Flashback by Shannon Messenger

Rating: 4.5/5 stars Flashback.jpg

Pages: 848

Series: Keeper of the Lost Cities, Book 7

Genres: Fantasy, Middle Grade, Young Adult

Publication date: November 6, 2018


Councillor Emery sighed. “You’re not going to make this easy, are you?”

“I’m pretty sure that’s my job,” Sophie countered.

“As the moonlark?” Councillor Alina asked with a notable scoff in her voice.

Sophie smiled sweetly at her. “As a teenager.” (Ch. 44)

While this book felt slow at times, which I’ve found is usual for a book as long as this one, I loved almost every second of it. Of course I scoffed at some of the things Sophie and her friends did – they’re teenagers, after all – but I hung off of every word like they were my lifeline. Messenger has a way with words, of getting me invested in these characters before I even know it.

Of course, this being the seventh book in the series, I know I’m invested. In Sophie, her friends, and everything that’s going on in this world. Instead, Messenger has found a way to tug on my heart strings and to hope for different things for the different characters. Who would have guessed that my shipping would change so drastically through this series? (A lot of people, apparently…) Who would have guessed that my favourite character would change so many times? Who would have guessed that my heart would be broken so many times?

Of course, the world itself it beautifully put together. Messenger’s descriptions of the world and events going on in it make it extremely easy for me to picture it in my mind’s eye. It might not always be a pretty picture, but it’s certainly always a vivid one.

If you’re looking for an amazing fantastical read, I highly recommend picking this one up. It quickly became one of my favourite series of all time, and is even attempting to become my favourite middle grade series of all time. I truly believe that everyone can get something from this story, even if it’s just a hint of entertainment. Of course, there are deeper morals in the story if you’re looking for more than just an entertaining read.


*Spoilers ahead*

Elwin snorted. “You make it sound like it’s alive.”

“In a way, it is. Just as fire hungers and wind breathes and water roars and earth waits. I’ve never been near quintessence, but I hear it pulses. And shadowflux dreams – hovering high above, waiting for something to capture its interest.”

Tam glanced at Sophie. “Like I said. She’s intense.” (Ch. 11)

One of the things that I love about this series is the way that Messenger makes time move forward without making it feel like time is dragging or going by too quickly. While Sophie is stuck in the hospital wing of Foxfire, she still manages to do a lot from her bed. Sure it takes her weeks to get that stuff accomplished, but she’s still able to make plans – and convince the bodyguards that her friends should be allowed to train in physical combat. Then, when she gets home we get a quick countdown through the ten days that Fitz has to play nice with Alvar. But it doesn’t feel  rushed. They’re preparing for a war of epic proportions, it’s bound to take a lot of time. Yet instead of repeating the day to day happenings of the Black Swan, Messenger chooses to quickly mention the passing of time and to skip ahead to when things are actually happening with the squad.

The same is done later on when the main authorities of the elven world are working to prepare for the Celestial Festival. Instead of dragging out the proceedings and detailing every action that they plan to take – though a brief description is given to the reader – Messenger uses a simple countdown to show the progression of time. I truly believe that this is a useful tool when done right, and Messenger did it right.

Now that that ramble is out of the way, I want to quickly point out that there is way too much that goes on in this novel to cover everything that I’d like to. I don’t know about you, but I’d rather not be sitting here forever when you could instead be reading this fantastic book if you haven’t already. Or even the next one in the series…


While not the biggest plot point (by far), I’d still like to start with the relationships between Sophie, Fitz, and Keefe. Oh, and the whole matchmaking thing that the elves do.

While I understand why they use the matchmakers in order to try and give the most variety to the species, I agree with Sophie that someone shouldn’t be labeled a bad match if they decide to marry someone else. Not everything should be about elven talents. Marriage should be more about love than anything else, so if you’ve got a talent and are in love with someone who doesn’t, I truly don’t think that you should be looked down on for it. (Same with the elven stigma against multiple births, but that’s a conversation for another time.) Looking at the matchmaking system itself, I can see how it would be useful to get people to mingle in order to try and find the person they’d like to spend the rest of their infinitive lifespan with. I don’t think it should be the be all, end all that the elves treat it to be, but it’s certainly more useful than trying to flounder through dating by yourself.

I also think that it’s sweet that Sophie was willing to give the matchmaking system a try, and that her motivation to do so was because Fitz wanted her name to be on his list. Truly, that was an adorable confession by the Fitzster. Even if he wasn’t sure if Sophie liked him back (which she so obviously did – but love can be blind). It certainly sucks that Sophie is unmatchable, what with her unknown history, but I can’t say that I’m surprised. I’d probably be more surprised if Sophie managed to get through the matchmaking process – or anything, for that matter – without something like this throwing a wrench in her plans.

Though it’s certainly going to complicate things between her and Fitz. She was worried about actually dating him because if she wasn’t on his registry list then there was no future between them. And now she knows that there’s no chance to be on his list. At least, not until she knows everything about her genetic history. While it would be sweet if Fitz and Sophie were able to get over all of that and actually be together, I can understand why both of them would be hesitant. There’d been enough rumors circulating about them that I wouldn’t fault them for trying to limit them as much as possible.

Then again, Keefe would never let something like that stand in his way. Which is convenient, since I fully find myself in Team Foster-Keefe’s camp. (Though I must admit, I’m still a little sad that I no longer want Fitz and Sophie to get together forever. Keefe is just so much better for her – and she makes him better in return.) It’s heartbreaking to see Keefe trying to keep himself from telling Sophie how he feels about, to try not to act out knowing that his crush is with his best friend… even though he knows that her heart wants him. (I can’t wait for Sophie to figure that out for herself!)

Fitz also isn’t as oblivious about Keefe’s feelings for Sophie as I’d thought he would be. It’s obvious that he was jealous about the time and attention Keefe and Sophie give each other. Also the fact that Sophie has historically trusted Keefe with information that she hasn’t shared with Fitz. But still! As much as I like Fitz, I adore Keefe. Maybe not as much as Silveny, but probably pretty darn close.

Oooookay, I think I’ve finally gotten that out of my system. Now to talk about more crucial plot points in the story. Like the Vacker legacy. Oh boy that wasn’t what I was expecting it to be. Sure I didn’t have any concrete plans, and sure Messenger gave a couple of clues about it being tied to Luzia and her distaste for her alliance with the trolls. But I didn’t expect genetic experimentation. As dark as this series has been up to this point, and it’s not even the first genetic experimentation that’s gone on (hi, Sophie!), I wasn’t expecting an elven-troll alliance to lead to that. I’m glad that they managed to destroy the babies that were hatched/released, but the tragedies surrounding it was still a tragedy.

I certainly hope that Tam doesn’t go to the dark side for real. Of course he had to go with Keefe’s mom when she threatened the alicorns and Linh. I just hope that the brainwashing that Lady Gisela is about to subject him to isn’t going to actually work. That would be heartbreaking for Linh and a blow to the crew as a whole. Keefe might not love “Bangs Boy”, but even he wouldn’t wish the Neverseen on him.

Okay, very quick side note: I absolutely adore the fact that Linh actually made Sophie a shirt that said “Happy Shadow Thoughts” on one side, and “Angry echoes – beware!” on the other side.

While it sucks that Umber was killed and Lady Gisela was forcing Tam to the cause as a way to replace her missing Shade, I wish that it wasn’t Tam. I like him, and he deserves better than being the Neverseen’s prisoner. I hope that he learns to master the Shadowflux, but also that he doesn’t use it against his friends. No matter what the Neverseen force him to go through.

Speaking of how evil the Neverseen are: Alvar. Vespera was brilliant by making the trigger on his memories her voice. If only Sophie had actually been able to talk Alvar down from opening the gate. She probably should have realized that playing the family card was the wrong move for any Vacker at that point, but Sophie doesn’t always thing the clearest in the middle of a crisis. No, she certainly relies on her friends for that more than anything else.

Though I was also shocked by how bloodthirsty Fitz is becoming. He tackled his brother and tried to beat him up. And then he considered using his knife to end Alvar for good. Fitz certainly has anger management issues and they certainly need to be resolved. Of course, there’s also the little issue of Fitz leaving Alvar to die in the hidden troll hive. He could have tried to find the button to let Alvar out, to try and help Alvar survive, but instead he chose to stand back and watch his brother’s death. Sure Alvar managed to survive it all, but that doesn’t mean that what Fitz did wasn’t dark. He even admitted to Sophie that he wasn’t sorry about it. I’m glad that he whispered that to her mind, because there’s no way that Biana would’ve forgiven him for that.

On a happier note, I’m glad that Marella is finally going to get some proper training with her talent. I’d hate to see the fire take her over the way it seems to for any Pyrokinetic that tried to deny their ability. Sure the training might be with Fintan, but that doesn’t stop it from being a valuable thing for her life. I also hope that it makes her feel more comfortable officially joining Sophie and the squad on their dangerous missions.

And there is so much more that I could talk about. The alicorn babies, Luna and Wynn. Bo and Ro being married (which I only half saw coming – I thought they were just engaged). Grady and Edaline’s reaction to Sophie not (yet) dating Fitz and going to get the matchmaking packet. Keefe training Sophie in the Neverseen’s (Alvar’s) secret training techniques. Dex working with Tinker. Sophie’s forgotten memory that is somehow tied to the monster and Amy’s eyes.

Yet I know I’ve rambled on pretty long already so I’ll limit myself to only touching on a couple more things. Such as Sophie’s alliance with Empress Pernille and the trolls. Like Luzia said, hindsight is 20/20. Getting to see what Luzia was forced to do with the genetically modified troll babies, I shiver at the thought of how far Sophie is going to need to go in order to uphold her alliance with the trolls. Thankfully, Sophie doesn’t work alone and her friends (plus the Black Swan) will be there for her when she needs them. And that she won’t be forced to go against her moral code the way it seems Luzia was forced to do.

Of course I couldn’t leave without mentioning the fact that Sophie now has five bodyguards – and yet she still manages to leave Sandor behind when she races off on her quests. I do think it’s interesting that all of the major races decided to work together in order to protect Sophie from the Neverseen. Tarina wasn’t lying when she told Sophie that there was something special about her and that’s why the trolls agreed to send a guard for her. The gnomes, dwarves, ogres, and goblins have to agree, otherwise she wouldn’t have so many bodyguards. While Sandor will always be my favourite, I’ll have to admit I like the roughness that Bo brings to the team. And his bluntness, even when it’s not what Sophie wants to hear.

I also like the fact that all of her bodyguards (with the exception of Nubiti since she doesn’t really appear above ground much) manage to poke fun at the elves. Especially when it’s Bo and Ro pointing out how sparkly the elves seem to be.

Finally, I just want to touch briefly on the six elements of this world.

“You’re saying this is a sixth element?” Magnate Leto clarified. “Earth, wind, water, fire, quintessence, and… shadowflux?” (Ch. 11)

While I obviously know the basic four – earth, wind, water, and fire – I’d honestly forgotten about quintessence. It makes sense that the opposite of the element obtained from the light of secrets stars is going to originate from darkness itself. While shadowflux seems terrifying, I look forward to seeing how else it’ll impact the story going forward. I just really hope that Tam doesn’t use it against his friends…



Other reviews for the series:

  1. Keeper of the Lost Cities (Book 1)
  2. Exile (Book 2)
  3. Everblaze (Book 3)
  4. Neverseen (Book 4)
  5. Lodestar (Book 5)
  6. Nightfall (Book 6)

5 thoughts on “Flashback by Shannon Messenger

  1. I’m happu you enjoyed it! I had similar vieew on this story as you and the ending had me sooo anxious but excited at the same time! However, I found Legacy much better and A LOT happened and I think you’e gonna love it! I hope you get to ead it soon!


  2. I just finished Legacy and it put my mind at ease with a lot of the issues regarding Fitz and Sophie. Honestly, I always end up finishing these books with more questions than when I started.


    1. I completely agree with finishing these books with more questions than you start out with. That’s certainly one of the reasons I feel the need to jump straight into the next one, even if I don’t because that’s a big time and emotional commitment I’m not always prepared for.
      I look forward to seeing how things between Sophie and Fitz get cleared up. I wonder if it’ll change the Fitz vs Keefe debate going on in my mind. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

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