ARC Review: The Keeper’s Six by Kate Elliott

Book: The Keeper’s Six

Author: Kate Elliott

Pages: 208

Source: NetGalley

Publisher: Tordotcom

Genre: Fantasy, Sci-fi, Dragons, Magic, Parallel Worlds

Publication Date: January 17, 2023

Goodreads Summary:

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.

My Review:

I received an advanced reader’s copy of The Keeper’s Six by Kate Elliott from Tordotcom via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.  Thank you, Tor!

In The Keeper’s Six, Earth isn’t the only Realm.  There are many Realms, and they are all magically connected by a dangerous between area known as the Beyond.  A group of six magic users can form what’s known as a Hex to traverse the Beyond between Realms and facilitate trade between them.  Each Realm also has facilities known as Keeps.  These are locations that are partly in a Realm and partly in the Beyond, and they provide a place to cross between the two.  Each Keep is powered and run by a magic user known as a Keeper.

Esther’s son, Daniel, is the Keeper of her Hex’s home Keep in Hawaii.  He is married and has children with Kai, a dragon trapped in human form.  One night, Esther receives a cryptic phone call from Daniel.  When she travels to his Keep, she discovers Kai and the children in an enchanted sleep and Daniel has been kidnapped.  A year ago Esther’s Hex had been suspended from travel through the Beyond, but she calls on them anyway.  She needs help finding Daniel and bringing him home.  If there’s one thing Daniel’s kidnappers didn’t plan for, it’s how much Esther can accomplish when she’s angry.

One of my favorite things about this story was the magic system.  Not everyone can use magic, but those that can usually have a particular talent.  For example, Esther is a Lantern.  She can cast light and use it as a defensive shield when necessary.  Each member of a Hex has a special magical talent, and using them all together is what makes traversing the Beyond possible. 

Another part of the magic system I found intriguing was the idea that a certain number of things is important.  The number six seemed to be particularly important.  Hex means six, and each Hex has six members.  Six Keeps in a hexagonal configuration creates a stable environment within the Beyond where people can live and trade.  It was a very interesting idea.

I also liked the take on parallel universes being connected magically.  Unlike in a sci-fi world where universes use technology to travel, everything in the Realms and the Beyond is magical.  Specifically, it seems to be controlled with dragon magic – which is important to the story.  Dragons control the Concilium which is a kind of governing body that dictates trade laws in the Realms.  The Concilium also assigns rankings to Realms depending on how aware the citizenry is of magic.  Earth is a fourth rank Realm because the populace at large doesn’t know about magic, Realms, or the Beyond.

While I really enjoyed the setting, the world, and the characters, I do feel most of the characters could have used more development.  The entire story is told in 3rd person from Esther’s perspective, so we don’t really learn more than surface-level facts about the other members of the Hex, Daniel, or Kai.  Honestly, out of all the characters, I would have loved to learn more about Kai’s past.  Also, there’s a character included in most of the story that just leaves about 75% through it.  The entire side story about him and where he came from just felt out of place if it wasn’t going to be explored more thoroughly.

I feel some of this is what contributed to the slight pacing issues the story had.  Most of the book seemed to drag by with Esther and her Hex moving from one place to another following clues.  Then, everything was resolved so quickly within the last 15% of the book.  That being said, the mystery and how everything ended up being tied together was very well done.  I suspected some of it, but the rest was a complete surprise, which is always nice in a story as long as it’s realistic for the world.

My Rating:

Rating: 4 out of 5.

I gave The Keeper’s Six by Kate Elliott four out of five stars.  Overall, I really enjoyed this novella.  Like the other Kate Elliott novella I’ve read, Servant Mage, I wish there was more! The setting, world, and magic system are so interesting, and I wanted to learn more about the characters in that context.  I feel like the pacing issue was a product of the length of the story.  If it had been fleshed out by even another hundred pages, I feel the ending wouldn’t have seemed so rushed.  If you like inventive fantasy with some mystery thrown in, then definitely read anything Kate Elliott writes!

Have you read any books by Kate Elliott? Do you plan to read this one? Let me know in the comments below!

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