Thursday, December 17, 2020

Unlocked (Keeper of the Lost Cities Book 8.5) by Shannon Messenger

Unlocked is book 8.5 in my favorite middle grade fantasy series, Keeper of the Lost Cities. After the 500 pages of bonus material, readers will see a shorter story picking up after Keefe's mom's actions in Legacy. Narrated by both Sophie and Keefe, Unlocked discovers Keefe's new identity and Sophie's escalating decision to take solo action against the Neverseen.

Oh. My. GOSH. If you think you can skip 8.5 and go straight to book 9, you are dead wrong. The (literally) explosive revelations and major character and plot development is shocking, and I am glad I read it! Having Keefe and Sophie alternate perspectives was a smart idea, and I love Keefe's HUGE internal conflict over the changes and new powers that his mom forced in him. Unlocked is one of the most intense moments in the series so far and is packed with a heavy load of emotion. I have never seen Keefe so vulnerable and defeated. Keefe is by-far the best written and developed character in the series; Sophie and the others feel a bit static. 

BUT, I have some major concerns and issues with what Messenger and her editors decided. It feels like Shannon Messenger is drawing out the series. There did not need to be a book 8.5. Yes, there is a major cliffhanger and there are new developments, but Messenger could have easily put the whole thing in book 9. The first 500 pages contains mostly summary information from the previous books. The majority of those pages are the Registry Files, which contain extremely detailed information about each character that is not only irrelevant and repetitive, but unrealistic. And why include it- does Messenger think her readers are suddenly going to forget? I did learn some interesting tidbits and enjoyed Keefe's detention record and the quizzes, but it easily could have been 150 pages instead of 500. 

I wish I waited for the book to be in libraries instead of buying the giant physical copy, and I would have if I knew what I was buying. Amazon claims it's the #1 New Release in Children's Friendship Books, but if we all knew that nearly 70% of the book is not the book, then I know it would be rated much less. The description is completely misleading, claiming to "delive[r] what fans of the series have been begging for! Told in an exciting new way, the saga continues with plenty of huge reveals and shocking new twists—plus a complete series guide with beautiful color and black-and-white illustrations and other awesome bonuses!". Uh, nope, a 500 page encyclopedia is not what fans have been begging for, and the order is inaccurate- this makes it sound like the the "complete series guide" is at the end with other bonuses. Heck, why didn't they flip it and put the story first? 

Barnes and Noble put at the very end "Unlocked also includes a comprehensive guide to the world of the Lost Cities"- no, Unlocked also includes the actual story! Also, if anyone got the special edition and can't find the pull-out-poster or Messenger's special artwork, take off the jacket of the book! It is beautiful. However, I am disappointed that the beautiful artworks were scenes of previous books and not particular to Unlocked. 

I have to say this is my least favorite book in the series. I highly recommend the actual story, but feel free to skip everything else along the way- or at least put it off for another time.

You can read my reviews of all the books in this series here.

Title: Unlocked 
Author: Shannon Messenger
Publisher: Aladdin
Pages: 746
Series: Yes, Book 8.5
Rating: 3 Stars

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