importance of everyone's skills, talents, abilities, and differences in trying to do good things, and cooperating for good results.

Positive Role Models & Representations

Sophie and her friends show a lot of loyalty to one another in difficult situations, and are always ready to help make things better for each other -- all while simultaneously dealing with crushes, high school social issues, squabbling species, and saving the world. Some adults are kind and supportive, others are ineffectual or downright evil -- and some families are seriously dysfunctional as a result.

Violence

Much of the plot involves Sophie and her friends determining that they have to become skilled with weapons and be prepared to use them to kill enemies -- and characters meet violent death.  As in earlier books, the teens suffer life-threatening battle injuries that test the limits of elvin medicine. Often the danger and damage are physical, as scars accumulate, bodyguards perish, and innocents are in constant peril. Mental violence, from erasing people's memories to inflicting assorted terrors, also plays a crucial role.

Sex

That kiss you've been waiting for for about three volumes now? Doesn't happen here, either, nor does any real resolution of Sophie's conflicted crushes. Some definite odd couples, including the princess who's been forced to marry her dad's top warrior, while meanwhile her ex-boyfriend has joined the bad guys. Sophie takes a close interest in the pregnancy and birth experiences of her beloved alicorn, but the narrative glosses over the graphic details while alluding to the fact that they exist.

Language

Frequent references, often humorous, to poop, pee, farts, butts, etc.

Consumerism

References to events, characters, and crises of the previous volumes are frequent, but this is somewhat necessary as an aid to the reader in dealing with an increasingly complex roster and cosmology.

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

Potions and elixirs are just part of life. Teen characters ingest a stunning amount of (usually gross or foul-tasting) elvin medications. Sophie, who makes a point of avoiding sedatives, has to take them anyway as part of her recovery from near-fatal battle injuries.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Flashback is the hefty (800+ pages) seventh volume in Shannon Messenger's Keeper of the Lost Cities series -- and far, far from anything resembling a conclusion. It has another cliffhanger ending and several tapestries' worth of dangling plot threads. As in previous volumes, the entire world is in peril. Kids suffer physical and mental violence, magical and otherwise, and grapple with the moral dilemmas of responding in kind. There's a lot of romantic angst as protagonist Sophie likes two boys, but nothing more than hugs and snuggling results. Among the multi-species bodyguards is a princess whose father has forced her to marry one of his warriors, while her ex is one of the bad guys. There are some cruelly dysfunctional families along with the kind ones. Also gross-out and bathroom humor, as the teens are always taking elvin medicine made from things like yeti pee. A beloved animal gives birth.

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Teen, 13 years old Written byRae Bowman December 1, 2018

One of My Favorites

The books in this series are always checked out in all the Libraries I visit. There is a great message about fighting for what you think is right, and not let... Continue reading

What's the story?

Memories, edited and otherwise, play a starring role in FLASHBACK, as 15-year-old genetically engineered elf Sophie Foster struggles with mental images from her past that she's been unable to confront as the conflict with the Neverseen escalates. Meanwhile, friend and love interest Keefe is grappling with his own lost recollections from a childhood where his arch-villainess mom sent him on errands that may be all too relevant to the cosmic conflict at hand -- which, as the book opens, puts Sophie and other love interest Fitz in the infirmary with life-threatening injuries.

Is it any good?

Elf teens face hardship and moral dilemmas en route to another cliffhanger in this series installment that's exciting but a bit frustrating. Hoping for a satisfying wrap-up of Shannon Messenger's elvin epic? You won't get it this time. But if you love the series for the sparkly world-building, the costume changes, the inner turmoil over romance and world-saving, and the likelihood that some previously unmentioned event or magical capability will emerge at just the right moment, you'll be happy with Flashback. If you love the interplay of dozens of intriguing but still largely undeveloped characters as they find themselves in challenging situations and squabble among themselves -- or work together to achieve some heroic, impossible goal -- ditto.

But if you're waiting for author Messenger to reveal, say, Sophie's biological parents (after a multi-volume tease), you'll be none the wiser after 848 pages. And that pesky love triangle? Still triangulating. If you're in this for something other than the immersion, you may be feeling a bit strung along and losing patience about now.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about stories like Flashback, where there aren't any really good choices, and the protagonist has to make difficult decisions anyway. Do you find this a relatable situation? What other stories do you know that explore this theme?

  • The issue of whether to use violence in response to your enemy's violence is a big part of the story in Flashback. Do you think it's OK to use violence in defense of yourself and your loved ones? What price do you think you might have to pay if you did?

  • How would you like to live in a society where some higher authority picked out your possible life partners for you, as happens among the elves? Would it make life simpler or be really creepy?

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