Book Review : The Keeper’s Six

Book Review : The Keeper’s SixThe Keeper's Six by Kate Elliott
on January 17, 2023
Pages: 197
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Kate Elliott's action-packed The Keeper's Six features a world-hopping, bad-ass, spell-slinging mother who sets out to rescue her kidnapped son from a dragon lord with everything to lose.
There are terrors that dwell in the space between worlds.
It’s been a year since Esther set foot in the Beyond, the alien landscape stretching between worlds, crossing boundaries of space and time. She and her magical travelling party, her Hex, haven’t spoken since the Concilium banned them from the Beyond. But when she wakes in the middle of the night to her son’s cry for help, the members of her Hex are the only ones she can trust to help her bring him back from wherever he has been taken.
Esther will have to risk everything to find him. Undercover and hidden from the Concilium, she and her Hex will be tested by dragon lords, a darkness so dense it can suffocate, and the bones of an old crime come back to haunt her.

Since I really enjoyed Kate Elliot’s last novella, Servant Mage, I was pretty excited to read The Keeper’s Six. The entire premise of an older female protagonist off to save her kidnapped son had me interested already, but throw in the fact that this story somehow involved dragons, and I was outright excited.

 

Unfortunately, The Keeper’s Six was just not for me. This novella was really bogged down by the world-building. Though there were some really unique ideas in this world, I felt very overwhelmed by the dumps of information that were revealed as the story progressed. This world-building seemed to take precedence over plot and character development and constantly derailed whatever was going on in the story at the time in favor of a new explanation. I felt like there was always another concept that I needed to try and grasp before the next one inevitably happened and needed to be explained. I quickly gave up trying to understand everything and focused on getting through the rest of the book.

 

“Tears welled, so she turned away and walked to the other room to make sure no one saw her wipe them away. She had a reputation as a stone-cold hard-ass to live up to. And her son to rescue.”

 

When the first dragon showed up, I temporarily regained interest, only for the world-building to get pushed to the forefront yet again—my briefly returned interest flatlined. I also grew continually frustrated with heroine Esther, who was supposed to be a badass mom, but never seemed to stop asking pointless questions left and right or to do anything show stopping. Simply telling me repeatedly that she’s a “badass,” very much does not make her one. Esther definitely was not on par with John Gwynne’s Orka in The Bloodsworn Saga, which is what I was picturing from the description of The Keeper’s Six. Anyways, Esther’s notorious past as someone who killed her husband is dropped in passing, but the circumstances are never fully explained (though admittedly, I did start skimming a lot and may have missed that explanation in the midst of another chunk of world-building explanation). I would have been interested in reading the details of her past and the impact it had on her relationship with her children, but instead, the page space is given to squeezing in her romantic attraction to one of the employees of the dragon holding her son hostage. 

 

That entire element of the story and her characterization really did not endear Esther to me. I thought it was a really odd choice to focus on her attraction when so much was at stake. Telling the readers outright that she hadn’t felt this kind of attraction in such a long time made it feel even more forced to me, even though it was clearly supposed to make her more sympathetic. Though I am a sucker for enemies-to-lovers, this attraction really wasn’t framed that way or given enough time for the development to feel anything but kind of icky. Not sure how to see it as anything but betrayal for her to feel romantic attraction (however reluctant), to someone who was essentially spying on and working for the dragon who took her son hostage and was actively trying to take her son’s husband as well. Not trying to mom shame here, but, like, maybe at least wait until you’ve saved your son and foiled future kidnapping attempts on your son-in-law before catching feelings? 

 

“His voice boomed. ‘You may call me Zosfadal of the Fifth Clan of the Stone Kindred. Shahin will accompany you to make sure you do not cheat me. Begone.'”

 

I really wanted to like The Keeper’s Six, but I couldn’t connect to any of the characters. Even the dragons, who appeared in different forms, and were somewhat outside of the traditional portrayal of dragons, weren’t enough to keep my interest. Perhaps the novella just tried to fit too big of a world into too small of a work. Regardless, I never really wanted to pick the book up and had to force myself to finish it. I think readers who love science fiction and don’t mind works centered on world-building, rather than plot or character development, will enjoy The Keeper’s Six, but sadly, I am just not one of those readers.

 

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Book Review : The Keeper's Six - Blogging with Dragons

Posted July 20, 2023 in Book Reviews, Fantasy, Science Fiction

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