Horrors await poor Sophie Foster in 'Keeper of the Lost Cities: Legacy'

The latest in Shannon Messenger's Keeper of the Lost Cities series, Legacy is now available.

No one hates her protagonist as much as Shannon Messenger. I have enjoyed every moment of this series, watching Messenger find new ways to make poor Sophie Foster's life an absolute living hell.

While ostensibly these novels are about a group of teenaged Elves learning their magical elf powers and saving the world for elves, humans, trolls, gnomes and munchkins alike, the underlying and distinct themes be all kinds of weird.

I know parents let their kids read these books, I think they are better read as an adult dark comedy.

Early books in this series focus on subjecting Sophie to all sorts of ridiculous torture. She is abducted from her human family by 'elves' and informed her entire life was a lie. Sophie learns she is an elf hidden amongst humans for unknown nefarious purposes, and her human family must be killed to prevent anyone from discovering this fact. Thrown into a very catty school for gifted and talented 'elves,' life only gets worse. Her foster family are an emotional wreck and worsen her situation. Sophie is drugged, tortured and abandoned mid-way thru her adoption process. Sophie is also subject to casual sexual advances and innuendo from nearly all of her male friends; all apparently trying to manipulate her into various forms of codependent romantic relationships.

As you progress through the series Messenger starts showing the fairly disturbing pasts and present of Sophie's contemporaries, also making their lives tortuous. A lot of child abuse, child endangerment, and child abandonment take place. It feels like these stories were written at a Dropkick Murphy's concert.

Don't worry! Elves have superpowers and an amazing ability to cope! However, most elves seem to want to take the damage out on their parents in moderately ugly ways for a book aimed at young teens. Really unhealthy.

Something that has set off red flags for me is where the author comes dangerously close to telling kids life starts at conception. I believe she is trying to hide this while maintaining some plausible deniability; ie GROSSNESS. Elves evidently have "inception dates" and measure age from "inception." This is not only used as a creepy thing to tell kids about when life begins but also used to gin up an extra 9 or 10 months on Sophie's age for no really good reason. I am not sure why she'd put it here, it is not a concept kids need to hear and adds nothing. The sudden realization Sophie is a bit older than she thought seems to supercharge the passive-aggressive elven courting shit, which is all pretty abusive.

Elves also practice eugenics and treat most of their population as equal-but-lesser. Ostensibly Sophie and pals are fighting this practice, but there is a lot of time spent exploring the elves State-run dating service and Sophie wanting to participate-but-not.

I do worry Messenger is gonna lose me over this stuff. Even if I am reading this as a dark comedy, I don't think kids need to learn these concepts as generally socially acceptable by a group of human-like super beings. It has been gentle thus far and I may be wrong, but not for kids imho.

Books 6 and 7 both swing between the gooiest PG-rated teenage romance novel stuff I've read, much skates close to stalker-y behavior, some seriously passive-aggressive, some very interesting world-building, and wildly torturing Sophie & pals.

I will likely get started on Legacy later today or this weekend. I suggest your kids read Harry Potter.

Legacy (8) (Keeper of the Lost Cities) via Amazon