The Alexandrian Society is a secret society of magical academicians, the best in the world. Their members are caretakers of lost knowledge from the greatest civilizations of antiquity. And those who earn a place among their number will secure a life of wealth, power, and prestige beyond their wildest dreams. Each decade, the world’s six most uniquely talented magicians are selected for initiation – and here are the chosen few…
– Libby Rhodes and Nicolás Ferrer de Varona: inseparable enemies, cosmologists who can control matter with their minds.
– Reina Mori: a naturalist who can speak the language of life itself.
– Parisa Kamali: a mind reader whose powers of seduction are unmatched.
– Tristan Caine: the son of a crime kingpin who can see the secrets of the universe.
– Callum Nova: an insanely rich pretty boy who could bring about the end of the world. He need only ask.
When the candidates are recruited by the mysterious Atlas Blakely, they are told they must spend one year together to qualify for initiation. During this time, they will be permitted access to the Society’s archives and judged on their contributions to arcane areas of knowledge. Five, they are told, will be initiated. One will be eliminated. If they can prove themselves to be the best, they will survive. Most of them.
The Atlas Six is a character driven story that features six complex and flawed magical humans. Not every character is lovable, but every one was fascinating to be in their heads as they’re unique in voice from one another. The intellectual prose and imaginative potential of this world was wonderful to sink into, however a lot of the major plot points come almost at the end. Worth the hype, but I hope the vagueness of the world and the Society will be cleared up in book 2.
The Atlas Six was so hyped I was honestly very cautious coming into this. Yet, it somehow blew me away with its prose, imagination and beautiful characterization.
I’m going to start with characterization. This is by no means a plot driven book. I mean, sure, we learn loads of stuff about medeians, the term for magical people, and the different types of magic categories you can be placed in, but it’s not very developed in some ways. I’ll get back to this later. But this book is essentially about the six selected for potential initiation into the elusive Society. Yes, with a capital S and just as mystifying as it sounds.
Regardless of how little actually “happens” in this book, technically, we follow the initiates through their year of training on various subject matters that hone their magical abilities and broadens their scope of view and thinking. Broken into POVs across all the characters, we get to know a bit of how each one sees the world, although this isn’t fairly divided. Certain characters get more screen time while others are perhaps divested too much information about them than wanted. Nonetheless, I was fascinated by each and every one of them.
Libby and Nico. Ah, my binary stars that work better together than alone – although they’re absolutely brilliant on their own too. Out of the six, I probably align my character most closely with Libby’s (lawful good, y’all), but I did enjoy Nico’s witty sarcasm and ability to keep Libby on her toes. If there’s any two characters that scream chemistry, it’s these two. I don’t care if they’re not endgame, they’ll be endgame in my heart. They’re two halves of a whole and I truly think bring out the best in each other, wrapped in a hard shell of crazy rivalry and “I-hate-you”s.
I wasn’t sure what to make of Tristan and Reina. Reina gets very little screen time relative to the others but she sees the world logically and makes her decision not by what’s perhaps morally right or wrong. She’s an interesting person with an ability that may be deeper than anyone realizes. I can’t wait to learn more about her. Tristan, on the other hand, is way more complex, even more so than my binary star duo. He’s distrustful from what his past made him to be, but he also was willing to show vulnerabilities to the others, and not always because he was forced to. I like him and I feel he balances the group in the middle of the moral compass range.
And with every group, you have those who are definitely more “villainous”. Or just morally gray depending on who you ask. These guys are usually hit or miss for me. It really depends on how gray they really are. However, Parisa and Callum were fascinating characters to be inside their heads. Both of the non-physical magic, you’d think the telepath and empath would be, well, better humans because they know people so intimately. Or perhaps, it’s the exact reason why they’re so jaded about humanity. Either way, their abilities and their motivations for wanting to be in the Society was interesting to follow. I don’t necessarily agree or would do what they would, but I like their complexity and flaws. Not all characters are meant for rooting.
Beyond the characters, which I’m sure drew most readers, the world Olivie Blake imagined was fun. I love magical books set in today’s world (think Cassandra Clare) because I can easily imagine being a part of such a world. The magical schools and how they integrate with society? I think that’s always a great premise. This was a good starting place, but most things in this world are still kind of vague. Since we spend most of the book with the recruited six in isolation while training, not much is mentioned about how everything works in general society (without the capital S). But, not much is known about the actual Society either, which I suppose is the point as it’s exclusive and a privilege to be brought into its inner sanctum. One can only hope the sequel will give more info and hopefully the creativity won’t disappoint.
Lastly, I wanted to highlight the prose. It was super descriptive with plenty of scientific theories thrown in with magical elements. At times, it was downright confusing. Other times, I definitely knew where things were fudged a little to fit magical impossibilities. But either way, this is an intellectual kind of book, or it’s trying to be at least. From the way the words flow to the actual subject matter being discussed, whether time or space or thought, it makes you think, and Blake crafted real science to merge with her imaginative magical abilities her curated six protagonists would discover. I liked that, though this is not really what I’d consider light reading when I’m not feeling well. (Don’t read while sick.)
The one star docked off is perhaps a blend of the vague world building (it has a lot of potential so it isn’t the worst thing) and the slowness at times if you’re not particularly feeling a certain character but we’re stuck with their POV. I can see why it was surrounded in hype. Definitely worth the read, and the ending wasn’t what I expected it to be. I’m looking forward to the sequel (even if my ship doesn’t sail).