The Atlas Six by Olivie Blake
Genre: Adult, Fantasy, Dark Academia
Publishing Info: Audiobook, March 2022, Tor, narrated by Steve West, Siho Ellsmore, Munirih Grace, James Patrick Cronin, David Monteith, Damian Lynch, Caitlin Kelly, Andy Ingalls
Star Rating: 4/5
Back Cover Summary:
When the world’s best magicians are offered an extraordinary opportunity, saying yes is easy. Each could join the secretive Alexandrian Society, whose custodians guard lost knowledge from ancient civilizations. Their members enjoy a lifetime of power and prestige. Yet each decade, only six practitioners are invited – to fill five places.
Contenders Libby Rhodes and Nico de Varona are inseparable enemies, cosmologists who can control matter with their minds. Parisa Kamali is a telepath, who sees the mind’s deepest secrets. Reina Mori is a naturalist who can perceive and understand the flow of life itself. And Callum Nova is an empath, who can manipulate the desires of others. Finally there’s Tristan Caine, whose powers mystify even himself.
Following recruitment by the mysterious Atlas Blakely, they travel to the Society’s London headquarters. Here, each must study and innovate within esoteric subject areas. And if they can prove themselves, over the course of a year, they’ll survive. Most of them.
The Atlas Six is one of 2022’s most talked about releases. Originally self-published, the novel was picked up by Tor Books and rereleased. With the intense amount of hype around this book, I felt a little wary going in as I didn’t want to be left disappointed. Dark academia is also not my usual genre of choice, but I was intrigued by the premise and decided to take a chance on something outside my comfort zone.
The opening intrigued me and the smooth writing style drew me in. It did, however, take a while to introduce all six point of view characters, and the formula of Atlas approaching each of them to make offers to join the Alexandrian Society felt a little repetitive after the first couple.
Having multiple POVs worked really well in this novel. It was fascinating seeing everything from different perspectives and getting to see how all the characters viewed each other, building tension very nicely. They are basically all morally grey in some way and each have an interesting backstory. There was a different narrator for each POV which was really effective, making it easier to distinguish the characters and feel immersed in each viewpoint.
Each character has a different magical ability, three with more ‘physical’ specialities, and three with other specialities. Physical magics that can be used when fighting are quite prevalent in fantasy, so I actually found it most interesting seeing the perspectives of the three characters with other kinds of magic. Parisa’s chapters were particularly engaging. As a telepath, she provided a unique perspective on the other characters. I also felt the narrator for Parisa really captured her personality in the narration.
Some parts of the novel felt quite slow, and by the end it felt like not much had actually happened. The majority of the book takes place within the same house, and I found the lessons boring at times, and some of the complex concepts difficult to get my head around. For a novel that seemed to be more character than plot driven, there was a surprising lack of character development. However, there is potential for interesting character arcs in the sequel.
The novel started to build nicely towards the end, and I was hooked. However, I feel a bit conflicted about the ending, which fell a little flat after a great build-up. At the very end, the author switches to a new POV to explain everything – a technique which I am not generally a fan of. I would have preferred seeing the main characters learn the truth themselves, rather than the reader being told everything in an epilogue-style final chapter. It seemed to serve more as a hook for the sequel, which did make me intrigued to read the next book, but at the same time made for a slightly dissatisfying ending for the first.
Overall, I enjoyed The Atlas Six a lot more than I expected to and will be picking up the sequel.
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