* - The Atlas Six
THE ATLAS SIX OLIVIE BLAKE *
The Atlas Six by Olivie Blake is the runaway TikTok must-read fantasy novel of the year. If you loved Ninth House and A Deadly Education, you’ll love this. Originally a self-published sensation, this edition has been fully edited and revised.
Secrets. Betrayal. Seduction.
Welcome to the Alexandrian Society.
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.
MY REVIEW *
Where to start with The Atlas Six? First a little history – having started off life as a self-published novel, it has become a ‘TikTok fantasy phenomenon’, before being picked up by Tor Books and Pan Macmillan and published this March.
I think I’ll start by giving you a little insight into the first plot point which really summed up the entirety of my reading experience. Don’t worry - there’s nothing too spoiler-y here. We start by meeting the six most powerful magicians who have been chosen to become caretakers for the Lost Library of Alexandria. We are told it’s a competition, with only 5 places being offered at the end of the year. The first task is to create some magical wards to defend the library from invaders. The candidates spend ages having a long-winded debate and measuring contest about how they don’t want to work together, and then that night, people break in and they have to work together to defeat the intruders. Now this in itself is quite interesting, and I finished that chapter wondering what wards they were going to put up, whether they’d see what previous teams had done, what secrets they’d discover about the library or if other attempts would be made to break in. I was also left excited in thinking that if this was the ‘first task’, what other trials would they be asked to do, what else would they be learning? Then, all of a sudden, we time-jump to a few weeks later and there are a few mentions to all those wards they’d spent ages creating but we are then left in limbo and it isn’t really mentioned again.
Herein lies one of my (many) issues with this book, whenever something interesting is on the verge of happening, we suddenly get a flash-forward to a few weeks later when all the meat of the topic has already been sorted out. There is no competition, no tasks to complete and no learning going on that’s expanded to the reader. All the candidates seem to do all day is read, or occasionally try out some experiments but without any reason or stakes this becomes confusing and dull. Don’t get me wrong, I love to read and will do so any chance I get, but I am aware that it is very much not a spectator sport. At the end of the book, it becomes very much about what the characters would sacrifice to be a part of the Society, but to me there’s very little draw, and all the candidates saying they’d do anything to read a couple of books all day felt unrealistic, even for me!
The characters should have been interesting; there’s an empath, a telepath, a naturalist and two physical magic creators, plus someone whose magic is frustratingly vague even until the end. However, they are written in such a flat and cliched manner you lost all sympathy for them. Callum and Tristan are written so similarly I had issues remembering who was who throughout the book. Rhodes and Nico are the epitome of the classic school playground crush – pretending to hate each other but actually caring deeply. Most of their dialogue had me rolling my eyes uncontrollably. Reina is the only interesting character but seems to be completely side-lined and Parisa seems to just be an excuse to write in a few spicy scenes – she has some kind of hidden agenda but we are never let in to what this is.
The whole book suffers from a ‘tell you, not show you’ philosophy which makes for a very dull read. There are entire chapters dedicated to repetitive conversations that go round and round to nowhere. When the end twist is revealed it is just a ‘here’s what you missed’ chapter just catching you up on all of the information that you wouldn’t have been able to guess or is even hinted at throughout the rest of the book. Past the first third it just became a major slog, devoid of action and full of boring dialogue trying to sound more intelligent that it was. The setting of the library of Alexandria should have been really interesting, but it was so poorly sketched I struggled the picture it accurately at all.
Overall, The Atlas Six still feels very much like a self-published novel and should have been subjected to a lot more editing and re-drafting before being published. I can’t blame Tor for picking up a title that had a large social media following but I personally can’t see the hype and certainly will not be picking up the next instalment. Thank you to NetGalley & Pan Macmillan – Tor for the chance to read the ARC in exchange for a (very) honest review.
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