When You’re Pressured to Read a Book

18 Nov

I am generally happy when I see my kids reading; they are very picky about what books they’re willing to tear into. However, my son feels the need to share what he feels passionate about. So after many prompting, he really wanted me to read Keeper of the Lost Cities by Shannon Messenger. Quick review: this book was really not meant for me.

I really, REALLY want to be positive about other authors’ work; writing a novel is not easy. It’s especially difficult because my kids are dyslexic, so getting over the hump to actually read text is a lot harder for them than it is for me. However, I’m flipping through this big text, wide margin book and I’m immediately realizing that this is written for a pre-teen audience. Fair enough–my kids are 13 and 10, so check that box.

Let’s start with Sophie, our main character, a young pre-teen girl who finds the world too loud… because she can read minds. Okay, promising start. Then there’s mysterious people following her. Better. Then we reveal her true heritage and fast track to the alternate world. Gee, this sounds familiar, I tell myself. In this case, the elf world is in a different dimension, not in the same world as us, but elves can and do jump between Earth and Elfland… but they’re not supposed to.

There are folks that think that Sophie shouldn’t be in Elfland because… reasons. She can do things that elves aren’t supposed to do. There are those mysterious people trying to capture her because of what elves aren’t supposed to do. There’s political fights and mysteries, all of which could be really interesting, but our POV character doesn’t have a lot of time to figure those out, since she has to go school.

What? Sophie is immediately shoved into Firefox Academy, tells her its the best school for elves, and if she doesn’t pass her midterms, she’s going to get kicked out. My first thought is Why would Sophie care if she flunks? She’s not going to get kicked out of Elfland. She knows nothing about the world… and neither do we!

I guess if we’re going to match the appeal of Harry Potter, she has to go to a school. However, schools are a rather new invention in the modern world–only three hundred years old, and that’s stretching it. Rich brats used to be tutored at home, they only went to university at… well, roughly this age. Poor brats were also tutored at home, but boys usually apprenticed with an older man to learn a career. Women had to work around the home or the father’s business and eventually get married off.

Mercedes Lackey did this in her Collegium series; she even has to lampshade this by saying, “Well, we used to just have the herald-mages apprentice with a master, but the demand is too great, and there’s not enough masters around.” I enjoyed that series, but in that case, I thought the world-building was done better. In Elfland… eh, you’ve got this weird insta-wealth system, and you get very little sense of how the elf world works.

The plot was… okay. The story got about three stars–wasn’t amazing, wasn’t bad–and I even was forced to read the next in the series. Exile–which was better, but not much. Like I said, this book wasn’t for me. If you have a pre-teen, they’ll love it, because frankly… they won’t have read these tropes so many times before.

Did you find these books interesting? Do you find the kid in mystical college idea done to death? Let me know in the comments below!

2 Responses to “When You’re Pressured to Read a Book”

  1. spwilcen November 18, 2020 at 9:35 am #

    Good read. I’ll beg-off reading because I’m not keen on the supernatural, sci-fi, werewolf genera as a rule. As a rule. Would remind if you’ve challenged youngsters who read, and they want to discuss with you, you certainly need to give them time and serious attention. Soon, they’ll be after Rostand and Dostoevsky and you’ll really have to hustle to keep up with what you’ve encouraged them to do. Good read? Yup, becasue it’s a good write. Thanks.


  1. Maybe you’re just trying too hard. | Albigensia Press - January 21, 2021

    […] bought any of their books. My kids bought her books and they demanded I read the first two. Still don’t like them, although they do get better, her young adult series simply isn’t for me. Duh. The ones who […]

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