Monday, June 19, 2023

My Thoughts on Simon & Schuster's Children's Book Offerings

Back in March, I browsed the specific category on Simon & Schuster's site that contains the Nancy Drew Diaries books.  On March 13, I wrote:

I am perusing Simon & Schuster's website, with my results limited to children's books aimed at the same age as the Nancy Drew series.  What is this stuff?  Why would I want to read these books?  I am so out of touch.

I do judge books by their covers and by their titles.  I won't try the Dork Diaries series.  I do tend to gravitate towards books with titles not completely dissimilar to classic series books.  I also gravitate towards the more nicely painted covers.

The Keeper of the Lost Cities series looks like it could be a possibility.  I am about to check out the sample on Amazon.

That, of course, led me into what has now been a Keeper of the Lost Cities three-month-long obsession.  Since my last Keeper post was published yesterday, it's time to move on.  Back to S&S's website I go!

My problem is that I can't find the page that I used back in March.  That page had a nice assortment of S&S's children's books aimed at the 8-12 age group.  I'm now using Google to try to find some usable sections of S&S's site.  The purpose of this post is store the links I have found so that I can return to them in the future.

Mystery Books for Kids Ages 8-12

The above page has a Nancy Drew Diaries book listed along with other mysteries for children.  I am struck by how the books listed on this page are described as middle-grade books.  I suppose that is where the Nancy Drew Mysteries Stories have always fit, but in my opinion, the original set, #1-175, was written for a slightly older target audience.  That is the problem with the current Nancy Drew Diaries series.  They are ostensibly the modern continuation of classic Nancy Drew, yet they are something else entirely.  Something is off about the Nancy Drew Diaries series.

Must Read Books for Kids Ages 8-12

No Nancy Drew Diaries books are listed on this page.  Even the folks at S&S realize that the Nancy Drew Diaries books are not "must read" books.  That says a lot.

Fantasy Novels for Kids Ages 8-12

This category excludes Nancy Drew, but it is a category in which I do greatly enjoy the content when it is of a specific type.  I can only enjoy fantasy books when they are set in a world very similar to ours (like Harry Potter, Keeper of the Lost Cities, etc.) where I don't have to struggle to visualize a distinctly different world.  For modern children's books, I enjoy this type of book much more than I do the modern books that feature mysteries.  That might surprise you, but there's a distinct difference between modern mysteries and vintage mysteries, like the inclusion of cell phones and technology.  Fantasy books usually dispense with the technology, which solves that problem.

Books about Spies for Kids Ages 8-12

I'm not into spy books, but I'm willing to take a look.

Adventure Stories for Kids Ages 8-12

Some of these could be worthwhile, if they meet the conditions of the kind of book I enjoy.

Books with Magic for Kids Ages 8-12

Magic overlaps with fantasy, so some of these books could be of interest.

Girl Power Books with Strong Heroines for Kids Ages 8-12

It is truly sad that Nancy Drew isn't included on this page.  Truthfully, Nancy Drew has been written too weak for much of the Diaries series, so she shouldn't be included in a list of books with strong heroines (see Heliotrope Lane review).

I also found S&S's entire 2023 digital catalog of children's books in my Google search.

Spring 2023 Simon & Schuster Children's Publishing Catalog

I believe that this catalog is of new releases only.  Still, it's another way to find interesting books to read.   

Sunday, June 18, 2023

Assorted Thoughts on Keeper of the Lost Cities

Do not read this post unless you have read all of the books up through #9.  This post contains MAJOR SERIES SPOILERS. 


I have some scattered thoughts that I haven't stated in my previous posts.

During my first reading of the series I discovered that "Kenric Elgar Fathdon" can be rearranged to form the phrase "Forkle grin and teach" with all letters used exactly once.  Two other names that are anagrams are "Tiergan," which is "Granite," and Leto's last name, "Kerlof," which is "Forkle."  I am certain that these three anagrams were designed on purpose to be clues.

I tried finding anagrams in other names.  I found it interesting how many names have the letters "K" and "F" in them, and I am convinced that Shannon Messenger did this on purpose to make it harder to decipher the real anagrams that contain clues.  I also noticed that the word "grin" can be pulled from a number of names.  Most of these names are red herrings.

I also believe that the overuse of "K" and "F" in the names in this series is symbolic of Kenric Fathdon.  

I later found what I believe to be valid anagrams in some other names. 

Ethan Benedict Wright II is "grin teach tweed inhibit." 
Eleanor Olivia Wright is "love Oralie with a grin."  

The names are of a British man, who was contacted by Lady Gisela, and his daughter.  The man looks like Kenric if Kenric were human.  When Forkle shows up to tell them about the humans (and only because of a promise he made ahead of time), he acts really weird. 

[S]omeone was clearing their throat behind them and they turned to find Mr. Forkle standing on the path, watching them.  And he seemed...  


It almost looked like he wanted to raise a crystal and leap away before any of them could ask why he was there.

Since Forkle is so weird about Ethan and Olivia, I believe these anagrams are valid.  They quite obviously point to Kenric. 

Forkle has said that he has five identities:  Forkle, Leto, Astin, the Fosters' fertility doctor, and his true identity.  I believe that Kenric is Forkle's true identity.  That leaves the fertility doctor.  I have a suspicion that the fertility doctor, who is supposed to be human, is Ethan Benedict Wright II.

I tried quite a few times to find an anagram in the names Connor, Kate, and Natalie Freeman (aliases for Sophie's human family from Book 1).  They set off my radar because when Sophie's human family is relocated again, we aren't given their new aliases.  That made me think that the first aliases could contain an anagram.

I had trouble making anything out of the aliases for Sophie's human family.  Part of the problem was whether to use the "and" or leave it out.  I tried it both ways.  I was fascinated that I could separately pull the names Kenric, Oralie, Forkle, and Fintan from the names.  I couldn't find any complete anagrams by beginning with any of those names, so I gave up.

Later, I decided to try one last time.  I chose to use just "Connor Kate Natalie Freeman" without the "and."  I tried Kenric again, and then I tried Forkle again.  I tried "one Forkle" which I had tried before without any luck.  I then added "at" to make it "one Forkle at."  I plugged the rest of the letters into an anagram solver, which gave me a list of words. 

I selected "entrance" and was able to create the complete phrase "one Forkle at a main entrance."  I don't know if this one is just a coincidence caused by dumb luck, but it could refer to Leto being at the entrance to the Silver Tower.  That would be "one Forkle at a main entrance," and this anagram appears before we are ever introduced to Leto and well in advance of us knowing that Forkle is a pair of twins.

Here's something else interesting about the names in these books.  I mentioned that many have "K" and "F."  Consider the last names that start with "F," most particularly Foster, Forkle, and Fathdon.  Sophie sharing her last name initial with both Forkle and Kenric is interesting.

The main reason I've become so obsessed with this series because I'm a huge fan of the secret identity trope.  Here's the definition of this trope as taken from Google.

A secret identity is a person's alter ego which is not known to the general populace, most often used in fiction.  Brought into popular culture by the Scarlet Pimpernel in 1903, the concept was widespread in pulp heroes and is particularly prevalent in the American comic book genre, and is a trope of the masquerade.

And there it is.  The Scarlet Pimpernel by the Baroness Orczy was the story that introduced this popular trope.  The Scarlet Pimpernel inspired Johnston McCulley to write his story, The Curse of Capistrano (later retitled The Mark of Zorro), which was published in 1919 and introduced the character Zorro.  In turn, Zorro inspired Bob Kane to create Batman, and the trope exploded in popularity from that point on.

I have been a big Zorro fan since 1991.  I love this character who pretends to be inept while using an alter ego to play the hero with no one suspecting the truth.  The Zorro stories always include a love interest who typically dislikes the inept Don Diego while pining after the mysterious Zorro.  The audience always knows who Zorro is and takes great delight in watching him fool everyone.

I enjoyed reading the Keeper books from the beginning of the first book.  By the time I reached the fourth book, I began to be obsessed because I realized that Forkle fits the secret identity trope.  He is somebody... but who exactly?

The secret identity trope has me enthralled, since we don't know for sure who Forkle is.  I believe all the clues point to Kenric, and we'll eventually see if I'm right.

Here's something interesting I noticed, which might or might not be just a coincidence.  Kenric grins, and the anagram mentions the grin.  Guess who else grins?  Zorro.  Zorro grins at his opponents in order to unnerve them.  It's the most prominent feature of the Zorro character aside from him leaving his mark.  I find it interesting that both Kenric and Zorro grin.

Speaking of the mark of Zorro... the Black Swan is into that sort of thing as well, since they have their Black Swan symbol.  Sophie also creates her own mark, that of the moonlark.  Forkle is quite impressed by Sophie's moonlark symbol and keeps the paper upon which she scrawls the image for him.  I wonder what Forkle plans to do with that paper.  Is he going to use the symbol in some fashion, or is he just planning to hang Sophie's artwork on the wall like he's the proud dad?

Forkle is a father figure for Sophie, whether or not he is her actual biological father.  I must include this quote from book 6, page 186.  It is so beautiful.

For several seconds she cried alone.  Then warm, pudgy arms pulled her into a ruckleberry-scented embrace, and she clung to Mr. Forkle as her tears soaked his wrinkled tunic and he whispered the only two words that made her feel any better.  "I'm here."

I'm obsessed with Forkle, while most fans are obsessed with Team Foster-Keefe.  I am Team Foster-Keefe all the way, but my main focus centers around Forkle and Kenric.  The characters in this series are just great.  There are so many that I enjoy and for so many different reasons.  Ro is a simply outstanding character, and she's so funny!  I love Tiergan as well, and even Sandor.  Really, I love all the characters.

Friday, June 16, 2023

Keeper of the Lost Cities #9 The Forgotten Secrets

This post focuses on Kenric's cache and the seven Forgotten Secrets.  

Page 310   "You said yourself that most of the memories in Kenric's cache were too vague to really tell us anything," Mr. Forkle reminded her.  "Yeah, but that was before I understood what I was seeing.  Oralie said the challenge with Forgotten Secrets is that we don't have any context for the memories—and she was right."

The lack of context is brilliant, really.  The characters discuss how the memories have no context, so they are difficult to understand.  It's fascinating to see how many readers have completely missed what is hinted at in the cached memories.  It takes multiple readings of the memories in order to grasp what is being revealed.

Many reviews for this book mention how boring the memories are and how the book drags.  I disagree.  The most interesting part of this book, aside from Ro's conversation with Sophie and what later happens with Sophie and Keefe, is the cached memories.  The reader is given a series of important clues via the memories, and the clues are presented in a sly fashion where the reader must read through the memories multiple times in order to figure out what each memory means. 

I was driven to write this series of posts because I couldn't find any really good online discussion of this content.  All I could find were complaints about the book being boring.  Fine.  If I can't find any discussion, I'll just hash it out by myself.  That, at least, gives me some satisfaction.  And maybe a few people will read my posts and get something out of them.


This post contains MAJOR SERIES SPOILERS.  Stop reading NOW if you have not already read this book.


Page 190   "He wanted to make sure you'd have a way of accessing the memories if you needed them—but he also wanted to make sure you couldn't do it without me.  I guess he wanted us to work together."

Page 192   "For Kenric's, he chose to have it require only one thing—though I wish he'd picked something else.  I worked so hard to break myself of this nervous habit."  She reached up, tugged on her eyelashes, and held out the one she pulled free.  "Huh," Dex said, "I've never seen anyone do that besides Sophie."  "Me neither," Oralie said.  "Strange coincidence."  Sophie looked anywhere but at her.

It is clear that Kenric wanted Oralie present when the cache is opened.  This might be because he wanted to make certain that Oralie views the memories so that she will figure out that he is Mr. Forkle.  And of course Kenric also wanted Sophie to know the truth.  Making it where Oralie must tug out an eyelash in order to open the cache provides an obvious clue that Oralie is Sophie's mother, in the event that Sophie hadn't already figured that out.

Page 195   "Kenric's hair.  He always wore it in a ponytail like that—until I teased him about it at my inauguration.  Next time I saw him, he'd cut it short, and he kept it that way."  "You did him a favor," Dex told her, flashing a dimpled grin.  Oralie didn't return his smile.  She just stared and stared at Kenric, like she was a prisoner and he was the gateway to freedom.

This is rather sad and shows how deeply Oralie loves Kenric.

Forgotten Secret #1:  Bronte and Kenric dealing with a dead gnome

Page 197   "You have more experience with everything, Bronte.  You can't always claim seniority.  Plus, you were away working on the mysterious investigation you refuse to tell us about."

I continue to wonder what Bronte's investigation was.

Page 199   "It's been about three hundred seconds," Kenric announced several minutes later.

This is a huge clue about Kenric.  Sophie counts the seconds, and so does Kenric.  This means that Sophie and Kenric share an odd habit.  Sophie shares an odd habit (tugging out her eyelashes) with her mother, so now we know that she shares an odd habit with Kenric, who is likely her father.

Page 206   Councillors weren't allowed to date or marry or have families of their own because it could bias their decisions.  But Kenric had asked Oralie to resign with him so they could be together—and Oralie had refused.  Not because she didn't love him.  Because she needed to stay on the Council.  Partially for her own ambitions.  And partially so she'd be in a position to protect Sophie.

Forgotten Secret #2:  Kenric requesting a matchmaker give him the hypothetical match lists for himself and Oralie

Page 209   Kenric sighed, tracing his fingers over the smooth stones in his circlet.  "You're right, of course.  But… between you and me, I'd get rid of those rules if I could."  Behnam glanced over his shoulder.  "You should be careful who hears you say that.  Especially here."

Page 210   "What if I told you that neither of us was going to remember the rest of this conversation?" Kenric asked quietly.  "Everything from this moment on will be erased.  Behnam's eyebrows lifted.  "Then what's the point?"  "This way I'll be able to remember that I asked.  But I won't know whether or not you answered."

This statement doesn't make sense.  What is the point of asking if he won't remember the answer?  Kenric must be lying to Behnam about why he wants to see the hypothetical match lists.

Page 210   "No, I suppose it doesn't."  Kenric buried his face in his hands and took a long breath.  "I realize this is a tremendous ask.  I'm just… running out of ideas for how to move on—and I have to move on.  Surely you can understand that."

Kenric is lying.  How would knowing for sure whether Oralie is his number one match help him move past the fact that he can never be matched with her?  If she is his number one match, then that would be devastating.  If not, then I suppose it could help.  However, Kenric claims that he's erasing the memory, so none of this makes any sense.  Kenric is instead manipulating Behnam into giving him the information that he seeks.

Page 211   But in the projection, Behnam leaned forward and told Kenric, "Truthfully, I do understand why you need this answer.  So I'll plug in the data for you—but I feel the need to remind you that it will always be impossible.  She already collected all five of her lists.  No more can ever be issued."

Page 212   Kenric's number one match was Oralie.  And Oralie's number one match was Kenric.

Page 213   "I don't understand," Oralie whispered, closing her palm around the cache to block the projection.  "This isn't a Forgotten Secret.  It's… I don't know what it is."  "It's something Kenric didn't want to remember," Sophie mumbled.  "But I'm pretty sure he didn't want to forget it either."  Oralie's laugh was equal parts bitter and broken.  "Well, how nice of him to leave it in his cache for anyone to find."

Kenric put the information in his cache because he wanted it to be found.

Page 213   "And by the time he decided to give it to you, he wouldn't have had any idea what was in there, right?"  "No, he wouldn't.  But Kenric was usually far more cautious when it came to… these kinds of things."

Oralie wonders why Kenric would carelessly put information like this in his cache.  That's exactly it; the information was not placed in the cache carelessly.  He wanted Oralie and Sophie to have this information.  Also, I highly doubt that Kenric was unaware that this information was in his cache.  After all, if Kenric is Forkle, then he had an identical twin brother.  The memory would likely have been shared with his twin brother before being erased, and then the twin brother would have shared it with him again.  The same would be true for all of Kenric's Forgotten Secrets.

Since this memory makes no sense on the surface, it means that Kenric is up to something that he isn't telling Behnam.  I believe that Kenric is seeking information for use in Project Moonlark.  In order for the moonlark to have the greatest potential, the child would need to be the offspring of a pair of number one matches.  Kenric is actually making certain that he and Oralie are number one matches.   

Page 214   "Kenric and I… we had a very special connection.  Add in the fact that Empaths and Telepaths are frequently matched with each other, and… no, I wasn't surprised to see his name at the top of my list, or mine at the top of his.  But… we also wanted different things—and no matchmaker would ever be able to account for that."

Somehow I doubt that Kenric and Oralie wanted different things.  I think they wanted all of the same things, but Oralie was unaware.

Page 214   "Why are Empaths and Telepaths usually matched together?" Dex asked.  Oralie cleared her throat again and dabbed the corners of her eyes.  "The abilities complement each other.  Both are introspective—but in very different ways, which allows each partner to find a deeper understanding of the other." 

Forgotten Secret #3:  Kenric and Oralie arguing in Kenric's readying room

Page 217   "I know you want me off the Council."  "I do?"  Kenric lowered himself into the chair and propped up his feet.  "That's news to me."

Page 217   She leaned closer, placing her hand over his.  "You're a better liar than most.  But I can still tell."

Page 218   "I'm not a fan of you, either."  Kenric's lips twitched with a smile: "Is that so?"  "Yes.  You're arrogant and boring.  And you have terrible taste in everything."  She crinkled her nose at his orange tunic—which did clash with his bright red hair.

Page 218   "And there it is," Kenric said, pointing to the hand she'd placed over her heart.  "The wide-eyed innocent act you love to hide behind."  "There's no act!"  "Really?  So you parade around in pink and ruffles because you want to be taken seriously?"  "No, I dress this way because I like the way I look."  "Pretty sure it's because you like to be admired."  Kenric stood up to face her.

Page 220   "So you didn't declare Lady Fayina dead within two days of her disappearance
without finding a bodyand then find yourself conveniently free to work one-on-one with Councillor Emery on something else?"  "Wow," the real Oralie whispered, "I had no idea he once thought that little of me."  Her projection looked just as offended.

Page 222   "I'm capable.  And I'm tired of being treated like I'm weak!"  "I don't think you're weak, Oralie.  In fact, I'm fairly certain you're stronger than all of us.  But your ability will always make you more vulnerable to certain things."

Page 222   "Take a reading if you think I'm lying."  He held out his hand.  "And just think:  If you take this deal, you'll get your answer and you'll get to yell at me all over again.  I'll even make sure you're holding a beverage, in case you want to splash it in my face!"  

Page 222   "During my last investigation, I learned that we've been imprisoning someone for thousands of years—someone whose crimes were so horrible, they've been completely stricken from any kind of record."

Page 223   "Emotions can't be erased.  They can only be buried or misdirected—which is much harder to do with an Empath."

Page 224   "Does that mean Kenric tried to stop the Neverseen from breaking Vespera out of Lumenaria?"

Page 224   Now she couldn't help thinking about how different things would be if Kenric had done his job.  Mr. Forkle's twin would still be alive.  So would Lumenaria's guards.  Her human parents never would've been taken and tortured.  Biana's arms wouldn't be covered in scars.  The troll hive at Everglen never would've—

This memory shows how Kenric and Oralie did not get along with each other at first.  We also learn that Kenric apparently knew about Vespera and that it could be considered his fault that Vespera escaped from Lumenaria.

Also of note is that Kenric props up his feet.  He does that in this memory and in Forgotten Secret #5.  I mentioned in my previous post that Forkle as Leto props his feet on his desk on page 490.  The reader is being led to draw a connection between Kenric and Forkle/Leto.

We learn that Kenric was a good liar.  We know that Forkle is a good liar.

Forgotten Secret #4:  Kenric and Oralie questioning Fintan about stellarlune

Page 226   It was even weirder watching Kenric smile at the elf who murdered him.

Page 232   "Though… Kenric could be quite intimidating when he wanted to be."

Page 232   He'd also known that she was Oralie's biological daughter, or suspected it anyway, which might've motivated him to be extra nice to her—even though it also meant he was yet another person constantly lying to her.

Page 233   "Weren't you the one who added 'monitoring and observation' to the dwarven treaty?  Or was that Fallon's doing?"  "It was me," Fintan said quietly.  "But when I made that arrangement, I never thought you'd use it to monitor people for existing—which is what you're doing to me."

Page 234   "Something's missing," Fintan whispered, holding the flower so close, Sophie could see the fire reflecting in his pupils.  "I need to…"

Page 237   "How about we make a deal?" Fintan countered, waving his hand to extinguish the circle of flames he'd tried to trap Oralie with.  "I agree to answer your question if you agree to do something for me."  Kenric shook his head.  "I don't make deals."  "You should.  I could be a valuable ally."  "I don't need allies."  Fintan's vicious smile returned.  "Someday that may change."

Page 238   "What do you think Fintan wanted from him?” she whispered.  "I can't begin to imagine," the real Oralie told her.  "But I'm sure it would've been something Kenric couldn't give."

Page 242   "I'm not convinced that anyone should have to lose any memories," Fintan snapped back.  "But I'm not in charge—at the moment."

Page 243   But once again, they'd finished a memory and learned nothing
—except that Kenric either lied when he told Oralie he'd slipped past Fintan's mental defenses, or he'd been fooled by a pretty simple trick.

We learn here that Fintan served on the Council at the same time as Fallon.  Could Fintan be one of the three Founding Councillors?

I wonder if Kenric did make a deal with Fintan.  It appears that he didn't, but we don't really know.  Kenric could have come back at a later time and made a deal with Fintan.  I wonder about this because Fintan faked his death in the Everblaze, and I'm certain that Kenric did as well.  That's quite a coincidence for both of them to fake their deaths at the same time and seemingly on the spur of the moment. 

Fintan's statement that he's "not in charge—at the moment" sounds a bit ominous.  We now know that Fintan does want to be in charge and that he is working with the Neverseen in order to gain power.

The rest of Forgotten Secret #4 (taken from Book 8.5 and repeated here due to importance):  Kenric reveals to Oralie that he knows about Project Moonlark

Book 8.5, Page 529   Kenric pulled his hands away from her.  "Let's just say that sometimes I'm not particularly proud to call myself a Councillor."  "It's that bad?" she whispered.  He looked pale when he nodded. "Some days I dream about walking away."  "You mean resigning?" Oralie clarified.  He hesitated before stepping closer.  "I've done my share for my people, Ora.  I'd have zero problem letting someone else take over.  But… I won't go unless you resign with me."  Everyone sucked in a breath:  Sophie, Oralie, Oralie's projection—even Kenric, as if he couldn't believe he'd just said that.  But he didn't take it back.

Book 8.5, Page 530   He leaned toward her, and her lips parted, like she might let him kiss her.  But at the last second she turned her face away.  "I can't do this."  He turned her chin back toward him.  "Can't?  Or won't?"  "Both."

Book 8.5, Page 530   Kenric tilted his head.  "There's something you're not telling me."  "No—"  "There is.  I know you too well, Ora.  In fact… I might even know what it is."

Book 8.5, Page 531   "That time when you were ill," he interrupted.  "When you wouldn't let me take you to see any physicians.  I stayed by your side the whole night, just to be safe.  And there were a few moments when I couldn't tell if you were asleep or awake.  You'd toss and turn and whisper something over and over.  Something that sounded… a lot like suldreen."

Book 8.5, Page 531   "I saw how upset you were when Prentice was exiled.  And I saw the look on your face when Alden brought us that strand of DNA.  Everyone thought it was a hoax or a misunderstanding—but not you.  Don't try to deny it, Ora.  I saw you flinch when he used the phrase 'Project Moonlark.'  And you've tried harder than anyone to stop Alden's search.  You think I don't know that you're the one who convinced Bronte to place someone in Quinlin's office to keep an eye on things?"

Book 8.5, Page 531  "So he knew," Sophie said as both Oralies let out a strangled sob.  "He knew you're my… "  "He must have," the real Oralie whispered.

Book 8.5, Page 532   Oralie pressed her hand against her stomach.  "The process of giving the Black Swan what they needed for your genetics turned out to be more involved than I expected—physically and emotionally.  And Kenric stopped by right after I returned home from the procedure.  I tried to hide it from him, but I nearly fainted just answering the door.  So he insisted on taking care of me.  But… I woke up alone.  He told me he went home after I finally fell asleep.  Apparently not.”

The information from this portion of the Forgotten Secret establishes that Kenric knew about Project Moonlark and also knew that Oralie was Sophie's biological mother.  Furthermore, Kenric didn't want to be a Councillor anymore.  This means that he most likely did fake his death in Book 3.

Forgotten Secret #5:  Kenric and Prentice in Kenric's library

Page 244   There was Kenric, sitting in a cluttered library.  And in the armchair across from him sat Prentice.

Page 247   Kenric propped his feet on what looked like a polished tree stump.

Page 247   Kenric downed his drink in one gulp.  "Because I have a proposition of sorts, for the most talented Keeper I've ever met."  "The most talented," Prentice repeated, tucking several of his dreadlocks behind his ears.  "That is some heavy flattery.  Sounds like this is going to be a big proposition."  "It is," Kenric agreed.

Page 248   Sophie frowned, trying to do the mental math.  "Wait—if Wylie was three, wasn't Prentice already working with the Black Swan during this memory?"  "I'm not sure that we know exactly when he swore fealty," Oralie told her.  "But he might've been, since he was arrested a few years later."

Page 250   "You're right—and there's no subtle way of saying this, so I'll just have to put it out there.  I brought you here because I'm hoping you'll be willing to serve as my Keeper."  He let that sink in before he added, "Off the record."

Page 253   "My training as a Washer has taught me how to hide memories in a very specific way, where the person holding them remains completely unaware—but the memories can easily be triggered if the need arises.  And I, as your partner, would know the triggers.  They would be carefully selected words or phrases containing enough of a clue about the secret that I'd be able to recognize any need to call for it, yet remain completely in the dark otherwise."

Page 254   Prentice shook his head.  "We all know how easily information can leak."  "Not if you and I are the only ones who know we're working together.  I'd tell the Council that I have a Keeper—but not your identity.  And I would sooner let my sanity shatter than expose you."

Page 255   What if Kenric was the reason Prentice was arrested?  Or part of it, at least?

Page 255   And either way… Kenric was yet another person who should've come to Prentice's defense and didn't.

Page 255   Kenric was dead.  Prentice's memories were gone.  And nothing would ever change that.  "Seriously, are you okay?" Dex asked, pointing to Sophie's white-knuckled fists.  She relaxed her grip.  "Yeah. I just… wish we knew if Prentice agreed to Kenric's plan.  But with the way these memories are going, I have a feeling it's going to cut off before we get that answer."

Page 258   "Are the Councillors using Keepers now?  Don't say you can't tell me—"  "We're not," Oralie cut in.  "As far as I know, Kenric never made the suggestion.  I'm assuming that means Prentice chose not to take him up on his offer—or that their tests to protect his sanity failed."

Page 259   "But remember:  Kenric recorded each of these memories for a very specific reason.  We just need more time to understand why."

This memory unpacks some very important clues.  I was a bit puzzled by the memory the first two or three times that I read it.  I then had a lightbulb moment when I realized the context.  Remember that these memories are problematic due to the lack of context.

I at first took the memory at face value and accepted that Kenric wanted Prentice to be his personal Keeper as stated.  I didn't understand, since I knew that Prentice actually became the Keeper of the Black Swan.  I finally realized that Kenric wasn't saying what he really meant.  Kenric was requesting that Prentice be the Keeper of the Black Swan.  Kenric is Forkle.  It all makes sense.  He just wasn't going to mention his little rebel group the Black Swan until after Prentice agreed to be his Keeper.

On page 253, Kenric specifies that he knows how to hide memories so that they can be retrieved with a word or phrase.  Forkle has mentioned doing exactly this with Sophie.  In Book 3 page 377, we learn that this is called "implanting" and that it is "a super-hard skill only a few people can really pull off."  How curious that few people can do it, yet both Kenric and Forkle have this ability.

This Forgotten Secret also confirms that Kenric was a Washer.  Forkle is a Washer as well, since he has erased some of Sophie's memories.  It's strange how much Kenric and Forkle have in common.

Forgotten Secret #6:  Oralie and Kenric in Elysian

Page 260   "But I remember the jerkin Kenric's wearing.  Look at those stripes—have you ever seen anything so hideous?"

Page 260   Kenric told her, "I can't tell you that."  "That's absurd," Oralie's projection snapped.  "If you can bring me here, then surely—"  "Honestly?" Kenric interrupted.  "I'm not even supposed to be here.  No one is.  According to every map and record I've checked, this place doesn't exist.  It doesn't even have a name."

Page 262   Kenric nodded.  "That was one of the details that helped me find this place.  Something had mentioned 'whispering rapids,' so when I found this river, I followed it here."

Page 264   "I've heard stories," she told Kenric as turned to scan the meadow, "that there are certain rare forms of energy that can mess with our senses.  Perhaps one of them is here and that's what we're both picking up."

I find it interesting that on page 487 of this book Forkle says, "But I've lost far too many years searching for rivers that do not exist."  Odd, since Kenric seems to have been the one chasing after rivers.

Forgotten Secret #7: the map of Elysian

Page 267   And the more she studied the symbol, the more her brain seemed to prickle with a strange sort of familiarity.  Somehow she knew she'd seen it before—even though she was also positive that she hadn't.  Which could only mean one thing.  A long time ago—before she knew about elves or caches or the giant conspiracies she was caught up in—the Black Swan planted that same image into her brain, along with all their other secrets.

Page 270   It'd been years since she'd triggered any of the secrets that Mr. Forkle had planted inside her brain.  In fact, she often forgot that there was still information tucked away.  And sometimes she worried the reason the memories never popped up was because the Black Swan hadn't properly prepared her for the problems they were facing.

Page 271   If the Black Swan knew the symbol was important, why hide it in her mind and never bother telling her anything about it?  What good did that do for anyone?

Here we find out that Kenric had a map of Elysian, which he placed in his cache.  But of course Forkle had the map as well (which is just more evidence that Kenric is Forkle), and he implanted the map in Sophie's mind.

Page 293   "Then why would Kenric save the map in his cache?" Sophie argued.  "Probably the same reason I gave the memory to you."  Mr. Forkle turned away, staring out the window, where Edaline was now riding the Spinosaurus around one of the pastures.

Mr. Forkle knows why, and he speaks the truth when he says it was for the same reason.  I also find it noteworthy that after making this statement Forkle turns and stares out the window in kind of an evasive action.

On page 253 in Forgotten Secret #5, Kenric says, "My training as a Washer has taught me how to hide memories in a very specific way, where the person holding them remains completely unaware—but the memories can easily be triggered if the need arises."

The key word from the above statement is triggered.

On page 270, Sophie thinks, "It'd been years since she'd triggered any of the secrets that Mr. Forkle had planted inside her brain."  There's that key word again: triggered.  Sophie has all the clues she needs, but she's got to put them together to form the answers.

All of this taken together, I believe that Kenric is alive, that he's Forkle, and that he's Sophie's biological father.

More on the Forgotten Secrets here:

Keeper of the Lost Cities #9 More on the Forgotten Secrets

Wednesday, June 14, 2023

Keeper of the Lost Cities #9 Stellarlune Kindle Notes

I have split my Kindle notes from this book into two posts.  The portion from Kenric's cached memories will be covered in my next post.

These passages contain spoilers, so read only if you have already read this book. 

Page 31   "He still has years before he gets to the point where everyone will give up on him—unless the Council finds out what Keefe can do and makes him start testing everyone in ability detecting at Foxfire."  Sophie sucked in a breath.  "Do you think they'd do that?"  "I wouldn't put it past them.  It'd make it way easier to decide who belongs at Foxfire and who doesn't.  And who knows?  They might even start testing everyone at birth.  I'm sure they'd claim it's better for everyone to know as early as possible.  But all it would do is make the Talentless be judged their entire lives."

Page 37   She waited for Lord Cassius's smile to fade before she added, "You elves like to talk about ogres as if we're these cold, brutal creatures.  But I've never seen anything as cold and brutal as the way you treat your son."

Page 38   "The good news, though, is that my wife might be the most stubborn out of all of you—and she foolishly made Keefe integral to her plan.  I suspect it will be her downfall—which would be rather poetic, wouldn't it?"

Page 54   Gisela laughed.  "I'm actually impressed you started to suspect I'm a Conjurer.  I've been so careful."

Page 54   She tapped her finger along the top of her silver box, and Sophie noticed a symbol etched into the metal:  two crescents, forming a loose circle around a glowing star.  Gisela had stamped the same symbol onto a letter she'd made Keefe deliver—to a human man she'd murdered soon after, along with his daughter.

Page 56   He snorted a bitter laugh.  "You expect me to trust you after you've admitted to experimenting on our son, scheming against the Council, erasing my memories, and hiding an ability?"

Page 83   "Well… there were these three huge tsunamis that hit out of nowhere, and once the ocean calmed back down, three islands were gone."  "Gone?" Sophie repeated.  "Were people hurt?" Amy shook her head.  "That's the good part.  The islands were all small and uninhabited, so I guess it's not that huge of a deal."

Page 137   "I knew there would have to be a little bad to bring on true good—and before any of you judge me for that, think about the things your Black Swan order has done.  Can you honestly say that none of it has caused any harm to anyone?  And do you really think they've told you about all their plans and schemes?  But you still play along, because you know it's necessary."

Page 146   She needs him to 'prove' something."  "Prove what?" Dex asked.  "No idea.  She said it has something to do with our potential as a species—but she never told me any specifics."

Page 181   "Wow," Sophie said again.  "I didn't know you wore pants."  "There's a lot you don't know about me," Oralie said, padding across the room in her bare feet.  Between the boring tank, black pants, and messy bun, she was almost unrecognizable.

Page 182   Oralie had even listed two people that Sophie mostly tried her best not to think about:  "Ethan Benedict Wright II" and "Eleanor Olivia Wright."

Page 275   We need to talk—NOW!  You have a lot of explaining to do.  And if you try to ignore me, I'll fill your office with sasquatch poo.

Page 275   She used the last of the lipstick to draw her moonlark symbol underneath, hoping it wouldn't weird Dex out.

Page 288   Sophie scrounged under the piles of paper and dug out her memory log, pointing to the maps she'd projected.  "This."  Mr. Forkle's jaw fell open.  "Where did you find that?"  "Nope!  You're here to answer my questions—and I want to know why you buried a map in my brain and never bothered to tell me about it."

Page 289   "And since I also couldn't overwhelm your conscious mind with facts and details that would make little-to-no sense while you were still living among humans, the best solution I could find was to take everything I'd learned—no matter how vague—and bury each piece as a separate memory that would trigger if it proved to be relevant, and remain hidden if not.  That way you'd have what you needed precisely when you needed it, and not be distracted by anything irrelevant."

Page 289   "After all, if I knew the full significance of the information I was sharing, or exactly how it fit into the enemy's plans, I could've ended this mess ages ago."

Page 293   "Then why would Kenric save the map in his cache?" Sophie argued.  "Probably the same reason I gave the memory to you."  Mr. Forkle turned away, staring out the window, where Edaline was now riding the Spinosaurus around one of the pastures.

Page 294   "So for a while now I've wondered if what we're really looking at"—he held up her memory log to show everyone—"is a plan for a human sanctuary."

Page 296   "If Kenric had found proof that someone was planning to build a human sanctuary, would he really store that kind of thing in his cache?" she asked.  "What better place would there be to keep such an ugly secret?" Mr. Forkle countered.

Page 296   Unless that was one of the reasons Kenric had asked Prentice to serve as his Keeper…

Page 311   "And if it makes them feel better, they could give me some sort of official title.  I could be their personal Keeper."  Mr. Forkle tilted his head to study her.  "Is that what you want?  To be the official Keeper of all the Lost Cities' secrets?"

Page 312   "It's possible that some of the answers lie in these tomes.  Kenric may have kept a journal—or made notes in the margins of the books he studied."

Page 314   "The best lead we have at the moment," Sophie finished for him.  "If you'd seen the look on Kenric's face when he mentioned it, you'd agree with me."  "And I'd be happy to view that memory, Miss Foster," he told her, "as well as the other memories you've been withholding from me."

Page 318   He shook his head.  "No, it's not.  It's because you believe Elysian is connected to stellarlune.  And stellarlune affects young Mr. Sencen."  Sophie fell back a step, her brain flooding with denials—arguments—explanations.  It took her a second to land on a better reaction:  "What's wrong with that?"  " 'Wrong' isn't the right word," Mr. Forkle corrected.  "I'm not saying that Keefe isn't important—"

Page 344   Sophie left her hanging.  "But I don't know if Kenric would."  Clearly, he was willing to bend some rules if he had a secret library in an old human building.  And he'd reached out to a matchmaker about Oralie and him.  And he'd talked to Prentice about being his personal Keeper.  But he was different when it came to Elysian.

Page 349   She'd already discovered during her other battle training that she was kind of a natural when it came to violence.  Her brain just didn't know what to do with that unsettling realization.

Page 363   "You're a smart girl—you'll get there when you're ready.  But.  You do also have a history of being… a little quick to deny certain stuff.  So even though Hunkyhair would probably clobber me for telling you this, I feel like I should make sure you know one thing, okay?"  She waited for Sophie to hold her gaze before she told her, "He meant what he said in his letter—and he meant it exactly the way you thought he did before you tried to talk yourself out of it."

Page 364   "No, I mean it.  You balance each other.  He helps you lighten up, and you help him focus.  He boosts your confidence, and you keep his ego in check.  You both dive headfirst into danger, but somehow you're able to help each other play it a little smarter.  And you both act more like yourselves when you're together.  I could keep going, but I don't want it to seem like I'm trying to pressure you."

Page 364   "He's held on to these, like, teeny, tiny threads of hope for so long that he'll never let go on his own," Ro said quietly.  "You have to tell him—and I know it'll be scary and hard, but you have to.  You won't even lose him as a friend, if that's what you're worried about.  He's willing to follow your lead.  If you just want a buddy, he'll be the best friend he can be.  But if you want more, well… I'll let you be the one to imagine what that would be like."

Page 368   Keefe would honestly be… … … …a really awesome boyfriend.  He was thoughtful.  And supportive.  And he could be incredibly sweet—when he was actually being serious instead of joking around with everybody.  Though… maybe some of his jokes with her hadn't just been teasing.  Had some of it also been… flirting?

Page 369   Keefe might not be as classically handsome as Fitz—but he didn't need to be.  In fact, there was something extra appealing about his crooked smile and artfully messy hair.  It made him less serious.  Less perfect.  Less intimidating.  Plus, he was smart.

Page 379   "I'm trying to save the world—which is the job you gave me, by the way."  "I gave you many jobs," he told her.  "One of which is to lead."  "Exactly, so let me lead—"  "I'm trying to.  But you seem to have forgotten that the best way to lead is by example."

Page 382   Edaline reached for Sophie's hand.  "What happened?"  "Honestly, I'm not certain," Mr. Forkle admitted.  "No one should've been able to set foot in Brumevale without our permission.  I remember thinking that installing any sort of security there was a complete waste of time—but Tinker insisted we add sensors to all our properties after we put Project Moonlark into action.  Clearly she's wiser than I am.  We would've had no idea that anything was amiss if Wraith hadn't gotten the alert—though, sadly, by the time he made it to Brumevale, the Neverseen were gone."

Page 383   "Whatever their reason, they chose to cause an explosion unlike anything I've ever seen.  Parts of the tower completely disintegrated.  The rest twisted into a whole other form, as if it absorbed the force of the blast and took on the shape of the energy."

Page 386   Mr. Forkle nodded.  "I've heard that as well.  Supposedly it was once the scene of some sort of tragedy, but I don't know the specifics.  No one does.  The story's been lost over the centuries."  Sophie frowned.  "Tiergan made it sound like he knew."  "Did he?" Mr. Forkle asked.  "Or did he simply dodge your questions?  Tiergan's particularly adept at misdirection."  "He…"  Sophie's voice trailed off as her mind replayed the exact words Tiergan had used.  He'd said the person affected should be the one to tell her about Brumevale's history—which was technically true whether he knew who they were and what happened to them, or not.

Page 386   "From what I understand, Brumevale was built by an Ancient couple that have since passed away.  They never had any children, and no one claims any ties to their family line.  That's why I was able to take over the property without any issue."

Page 387   "I wonder how the Neverseen were able to find it, then," Edaline said.  "We're trying to figure that out," Mr. Forkle told her.

Page 423   Marella's going to offer Fintan some weird flowers and hope he decides, "Who needs freedom when I can have foliage?"

Page 441   Keefe had warned her that Empaths had to be careful—that feeling too many intense emotions could make the sensations all blur together until everything started to feel the same and they basically went numb.

Page 483   Magnate Leto interrupted, gesturing to the empty armchair across from him.  When she hesitated, he leaned forward, resting his arms on his desk and studying her with his piercing blue eyes—the only feature that didn't drastically change throughout his various disguises.  "You can relax, Miss Foster.  Nothing has happened."

Page 483   Magnate Leto patted the sides of his heavily gelled black hair.

Page 484   "And I thought it would be better to call the meeting myself, rather than risk finding more demands scrawled across my office door."

Page 485   "As far as the leak, as I said before, that's a situation that requires subtlety and patience.  I am working on it.  But I can't reveal anything beyond that without creating unnecessary complications."

Page 486   "Then it may comfort you to know that Councillor Oralie has raised several issues with the cache system," Magnate Leto informed her.  "I'm not sure what alternatives she suggested, but she told me the Council is giving it serious consideration.  And she's also been working to locate Elysian—or whatever place Kenric brought her to in that memory.  Right now, her primary focus seems to be searching for the crystal Kenric used, in case he didn't destroy it.  She actually thought she'd found it among Kenric's remaining belongings—but that turned out to be a crystal leading to Hushwood.  The good news is, Kenric must've planned to bring her there someday, because he programmed the door to respond to her DNA."  "Or he assumed she'd find Hushwood if anything happened to him," Sophie mumbled.  "Also possible—though I'm sure Oralie prefers my explanation.  Either way, she's now searching Hushwood in the hope that Kenric hid the crystal there—or left more details about the map.  And it's a lot to sort through, so she let me know that she would be grateful for some help if you or your friends felt so inclined."

Page 487   "What are we doing to find Elysian?"  "Nothing," he admitted.  "I realize you disagree with that decision—and you're welcome to make your own plans with your friends.  But I've lost far too many years searching for rivers that do not exist."

Page 489   Apparently, Noxflares were an "elvin plant," hybridized long ago by the Ancient Councillors.  For a moment Sophie thought that proved the blossoms actually were important—but when she voiced that theory, her Mentor… laughed.  When he finally stopped chuckling, he explained that the Ancient Councillors believed they should be "masters of all in order to rule all"—so they spent a great deal of time trying to do things that were far better suited for other intelligent species.

Page 490   "All right."  He propped his feet up on his desk.

Page 493   "Welcome back, Miss Foster," Magnate Leto murmured.  He looked far less put-together than usual, with weird creases in his hair, as if he'd been trying to drag his fingers through the crispy gelled strands.

Page 509   "Oh, it wasn't random," Marella told him.  "Fintan said he'd show me what Noxflares could do, since I brought one back into his life."  "Why are you and Dex staring at each other like that?" Fitz asked Sophie.  "That's just… not how caches are supposed to work," Sophie explained.  "No one knows what's in them until you play the actual memories."

Page 533   "Interesting," Vespera murmured.  "I realize you will not want to believe this.  But whatever happened to your 'Brumevale' had nothing to do with me—or my organization.  It must have been Gisela, trying to frame us, though why she would bother, I do not know."

Page 541   "And getting ahead of Gisela is vital.  She has stumbled across the most dangerous secret our world has ever buried—but she is still missing several key pieces at the moment."

Page 542   "Gisela has long believed that the Ancient Council—in an effort to maintain control over our growing population—chose to hold back our species by blocking access to certain vital sources of power.  And she is convinced that the only way for us to reach our full potential is to expose ourselves to those natural forces."

Page 545   The same mark had been on the seal of a letter that a much younger Keefe had been tricked into delivering to Ethan Benedict Wright II in London—not long before Lady Gisela murdered him and his daughter.

Page 707   Vespera crouched to study the rocks, murmuring mostly to herself.  "It has to be real.  Something must be missing."  Marella sucked in a breath.  "Maybe it is!  In the memory Fintan showed me, he was burning the Noxflares—and he kept saying 'something's missing.' " 

Here are my thoughts:

On page 92, Sophie remembers Valin.  I find it odd that he was mentioned and that Sophie doesn't know what happened to him.  I don't put much significance on it, but I still wonder about it.  My reason is because these books don't tend to mention random information that is meaningless.  

On page 181, it is shocking to learn how Oralie dresses when she is by herself.  She definitely puts on an act as a Councillor.  We also learn that Oralie knows about Ethan and his daughter.  How does she know?  I assume that Mr. Forkle told her.  I don't know how else she would know.

It is interesting when Sophie mentions Kenric's memories to Mr. Forkle.  He plays dumb, but I think he is Kenric, simply pretending that he doesn't know.  I have no doubt that Kenric would have looked at his forgotten memories, so of course he would know what they are.  After all, we learn that Fintan knows his forgotten memories.

This book moves us closer to seeing who Forkle really is.  Of course I've long believed that he is Kenric, and the clues are dropping faster and faster.  Even Forkle's behavior is shifting.  On page 490, Forkle as Leto props his feet on his desk.  That's never been mentioned before.  In Kenric's memories, Kenric props his feet up.

On page 493, we learn that Leto "looked far less put-together than usual, with weird creases in his hair, as if he'd been trying to drag his fingers through the crispy gelled strands."  Think of Kenric's wild hair, which must be hard to tame.  If he did it quickly, then he'd have weird creases in his hair.  We are being told these details for a reason.

Monday, June 12, 2023

Keeper of the Lost Cities #8.5 Unlocked Kindle Notes

Most of this book is an encyclopedia for the series.  The book contains a novella that includes important plot developments.

These are the passages that I marked in my Kindle book.  The passages were marked either because I felt they contained significant information or because I simply found them interesting or amusing.  These passages contain MAJOR SERIES SPOILERS, so readers who haven't made it this far should avoid this post.  


Page 518   "This isn't about trust.  It's about risk.  Like you said, you've become quite valuable to the Council.  They've finally realized exactly how much they need you.  So to put you in danger this way—"

Page 519   "It can," Oralie whispered, wrapping her arms around her waist, "when that's the only way to have a daughter."  The last word sounded different than the others, and for a second, Sophie found herself meeting Oralie's stare and wishing the Black Swan had made her an Empath.  Then she would've been able to tell if the sadness and longing she could see in Oralie's eyes were actually real.

Page 521   Sophie jerked away when Oralie reached for her.  "Just stop it, okay?  You're wasting time."  "Actually… I'm not.  We needed my tears, didn't we?" Oralie blinked, showing how glassy her eyes had gotten.  "I knew the easiest way to trigger them was to remind myself of how much you hate me."  "Oh."

Page 523   "I knew Kenric would be a part of this," the real Oralie murmured.  "He always insisted on being involved in everything I did."

Page 523   "For once, would you please just trust that I know what's best?" he pleaded, knocking back his hood and tearing his hands through his vivid red hair.

Page 525   Kenric sighed. "I can't tell you that, either."

Page 525   "Stop trying to distract me!"  "But I'm so good at it!" Kenric flashed a smug grin as he stepped closer—so close, the toes of their shoes touched.  "I seem to remember you losing your train of thought twice the other day when I wore that gray jerkin with the emeralds on the collar.  The one you've always said brings out the flecks of green in my eyes."

Page 526   "I just wish I could find the source of the leak."

Page 526   "I suppose it's possible that Kenric washed it himself, but—"  "Kenric was a Washer?" Sophie interrupted.  "One of the best.  It was often his job to wash the minds of the other Washers, to make sure they hadn't inadvertently learned anything from their assignments—but he was under oath to never wash the mind of anyone on the Council, even if they asked him to.  And I can't see him breaking that vow—especially with me."  "I can, if he thought he was protecting you," Sophie argued.

Page 527   "Actually, now that I think about it, there was another time when my mind felt like it does right now.  I woke up in my sitting room, and Kenric was there with… someone.  I can't remember who—which is strange."

Page 527   "But… I do also remember thinking that something about his smile felt off."

Page 527   "This is such a classic Kenric move!" Oralie huffed, glaring at his projection.  "He always kept me out of anything he'd decided was 'too intense.'  That's why there's only one Forgotten Secret in my cache."  "Um… it sounds like the real reason for that might be because Kenric stole some of your other memories," Sophie had to point out, which made her want to throw a full-fledged tantrum—complete with kicking and flailing.

Page 528   But she still had to wonder if there'd been a lot more to Kenric than she'd originally realized.  She squinted at his face, wishing she knew more about him.  He'd always been her favorite Councillor—but that had mostly been because he tended to take her side.  And that didn't necessarily mean she should've trusted him.

Page 529   "I'm counting down the days until I can have the Washers clean this mess out of my brain."

Page 529   "Kenric pulled his hands away from her.  "Let's just say that sometimes I'm not particularly proud to call myself a Councillor."  "It's that bad?" she whispered.  He looked pale when he nodded. "Some days I dream about walking away."  "You mean resigning?" Oralie clarified.  He hesitated before stepping closer.  "I've done my share for my people, Ora.  I'd have zero problem letting someone else take over.  But… I won't go unless you resign with me."  Everyone sucked in a breath:  Sophie, Oralie, Oralie's projection—even Kenric, as if he couldn't believe he'd just said that.  But he didn't take it back.

Page 530   He leaned toward her, and her lips parted, like she might let him kiss her.  But at the last second she turned her face away.  "I can't do this."  He turned her chin back toward him.  "Can't?  Or won't?"  "Both."

Page 530   Kenric tilted his head.  "There's something you're not telling me."  "No—"  "There is.  I know you too well, Ora.  In fact… I might even know what it is."

Page 531   "That time when you were ill," he interrupted.  "When you wouldn't let me take you to see any physicians.  I stayed by your side the whole night, just to be safe.  And there were a few moments when I couldn't tell if you were asleep or awake.  You'd toss and turn and whisper something over and over.  Something that sounded… a lot like suldreen."

Page 531   "I saw how upset you were when Prentice was exiled.  And I saw the look on your face when Alden brought us that strand of DNA.  Everyone thought it was a hoax or a misunderstanding—but not you.  Don't try to deny it, Ora.  I saw you flinch when he used the phrase 'Project Moonlark.'  And you've tried harder than anyone to stop Alden's search.  You think I don't know that you're the one who convinced Bronte to place someone in Quinlin's office to keep an eye on things?"

Page 531  "So he knew," Sophie said as both Oralies let out a strangled sob.  "He knew you're my… "  "He must have," the real Oralie whispered.

Page 532   Oralie pressed her hand against her stomach.  "The process of giving the Black Swan what they needed for your genetics turned out to be more involved than I expected—physically and emotionally.  And Kenric stopped by right after I returned home from the procedure.  I tried to hide it from him, but I nearly fainted just answering the door.  So he insisted on taking care of me.  But… I woke up alone.  He told me he went home after I finally fell asleep.  Apparently not."

Page 534   "Still, it'll be hard for you to understand what you're feeling without the context, right?  So how about I help you with that?  I think it's time to put all of this behind us, don't you?"

Page 560   "You are?" a new voice interrupted.  A beautiful voice.  Keefe's favorite voice—even when it was all squeaky with worry.  But he'd barely caught a glimpse of a pair of gold-flecked brown eyes before he called out, " 'Bout time you got here, Foster!" before an emotional storm crashed against his senses.

Page 576   "Of course she told us," Alina said, adjusting her peridot circlet.  "I realize this is a difficult concept for you to grasp, but we're your leaders.  We expect to be apprised of all significant developments.  And it's a good thing Oralie hailed me, because this is an even bigger disaster than I feared."  Oralie sighed.  "There's no need to be so dramatic, Alina."

Page 581   "Yes, but most begin naturally," Alina argued.  "And there was nothing natural about this."  "There wasn't," Noland agreed, shifting his gaze to Sophie.  His eyes had a slight purplish tint, like the tanzanites in his circlet, and they seemed to twinkle as he added, "But I'm staring at someone else with unnatural abilities.  And she's proven to be quite a valuable asset.  Hopefully this boy will be the same."

Page 586   "Have there been any other developments?" Alina asked Elwin.  "Aside from Keefe's stronger emotions, becoming a Polyglot, and whatever this new ability is?"

Page 587   Oralie's cheeks flushed.  "I'm not certain.  It just seems significant that Keefe is now a Polyglot and an Empath, and used his voice to control emotion.  That almost sounds like the two abilities merged somehow—or synchronized.  Which would make sense, given that Keefe was exposed to shadowflux and quintessence.  Elements trigger change.  They rarely create something entirely new.  But I'd need to do more research to know for sure."

Page 587   "I suppose," Noland said slowly.  "But I think it's safe to assume that the majority of these changes are a part of her scheme—just as the majority of your genetics are in line with Project Moonlark's goals, which are still unclear, by the way.  But that is a conversation for another time.  For now, I think it's best if we treat each of these developments as though they're clues to what the Neverseen is planning, and see how much we can learn."

Page 609   It hit her then.  The contrast between her different mothers.  Her human mom never quite knew what to do with her.  Oralie had abandoned her and betrayed her.  But Edaline truly trusted her—even when she knew Sophie was hiding stuff.  Which made Sophie wish she could sit back down and unload everything—and made Sophie resent Oralie even more.  Especially since it was only a matter of time before she'd have to lie to Edaline to protect Oralie's secrets.

Page 664   She reached around him to pull the rope for the chimes, and a tinkling melody filled the air.  Sophie was stunned to realize she recognized it.  "Was that… the Beatles?"  she asked when Tiergan pulled open the door.  His lips curled into a smile as he stepped aside to let them in.  "No one's ever recognized it before.  But I suppose I should've known you would."

Page 706   "I'm thinking like the Neverseen," Sophie told her, glancing at Glimmer as she added, "and changing the game."  This is for Kenric! she thought as she swung the Archetype at one of the balefire sconces.  And Mr. Forkle!  And Keefe!  And all of the scars and tears and nightmares and threats and fear and pain!  She'd been fighting the Neverseen's fires since the moment she'd arrived in the Lost Cities.  Now it was time for them to burn.  She smashed the other sconce and held the pages of the Archetype in the shower of blue sparks until they caught fire—then flung the burning book into the pile of black cloaks.

Page 707   Sophie nodded, holding Tiergan's crystal up to the light—but before she stepped into the path, she scratched a few lines in the dirt with her heel.  It wasn't a perfect symbol, but it kinda looked like a moonlark with spread wings.  She hoped the mark survived the inferno.  She wanted the Neverseen to know she did this.  She wasn't scared.  She was strong.  And she was ready to start winning.

Page 723   No one said anything else as they made their way up a spiral staircase to an enormous oval room, which looked like the kind of office that Sophie kept imagining someone in the Black Swan would have—complete with a giant fireplace, shelves full of strange, whirling gadgets, and an imposing desk covered in meticulously arranged stacks of paperwork.  But the twisted tree sprouting from the center of the floor with flowering branches stretching toward the arched skylight was a bit of a surprise.

Page 726   "Yes, but those were their attacks," Tiergan reminded her.  "This was ours.  Well… yours.  And it was unprovoked."  "Unprovoked?" Sophie repeated.  "You're kidding, right?"  "No, Sophie—none of us think this is a joke," Grady said quietly.  "And I'm really hoping you don't either.  Because you just turned this into a war."

Page 726   "And you're accusing me of escalating this?"  "Yes," Tiergan said simply.  "Though 'accusing' is the wrong word.  'Informing' is better.  Making sure you understand that you haven't just changed the game for the Neverseen—you've changed it for everyone.  Up until now, we haven't attacked.  We've defended ourselves.  But raiding their hideout—and then destroying it—is an attack, Sophie.  And that means we're now officially at war."

Page 727   Sophie stood up taller.  "You think I did this for me?"  "No.  I think you acted alone.  And I realize you're going to argue that there wasn't time for a big debate or discussion—and I'm certain there wasn't.  But that doesn't change the fact that you made an enormous decision that will affect everyone entirely on your own."  "You even made sure the Neverseen knew it was you," Sandor said from the doorway.  "I saw the mark you left before we leaped away."  "What mark?" Grady asked.  Sandor held Sophie's stare when he answered.  "It looked like a flying moonlark."

Page 728   "But that wasn't the symbol you used," he reminded her.  "You made your own, positioning yourself as the threat and the victor.  Not the Black Swan.  Not your friends.  You."

Page 728   Sophie's mouth went dry, and it took her several seconds to find enough voice to tell him, "I'm not trying to be anyone's leader."  "And yet, it's what you were made for," a new voice said.  A voice that always managed to fill Sophie with hope and dread—and now there was also a healthy amount of wariness as Sandor stepped aside to let Mr. Forkle shuffle into the office.  He looked less swollen and wrinkled than usual—like he'd rushed there after finishing some other assignment.

Page 730   "I don't want to be the leader," Sophie insisted.  "I don't."  "I know," he agreed.  "And yet… it's rather interesting, isn't it?"  He stopped there, waiting for her to ask what he meant—and she really didn't feel like playing along.  But she finally rolled her eyes and said,  "What's interesting?"  His smile brightened.  "You kids can be so stubborn.  But I suppose that's also what makes you so strong.  And what's interesting is that you chose to leave your own symbol—which sounds like quite a powerful image, I might add—when no one has ever asked you or advised you to do that."

Page 730   "I just… wanted the Neverseen to know it was me—that I dealt that blow to them—after everything they've done to me. That's it, that’s all it was.  And maybe it was a bad idea.  I don't know. I didn't put much thought into it."  "And that's what I want to talk to you about," he told her, shifting his weight to lean closer.  "Whether or not you want to be a leader, Miss Foster, you are one—and I'm not saying that because I designed you to be that way.  The leadership simply comes from who you are.  You're a powerful, brilliant, determined, inspiring young lady.  People naturally look to you.  And they're going to do that more and more, the stronger you become.  Today was a huge part of that.  I'm proud of the stand you took.  And for the record, I think you made the right call."

Page 731   "You do?" Sophie whispered.  "Absolutely.  You saw the mistake we'd all made, and a path to correct it, and you did what needed to be done.  But," he had to add, right when she was starting to feel a little better, "you also made some fairly significant mistakes."

Page 731   "Well… for starters, did you warn the others about what you were doing, and make them all step back before you sparked the fire?"  "No," Sophie admitted.  "But they were already far enough away."  "Yes, but people do move, you know.  It's always best to communicate."

Page 731   "No," Sophie had to admit again.  "But I didn't need to—the storehouse was behind a giant waterfall!"  "Did you actually consider that, though?" he pressed.  "And what I mean is, did you have a conscious thought about there being an abundant water supply nearby that would safely extinguish the blaze before it could spread?  Because if you didn't, you don't get to take credit for the waterfall's safety.  That's what we call random luck."

Page 732   "Yes, well, Glimmer has much to learn as well.  There's a way to be bold and brave and stand up to your enemies without forgetting that actions have consequences." Sophie nodded, twisting a loose string on the edge of her sleeve as she worked up the courage to ask, "What consequences are going to come from what I did today?"  Mr. Forkle blew out a breath.  "I wish I knew.  But that's how it always goes with hard decisions.  I had no idea what would happen when I helped create a powerful young girl—a fearless moonlark.  I just knew she was going to change the game.  And now… she has.  You have.  And I'm proud of you.  I believe in you.  And I'm here to help you and guide you as much as I can."

Page 73   "I believe in you," he repeated.  "I believe in my moonlark.  In fact, I'd love to see the symbol you created.  Will you show it to me?" Sophie stood, making her way to Tiergan's desk and grabbing a pen and paper.  She wasn't an awesome artist like Keefe, but she sketched the simple lines she'd carved into the ground, adding a few extra curves and flourishes before she handed the page to Mr. Forkle.  His lips curled with another smile.  "Now, that's a symbol.  You should start using this."

Page 734   "You'll know when the time comes," he told her, which was such a cheating way to answer.  He laughed when she scowled.  "Just let it bring fear and hope to people, Miss Foster.  And let it remind you to be strong and smart.  Use it to change the game—but make sure you win the right way.  And never forget that moonlarks can't do everything on their own.  Not even you."

Page 734   "Good." He stuffed the paper into one of the pockets in his cape.  "I'm keeping this.  And I'm going to let you keep those caches—but don't think we're not going to talk about your plans for those very soon."

Page 734   "For now, how about you sit back down and tell me more about destroying this storehouse?"  "Why?" Sophie asked—but she still returned to one of the ottomans.  He smiled his widest smile yet.  "Because we need to celebrate the victories."

Page 739   Grady shook his head and dropped his hands. "You don't understand, Keefe.  Everything's about to get really messy.  Sophie burned down the Neverseen's storehouse today."  Keefe's eyebrows shot up so high, they felt like they were stretching his face.  "Yeah," Grady said quietly.  "Apparently she gets in even more trouble without you there.  Who knew?"

Page 744   And since this is the last time I'll ever talk to you, I just… I want to say that I'm really going to miss you. You mean a lot to me, Foster.  More than you'll ever know. 

Next, I give my thoughts about what some of this might mean.  Stop reading NOW if you have not read through all 9 books.


On page 526, we learn that Kenric was a Washer.  Mr. Forkle is a Washer as well, since he erased some of Sophie's memories.  I don't think many elves are Washers.  So this is another clue that Kenric is Forkle.

On page 527, Oralie remembers being with Kenric in her sitting room and that his smile was off.  She also remembers that someone else was there.  I suspect that both twin brothers were present and that the other one was wearing an addler so that she couldn't focus on his face. 

On page 529, Kenric mentions that he's thought about leaving the Council.  He's clearly tired of being a Councillor.  It's logical to assume that he did indeed fake his death in the Everblaze in book 3.

On page 531, Kenric informs Oralie that he knows about Project Moonlark.  Oralie then mentions to Sophie that Kenric arrived at her castle right after she got home from the procedure.  This is all strong circumstantial evidence that Kenric was deeply involved in Project Moonlark and the Black Swan.

Everyone is upset that Sophie burned the Neverseen's storeroom except for Mr. Forkle.  He seems delighted.  I feel that Mr. Forkle's behavior is beginning to subtly change during the scene in which he discusses the fire with Sophie.  He smiles widely at one point and even laughs.  He is beginning to act slightly more like Kenric.

He's also proud of Sophie's moonlark symbol and tells her that he's keeping the drawing.  He sounds just like a proud father, and I believe he actually is Sophie's father.

Sunday, June 11, 2023

eBay Auctions Closing Soon, Free Shipping, and Thyroid Update

First, here is a short summary of what is going on with my eBay and Etsy stores.

Sales have been horrifically bad on eBay and even worse on Etsy.  I have changed my Etsy free shipping promotion back to orders of $35 or more since Etsy has been hiding my listings.  I still think $35 is too low, but I'm willing to see if it will help make my listings more visible on Etsy.  The eBay free shipping promotion has been changed to orders of $40 or more.

I have some eBay auctions for hardcover library edition Nancy Drew Files and some first printing Penny Parker books with dust jackets and good quality paper.  eBay doesn't apply the free shipping promotion to auctions, so buyers have to wait for me to send an invoice if the auction wins total above $35.  For the orders that qualify, I will change the shipping cost to free.

Jennifer's Series Books on eBay

Jennifer's Series Books on Etsy

In past posts, I detailed what happened after I got Covid last July followed by the bivalent Moderna vaccine on September 23.  I have perpetual thyroiditis caused by autoimmunity, which means that my thyroid is always slightly swollen and never works at a normal level.

The combination of Covid and the bivalent vaccine caused a significant flare in my thyroiditis.  Last fall, I found an article on the CDC's website about how some people experience a six-month flare of thyroiditis after getting a Covid vaccine.  For that reason, I knew that the flare would likely settle down at some point.  That didn't help me in the short term. 

We had to increase my medication twice, in early December and again in late January.  I could barely function.  In early March, I still didn't feel that well, but my provider said that we needed to wait until early June to give enough time for my T3 level to recover before making further adjustments.  I'm glad that we didn't increase in early March, considering what then happened.

In late March, I began to feel better.  Around April 1, I felt optimal.  That was when I realized that I had just passed the six-month threshold after having received the bivalent vaccine.  That then meant that the thyroiditis caused by the vaccine was resolving.  And so it did...

As April progressed, I began to feel more and more overmedicated.  By April 28, I couldn't stand it anymore.  I was losing weight and had excess energy, tremors, heart palpitations, and insomnia.  I don't like wasting medication, so I decided to titrate down myself with what I had instead of getting tested and asking for a new prescription.  

I decided to skip one dose each week, which would gradually lower my dose to the next level down from where I was.  Thyroid medication has a half-life of one week, so it's okay to skip a dose once per week to titrate down.  How I feel at any given time is based on the previous six weeks' average medication level, since it takes around six weeks for each dose to completely clear the body.

Being undermedicated is truly awful with very low energy levels, but being overmedicated is also just as bad but in a different way.  It's terrible having too much thyroid hormone circulating.  I feel this weird pressure behind my eyes that is extremely unpleasant when I'm taking too much medication.  I also feel jittery and feverish.

In April and early May, I only slept around three hours each night.  One night I was so wired that I didn't sleep at all and ended up being awake for close to 40 hours before I was able to sleep, and even then not for long. 

I've been so hyperactive and distracted that I have had just as poor of motivation (maybe even worse) than when I'm undermedicated.  It really messes with the mind to be so wired that it's like I've taken speed.  Right now I'm sleeping around four hours each night.  That is somewhat of an improvement.

Despite skipping one dose per week, I still felt overmedicated until about when school let out on May 19.  I have felt off in a nonspecific fashion since then, probably because of starting summer break which likely improved my thyroid function even more since I now have no stress.  I have just started a new prescription at the next dosage down, which is what I was on prior to the second dose increase from late January.  I feel like I've been on a roller coaster since early April.  It's crazy.

I seem to be alternating between feeling overmedicated and undermedicated, and the instability will likely continue for another week or so.  Perhaps then I'll have an idea of whether I'm on the right dose.

I mention this because it has severely impacted my motivation.  I want to list books for sale, but I just about can't make myself do it.  I have made some progress today, and I have photographed some additional books.  Hopefully, I can make myself list them by tonight.

Saturday, June 10, 2023

Keeper of the Lost Cities Book #8 Legacy Kindle Notes

These are the passages that I marked in my Kindle book.  The passages were marked either because I felt they contained significant information or because I simply found them interesting or amusing.  These passages contain MAJOR SERIES SPOILERS, so readers who haven't made it this far should avoid this post.  


Page 16   "I believe you've heard about the proposal for building a Human Sanctuary that circulated a few decades back, haven't you, Miss Foster?"  "Alden mentioned it a while ago," Sophie agreed.  And the thought of moving all the humans to what would basically be an enormous prison still made her queasy.  "Was that the Neverseen's idea?"

Page 16   "A global conflict involving every living being."  He let that sink in before he added, "That's why the Black Swan was formed—and why Alden and Quinlin have carried out so many of their own secret investigations throughout the last few decades."

Page 18   "What do you think the Neverseen truly want?  I'm talking about the order as a whole, not the personal agendas of their individual leaders."  The only answer Sophie could come up with was:  "Power?"  "Exactly.  They want to be in control—that's one of the primary ways our orders differ from one another.  The Black Swan resorted to rebellion because we had no other means of pursuing necessary solutions.  And our ultimate hope has been—and always will be—to work hand in hand with the Council as we address these complicated challenges.  But the Neverseen have always desired to take over."

Page 27   "I'm sorry, Miss Foster."  His eyes stayed focused on his pathfinder as he locked the crystal into place.  "I can't tell you what you want to know." 

Page 28   "You don't even know what I want to know," she pointed out.  "Actually, I do.  You… want to know who your biological parents are."  Sophie blinked.  "How did you—"  "I know you far better than you realize.  Which is why I also know that you won't be happy with me when I tell you that, unfortunately, the answer to your question is 'no.' "

Page 29   "Please," she said, ready to drop to her knees and beg.  "I won't tell anyone and—"  "You'd have to," Mr. Forkle interrupted.  "The information would only be useful if it were part of your official records.  And that cannot happen."  "But I'm unmatchable!" she repeated, much louder this time.  And she couldn't help noticing that he didn't flinch.  That's when she realized… "You knew."  

Page 31   "The upbringing you forced on me," she spat back at him.  "Yes, that is one of the few things we didn't give you a choice in.  And yet, I suspect you wouldn't trade the time you spent with your human parents and sister."  "I wouldn't," she conceded.  "But that doesn't mean I don't deserve to know who my biological family is—especially since not knowing them ruins everything."  "Not everything," he corrected.  "And not ruins.  It simply complicates certain things."

Page 40   The only clues Mr. Forkle had given her over the years were that her genetic parents had no connection to each other, and hadn't been told who the other was—which meant she'd have to look for them individually, instead of searching for a couple.  He'd also sworn that he wasn't her genetic father.

Page 40   Of course, that was assuming he'd actually told her the truth about any of that, which was a fifty-fifty bet.

Page 78   A really nerdy-looking guy.  Between the tweed blazer and the bow tie and the ruddy cheeks and the wild hair, he looked like some sort of professor stereotype.  All he was missing was a pair of thick spectacles and… "He's human," Sophie realized, focusing on the man's deep brown eyes.  She'd gotten so used to being surrounded by blue-eyed elves that it was almost jarring to see someone with the same eye color as her—and someone with deep smile lines and strands of gray peppered through his messy red hair.

Page 80   And the man that Keefe had drawn was a pretty generic-looking British guy—from his bright ginger hair down to the elbow patches on his blazer.

Page 95   "If you're still on the 'lock me up' plan, that's never gonna happen," Keefe warned.  Ro sauntered closer and pinched both of his cheeks.  "You're so cute when you think you're being all tough and rebellious.  But let's get real for a second, shall we?  You get away with the things I let you get away with, because I don't care enough to fight you on them."

Page 108   There were no names on the list at all—but Keefe had put "Foster Mommy" on one side and "Foster Daddy" on the other.

Page 111   "It's one of the things I'm always jealous of about you.  You just… handle stuff.  No running away or making a bunch of huge mistakes.  Somehow you keep your head clear and just dig in and deal.  It's pretty amazing."

Page 126   It was bad enough walking through the halls of Foxfire surrounded by all of her bodyguards.  If people were dipping curtsies or bowing, she might as well ask Magnate Leto to set up a permanent spotlight to follow her around.

Page 128   "The Neverseen have had that knowledge for long enough to do something with it, and yet nothing's changed.  So the Councillors feel that the more important lesson is for the Black Swan to be much more open with them in the future, to ensure that our enemies never have more knowledge than our leaders."

Page 142   "It's not a reference to prodigies," Councillor Emery tried to explain.   
" 'Prodigious' means 'extraordinary.' "  "It also means 'abnormal,' "  Councillor Bronte informed them, with the closest thing to a smile that his sharp-featured face was capable of making.

Page 146   "Yes, well, we are not the public."  The diamonds in Emery's crown seemed to shine brighter with the words.  "And we're working hard to remove the veils of secrecy separating ourselves from that order.  Which is why we felt it would be best to draw from a family with an existing connection to the Black Swan, since that would make for a smoother process when we need to rely on the Collective for these projects."

Page 149   "If we go that route, why don't we just call ourselves the Order of the Phoenix?" Sophie couldn't resist suggesting—but of course no one appreciated her reference.  "Never mind."  "Human thing?" Dex guessed.  "A super-famous one," she agreed, kinda wishing she had a few more shared life experiences with her friends.

Page 151   "We realize you struggle with authority," Councillor Terik added, before Sophie could push the issue.  "Particularly our authority.  And I, at least, won't deny that you're justified to feel that way."

Page 153   "And Sophie is the key to winning them over.  She's gained a level of notoriety in our world—and lately, a bit of respect.  It's time we send the message that the Council sees her value and is utilizing her to the fullest extent possible."

Page 156   "It isn't," Councillor Emery agreed.  "But it's also nothing to fear.  We're on the same side."  "Are we?" Tiergan asked, beating Sophie to the question.  "Truly?"  "Yes," all twelve Councillors said in unison.  "Unity is our best chance for survival," Councillor Emery added.

Page 174   Sophie was a few seconds from face-planting into the floor when strong hands hauled her back to her feet.  "Thanks," she mumbled, blinking at her savior.  She knew she was having a strange day when ending up in Bronte's arms wasn't even the weirdest thing that had happened.

Page 176   Clearly all the months since Kenric's death hadn't lessened Oralie's grief over losing the person everyone had suspected she'd secretly been in love with—and who'd obviously been in love with her, too.

Page 178   "The crowns and fanfare are simply a facade to look the part we've found ourselves having to play.  They do not change the fact that what we really are is a group of twelve relatively normal individuals trying our best to be what people need.  And that is why we must stay in power."

Page 179   "And we stand here now, ready to swear to you that from this moment on, you can be assured of three things:  We will listen.  We will learn.  And we will adapt.  All we ask in return is that you be ready and willing to do the same.  If you put your faith in us, we will put that same faith in you.  For the good of everyone."

Page 184   Sophie realized they'd each been paired with the same Councillors who'd helped steady them when the Paragon had stopped moving.  So she wasn't surprised when Bronte and Oralie moved to stand next to her—but she was surprised that she didn't mind the idea of working so closely with Bronte.

Page 187   "And then there was one," Emery noted as Dex, Clarette, and Noland glittered away.  "The girl who changed our minds," Terik added, and Sophie couldn't tell if he meant that as a good thing or a bad thing.

Page 187   "No need to look so stunned," he told her with a rueful smile.  "I never said I was pleased with the idea.  I could simply tell that this was where we were heading.  Why do you think I pushed you the way that I did?  I had to ensure that you were truly someone who could be trusted with the role you were surely meant to play.  And I won't claim that my behavior toward you was always admirable—or fair.  But… you bore it far better than I ever would've expected.  And now, here we are, and I must say… you are certainly worthy."

Page 188   But instead of the vow, she found herself blurting out, "I have no idea what I'm doing."  Bronte took her other hand, guiding her closer to the beam of light.  "I'll let you in on a secret, Sophie.  One that you may or may not find reassuring.  None of us know what we're doing."

Page 193   Oralie shook her head.  "Of course not!  You just look so…"  "So…?" Sophie prompted.  "It's hard to explain.  You've changed since the first day I met you.  You're… not a little girl anymore.  Which is how it's supposed to be.  I just wish…" Oralie bit her lip and looked away.

Page 195   "So while Oralie finishes whatever nonsense she's doing, I'll walk you through the Articles of your Regency.  The more we multitask, the sooner we can escape this pink monstrosity."  Oralie flung one of the powder puffs at his head, showering his face with a cloud of glitter.

Page 200   "But you need to know I'm unmatchable." Oralie froze.  Bronte sighed.  "I'm assuming that has to do with the lack of information about your genetic parents."  Sophie nodded, wondering if Bronte was yet another person who'd been expecting this to happen.  Oralie didn't seem surprised either.  More devastated.

Page 200   "Because no good can come from it."  Bronte kicked aside several pillows as he turned to pace the length of the room.  "Remember, the Black Swan has kept their identities hidden by choice.  I'm sure that means they have good reason for the secrecy—and I think this is an instance when we should trust their judgment.  Uncovering the secret will surely cause a tremendous amount of turmoil for the donors—and it's possible that their turmoil could ripple through our entire world.  Their identity could also renew the scandal surrounding your unconventional past, right when public opinion has finally shifted in your favor."

Page 201   "I'd had time to review all of my match lists—and I was still far too young.  I had no inkling of the sacrifice I was making."  Bronte cleared his throat.  "I realize that you may have certain regrets," he told Oralie, "but can you honestly tell me that given the chance to do it all again, you'd do anything differently?"  Oralie tilted her head to stare at the lanterns twinkling above them.  "No.  But my decision was my choice."

Page 202   "But that would be a very bad idea." Bronte resumed his pacing.  "In my experience, when the Black Swan wants something to stay hidden, they have a way of making that happen—at any cost."

Page 202   "But trust doesn't cover everything," Bronte noted.  "And in this case, what it means is that we believe the Black Swan to generally be working for the good of our world.  That doesn't mean we don't still expect them to bend or break any rules they deem necessary in order to attain their goals.  And they've already told you that they cannot and will not reveal your parentage, yes?"

Page 202   "They know this secret affects their moonlark in many unfortunate ways.  And still they've kept it hidden.  Do you honestly not see that as proof that nothing will stop them from keeping this truth safe?  And if you agree with my assessment—as you should—then are you truly willing to say, 'Hang the consequences,' and embark on such a quest solely for your own personal benefit?"

Page 204   "I'm sorry," Oralie whispered before she stepped back.  "For what?" Sophie asked.  "Many things."  She adjusted a strand of Sophie's hair.  "But mostly for the fact that you've needed an ally so many times—and I haven't been there.  I promise that's changing."

Page 232   "There's no telling what he'll do if he fears exposure.  In fact, I almost wish you'd go to Mr. Forkle for confirmation instead.  He can't inflict pain or threaten you with Exile."  "Yeah, but he's a way better liar," Keefe argued.  "And he won't be nearly as caught off guard, since I'm sure he already assumes Foster's looking into this.  So his reaction would be much harder for me to gauge."

Page 261   "But… the longer I'm around him, the more it doesn't feel like he's the one—especially when you consider the whole 'secret twin' thing.  The Forkle brothers were the only people who could do most of the stuff they did for me, which makes those good deeds seem way less significant and more like… they were just doing their job, you know?"  Sophie shrugged.  "I also wondered if it was Councillor Kenric, since he was always so nice to me and he was a Telepath and he gave me his cache.  But Forkle said he's not—and with Kenric being dead… I don't really see why he'd bother lying."  

Page 266   "But they were also experimenting with your life in ways that were bound to cause problems for you—and that didn't stop them from doing it.  So, I'm just saying… anyone who helped with the project probably has some issues—especially the people who didn't even want anyone knowing they were involved."

Page 310   "What about you?" Amy asked, studying Sophie like she was checking her for injuries.  And somehow, even though Sophie's right hand showed no new scars, Amy's focus lingered there.

Page 314   Sophie snapped back, twisting her arm a different way and wondering if her sister had figured out how to channel strength when she lived with the elves because seriously—how was she so strong? 

Page 333   "Yes, you did.  I still have nightmares about it sometimes."  He stared at his hands, wringing his fingers back and forth.  "It was me with you that day, in case you were wondering.  Not my twin brother.  It's why I was chosen to be the one to reset your abilities the second time—everyone felt I had 'experience' with the situation—though truthfully, both times I've never felt so out of my depth or terrified in all of my life."

Page 339   "Not in this case."  Mr. Forkle turned to the room's largest window, parting the curtains and scanning the yard.  "All I have is a handful of dormant Inflictor genes, which I wasn't ever supposed to be able to use.  They were simply part of a test."  "A test," Sophie repeated, not sure why the word made her stomach feel so squirmy until she realized, "You're talking about Project Moonlark."

Page 339   "My brother and I split it up—he tested your Polyglot genes and I tested your inflicting."

Page 340  He lifted the hem of his tunic to reveal a palm-size round blotch on his hip where the skin was so pale, it almost looked translucent.  And when the light hit the patch, his skin shimmered with tiny flashes in every color of the spectrum.  Amy gasped.  "Did that hurt?"  "Of course," Mr. Forkle told her, lowering his shirt back into place.  "Definitely one of the top ten most painful things I've ever experienced.  But that was a price I was willing to pay in order to guarantee that everything we were planning for your sister would be both safe and effective."

Page 345   "But I swear the rest comes from the fact that I'm basically defective."  "No, you're not!" Mr. Forkle snapped, stalking closer with such intensity that Sophie shrank back, leaning on her sister.

Page 345   "And I won't deny that we've run into unexpected challenges.  But none of that makes you defective.  You… are my greatest success."

Page 345   "And I hope you know that as far as all of us involved with your creation are concerned, you exceed our expectations every single day."  The words were some of the most wonderful things that anyone had ever said to Sophie.

Page 346   "But that's the full extent of his involvement in Project Moonlark—and he has no idea he was even a source of inspiration.  I gathered the sample of his DNA without his permission and conducted all of my research without his knowledge."

Page 348   "Is that what this is, then?" he asked, his voice ominously low.  " 'Tell me who my biological parents are or I won't let you reset my inflicting'?"  Sophie hadn't realized it was until he spelled it out that way.  "Yes," she said quietly.  "That is… unfortunate," he gritted out as he paced back the other way.

Page 354   "Because you're the moonlark?" Keefe asked.  She nodded.  "The entire reason I exist is so I can use my abilities to stop the Neverseen."

Page 420   "I am not your genetic father, Miss Foster.  By any means.  And if you need to verify that I'm telling the truth, ask Councillor Oralie."  Oralie stumbled away from both of them, shaking her head hard enough to tangle some of her ringlets.  "I don't want to be involved in this."  "Neither do I," Bronte noted.  "And yet, here I am."  Oralie's rosy cheeks turned very, very pale.  "If anyone found out…"

Page 423   "Good," Bronte told her, frowning when he glanced at Oralie, who still stood several steps away, her gaze fixed on the horizon.  "Then go inside and get ready.  To play the part, you first need to look the part—isn't that right, Oralie?"  Oralie didn't respond.

Page 434   "I… may not be your biological father, nor have I ever wanted to involve myself in that kind of experiment.  But… if you were my daughter, I'd be very proud."

Page 473   "We did," Sophie said, proud of how steadily she stood.  "I invited him for a different reason."  Her eyes locked with Mr. Forkle's as she added, "I'm ready to let you reset my abilities."

Page 478   "But… the fact that you were always frustrated by how few and far between our notes were should prove how methodical we try to be—how thoroughly we explore all of the options before we choose to involve you."

Page 479   "But the Black Swan has had to operate in the shadows for most of our existence, and our goal has always been to involve as few as possible to avoid detection—plus we're well aware of the danger involved with our assignments and prefer to keep the risks to ourselves."

Page 480   He turned to Sophie, and she was a little surprised by the level of pride radiating from his expression—like a dad whose kid had just hit a game-winning home run.

Page 513   "Given what happened with the Council and the meeting with King Enki, I'm realizing it's time for all of us to aim for a higher level of transparency."  "Said the guy who still won't tell me who my biological parents are," Sophie felt the need to point out.  "Ohhhhhh, she has you there!" Livvy added.  "She does indeed," Mr. Forkle said through a very long sigh.

Page 540   Dex snorted.  "You want Sophie, Fitz, and Keefe to do trust exercises together."  "I think it would be very enlightening," Mr. Forkle agreed.  "Oh, it'll definitely be that," Dex said with a particularly huge grin.  "Can I, uh, be there when you do?" he asked Sophie.

Page 542   …someone was clearing their throat behind them and they turned to find Mr. Forkle standing on the path, watching them.  And he seemed… Nervous.  It almost looked like he wanted to raise a crystal and leap away before any of them could ask why he was there.

Page 545   "Ethan Benedict Wright II, and”—her stomach turned—“ his ten-year-old daughter, Eleanor Olivia Wright, were struck by a bus outside of the British library and killed instantly."

Page 554   "Well… that's… convenient," Fitz said slowly.  "So the accident just happened to take place in one of the rare gaps in the Black Swan's surveillance?  Nobody else thinks that's odd?"  "Oh, I think it's very odd," Mr. Forkle told him.

Page 591   Mr. Forkle grinned.  "Again, such astounding loyalty.  And yet, despite that pressure, I chose to leave the three of you alone to fend for yourselves—and it was also not because I enjoy allowing you to risk your lives more than anyone else standing before you.  Nor did I expect an uneventful evening.  And still, I left you alone because I fear that as these challenges continue to escalate, our enemies are going to target each of you individually.  And the better prepared you are for those moments, the more likely you'll be to survive them."

Page 611   Empaths have a physical reaction when we lie. You have to be reading our pulse to feel it, but it's always there.  Our hearts skip three beats.  One from guilt.  One from fear.  And one like a held breath, waiting to see if someone will catch us.

Page 636   "Also a risk I'm willing to take," Alvar said quietly.  "Because your mom planned everything so carefully—but I knew the moment I met you, you'll never be who she wants you to be.  Remember that, okay?  Consider it my parting gift, since I always liked you more than I liked my actual little brother."

Page 636   "No matter what happens next, you can still be you," Alvar promised Keefe.  "But you're probably going to have to fight a lot harder."

Page 655   "My enhancing's extra strong with Empaths," she warned, "so I don't know if that'll be too distracting." Oralie frowned.  "Only with Empaths?"  "Also with Telepaths," Sophie corrected.  "Any idea why?"  "Not necessarily…" Which wasn't really an answer, but Sophie decided not to point that out either.

Page 662   "Well… it at least explains why your enhancing is so much stronger on Empaths."  "True," Sophie agreed.  "Though my enhancing's also stronger on Telepaths—but that might be because of what Lord Cassius said.  He said the way I use my telepathy reminds him of an Empath," she explained when she saw Oralie's confusion.  "I pick up on emotions with my thoughts, I guess, without having to be in the emotional center."

Page 663   "She said she thinks the Black Swan wouldn't have given me the same abilities as my biological parents because that would make it too easy for people to figure out who they were.  And if she's right… their genetics would probably still affect me in certain ways, you know?  And so many things about me are similar to Empaths, so… maybe that's what one of my parents is."

Page 664   "It kinda makes sense, doesn't it?  Especially if it's an Empath?"  "No," Oralie told her—so firmly and immediately that Sophie should've been disappointed.  But.  But.  She'd… also felt a tiny shift in Oralie's pulse.  Three skipped beats.

Page 664   "So…," Sophie said slowly, wanting to make sure she hadn't imagined the tell, "you don't think one of my biological parents could be an Empath?"  "I honestly haven't given it a lot of thought," Oralie told her, pulling her wrist free.  But before she did, Sophie felt it again.  Three skipped beats.

Page 664   But… Sophie couldn't stop her brain from reminding her that Oralie was an Empath.  A blond Empath.  Who'd always supported the Black Swan.

Page 665   So before she could think it through or change her mind, Sophie lunged forward, grabbing Oralie's wrist as she blurted out, "You're my mother… aren't you?"  And when Oralie said, "No!" there were three more skipped heartbeats.

Page 666   But it turned out that Sophie didn't need it.  Because this time Oralie told her, "Yes."  And there were no missed heartbeats.

Page 667   Her biological mom was an Empath.  Her biological mom was Oralie.  COUNCILLOR Oralie.

Page 670   "Just like you couldn't stand up for Prentice!" Sophie added—and somehow Oralie managed to turn even paler.  A ghost of her pretty pink self.  "I didn't know Prentice was hiding you," she whispered.  "When I found out… I've never been so ill."

Page 670   "Yes, I was told that I could help them create something—"  "Something," Sophie interrupted.  "A wake-up call," Oralie clarified.  "A force for change and good, who would make our world pay attention in a way that no one else ever could.  Make people see things for what they are, not what we thought they were."

Page 670   "No," Oralie said, turning toward one of the windows and staring out at the stars.  "I thought it sounded like the only way I'd ever be able to have a child."

Page 688   "I'm done searching for my biological parents.  And I'm not going to tell anyone what I know, even though it's already messing up my life.  So you can skip the lecture or the pep talk or whatever you were planning.  You're already getting what you want.  I'll be the good little moonlark."

Page 775   And yet, the Black Swan and the Council apparently followed the Tribunal with a rousing speech of their own, standing united before the crowd and claiming the events in Loamnore as a victory—which might have made Sophie throw her bottle of Youth across the Healing Center when Grady first told her.

Page 785   Oralie sighed, her gaze turning distant as she reached out her hand, catching one of the falling blossoms.  "I want so many things, Sophie.  That's always been my problem."

Page 787   "No—this is about trust.  If I show you what's in this cache, I'll be violating some of the most fundamental vows I've made as a Councillor.  And you're the only person I'm willing to take that risk for." Sophie snorted.  "Right, because my very existence violates a ton more vows you made."  Oralie sighed, but admitted, "That too."

Next, I give my thoughts about what some of this might mean.  This part of the post also contains spoilers.

On page 8, Sophie hopes to see "clues to who Mr. Forkle truly was" in his office.  This tells me that even Sophie realizes that Leto is not Forkle's true identity; or rather, we are being told that Leto is not Forkle's true identity.

On page 343, Forkle mentions how he gave Sophie the location of the unmapped stars.  The Councillors are the only elves who know this information, which means that Forkle most likely was a Councillor, almost certainly Kenric.

On page 40, we are reminded that Mr. Forkle said that Sophie's parents didn't know each other and weren't a couple.  But then Sophie reflects that Mr. Forkle might not have been truthful about that.  On page 232, Keefe says that Forkle is a good liar.  Exactly.  Readers who don't see what's really going on have let themselves be misled by Forkle's statements, which of course is what the author intended to have happen.

This human character described on page 78, Ethan Benedict Wright II, fascinates me.  Just that we know his full name is a red flag, because of the possibility of an anagram.  The way Ethan is described is even more important.  Ethan has "wild hair" that is "red" and he has "deep smile lines."  In book 1 in the series, Kenric is described as having "wild red hair" and he loves to grin.  It sounds like Ethan could be Kenric working as a double agent of sorts.

Yes, we are told that Ethan is dead, but then Kenric is dead as well, which I don't buy for a moment.  I tried to find an anagram in Ethan's name.  I'm not sure if I succeeded, but I did come up with a mighty interesting group of words that uses every letter in Ethan's name, including the Roman numerals at the end. 

Ethan Benedict Wright II can be rearranged to form these words exactly with no letters left over: "grin teach tweed inhibit."  Remember that Kenric Elgar Fathdon's name can be rearranged to form these words exactly with no letters left over:  "Forkle grin and teach."

If the anagram that I found for Ethan Benedict Wright II was intentional, then "grin" and "teach" point to Kenric.  "Tweed" points to Ethan, since he was described as wearing a "tweed blazer."  "Inhibit" could mean that he is trying to inhibit Lady Gisela and the Neverseen.

On a later date after I had this post set to publish, I worked on Eleanor Olivia Wright's name some more.  I had previously checked it and had no luck.  With the help of an anagram solver, I began to find some interesting words and names.  I found Tiergan (or granite) and Oralie.  I found wraith, grin, heart, love, tower, olive, and rival.  I was most interested in my discovery that Oralie's name could be pulled out of Eleanor Olivia Wright's name, since Eleanor is female like Oralie.  

It took me one hour to finally come up with a complete phrase from Eleanor Olivia Wright with all letters used exactly once and none left over.  The phrase is "love Oralie with a grin."  I think this is a real anagram and not just a coincidence, so probably the anagram I found for Ethan is real as well.

On page 542, Mr. Forkle arrives to tell Sophie Ethan's name.  He is very nervous, which isn't like him.  He gives an excuse, but it seems off to me.  Is he nervous because he/Kenric is Ethan?

On page 108, I realized that Sophie's human family, Foster, means her human parents are her "foster parents."

On page 193, the author begins dropping fairly obvious hints that Oralie is Sophie's biological mother, with the reveal occurring on page 667.  I am certain that book 9 drops obvious hints about Sophie's biological father, and that reveal will likely occur in book 10.

On page 261, Sophie once again wonders if Kenric could be her father.  She then says, "But Forkle said he's not—and with Kenric being dead… I don't really see why he'd bother lying."  But what if Kenric isn't dead?  What if he's Forkle?  He'd lie about it.

On page 306, Mr. Forkle is amazed about Amy, how strong she is emotionally, and how close she is to Sophie.  I wonder if Amy has some slight elf powers from gestating in a human who had previously carried an elf.  Amy also looks at Sophie's right hand when asking how she is, like Amy knows that something else has happened.  On page 314, Sophie is shocked at Amy's physical strength.

On page 423, Bronte frowns at Oralie as she stares into the distance, apparently freaked out over Sophie thinking that Bronte is her father.  I wonder if Bronte begins to suspect the truth about Oralie's involvement in Project Moonlark at that moment.

On page 655, Sophie points out that her enhancing is particularly strong with Empaths and Telepaths.  The obvious conclusion is that one parent is an Empath and the other a Telepath.  The book is just pages away from revealing that Oralie, an Empath, is Sophie's mother.  This means that her father is almost certainly a Telepath, which points to Kenric.