Keeper of the Lost Cities, Book 1

Book review by
Mary Eisenhart, Common Sense Media
Keeper of the Lost Cities, Book 1 Book Poster Image
Popular with kids
Super-imaginative adventures of girl whisked to elf world.

Parents say

age 9+
Based on 4 reviews

Kids say

age 9+
Based on 117 reviews

Did this review miss something on diversity?

Research shows a connection between kids' healthy self-esteem and positive, diverse representations in books, TV shows, and movies. Want to help us help them? Suggest a diversity update

A lot or a little?

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

Educational Value

Set in an alternate, magical world, Keeper of the Lost Cities the story is more imaginative than educational, but school is a big part of Sophie's experience in the human and elf worlds, and her new life brings new anxiety over classes and exams that will determine her future.

Positive Messages

Loving, complex family relationships, loyalty among friends, and courage in the face of danger are all core values here. Another important point is kindness to animals, as Sophie's elf foster parents care for the inhabitants of a wildlife preserve, and Sophie develops a telepathic connection with them.

Positive Role Models & Representations

Sophie is an appealing heroine who's often unsure of the right thing to do and who doesn't always reach the right decision, but she has a strong conscience and a strong love for the important people in her life. Her friends, including three very different boys, all have believable strengths and moments of falling short, and they all stand by her in challenging situations. Adult characters are often conflicted; some seem villainous, while others struggle to protect Sophie and do the right thing for her.


Sinister forces are out to get Sophie, and there are a number of scary attacks and kidnap attempts, in which some characters are badly hurt.


In order to save her from forces trying to kill her, an embryonic elf child is implanted in a human woman, who eventually gives birth to her.


Sophie has a dream involving the Keebler Elves; her iPod is one of the few possessions she takes into the elf world, where her friend figures out a way to keep it charged on solar power.

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Shannon Messenger's debut novel, Keeper of the Lost Cities, is imaginative, well-crafted, and engaging, with a strong girl protagonist and plenty of interesting supporting characters. From the beginning, 12-year-old Sophie is in danger from forces threatened by her existence, and only gradually becomes aware of them in scary incidents, including multiple kidnapping attempts. In addition, she's traumatized by being torn from the human family that raised her and transported to the elf world to start a completely different life, and this is portrayed so effectively that it may be too emotionally intense for some young readers. With those caveats, the book has much to offer in the way of imaginative issues and plot twists, not to mention credible, appealing role models showing loyalty, friendship, and courage.

User Reviews

  • Parents say
  • Kids say
Adult Written byChristianmom116 May 22, 2020

great book

I think it's a little violent other than that I think the plot is great and the story has a little kick too it. I hope future readers enjoy it.
Written byAnonymous August 6, 2017

I loved this book!

I really liked this book it was full of action and suspension!
It does have some sad moments and a couple scary moments,but
all of that is what gives the book i... Continue reading
Teen, 14 years old Written byKayaLPSK2005 January 22, 2020

Such an AMAZING book!!

I loved this book, it is such a great page-turner and is full of action and adrenaline pumping scenes. I do think that some of it is a bit scary, such as when S... Continue reading
Teen, 13 years old Written bylife1010 July 5, 2017

What's the story?

Twelve-year-old Sophie has been telepathic since she was 5, and it's brought her nothing but trouble, from perennial migraines to the social difficulties of being a prodigy in school. She's kept her talent to herself, as her lovably ordinary family would not understand it. Then one day on a field trip to the museum, she meets a strikingly good-looking boy who's also a telepath -- and informs her that she's actually not human, she's an elf who's been hidden in the human world. Soon she's whisked away forever from her family and transported to the elf world, where she must cope with hazards from would-be abductors to the pitfalls of middle school, all while trying to fit in and understand who she is.

Is it any good?

The first in a new series by Shannon Messenger, this book is imaginative, well-conceived and well-written, with believable, complex characters and a fully realized fantasy world parallel to our own. Friendship, family bonds, and trying to do the right thing in difficult circumstances all come to the fore as Sophie and her friends try to figure out the mystery of her origin and face unexpected dangers. 

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about Sophie being forced to leave her family forever without saying good-bye. If you were in her situation, would you do the same thing?

  • What other books have you read or movies you've seen feature elves?  Why do you think elf stories are popular?

  • If it turned out that you weren't human and actually belonged in another world entirely, what would that world be like?

Book details

Our editors recommend

For kids who love fantasy

Themes & Topics

Browse titles with similar subject matter.

Top advice and articles

Common Sense Media's unbiased ratings are created by expert reviewers and aren't influenced by the product's creators or by any of our funders, affiliates, or partners.

See how we rate

About these links

Common Sense Media, a nonprofit organization, earns a small affiliate fee from Amazon or iTunes when you use our links to make a purchase. Thank you for your support.

Read more

Our ratings are based on child development best practices. We display the minimum age for which content is developmentally appropriate. The star rating reflects overall quality.

Learn how we rate