Thursday, July 21, 2022

The Atlas Six by Olivie Blake: review

3/5 stars on Goodreads
The Atlas Six by Olivie Blake

The Atlas Six had a lot of hype as a self-published book before being picked up by a publisher. I read the publisher’s version. I’m not entirely sure I understand the hype. It’s not the kind of book that usually gets it: there are no deep emotions, no romances, no high stakes and no action.

I found this a difficult book to like or dislike. It wasn’t bad as such. It’s well-written and has an interesting premise: six magically gifted people who are given a chance to become even more together. The problem is that nothing actually comes of it. Nothing happens.

The book consists solely of personal musings and endless conversations between the characters, each of whom have their POV chapters. Most of it is philosophical and scientific, or attempting to be so. While I found some of it interesting, it wasn’t enough to carry the book. There is no plot and no sense of immediacy. All the story-advancing elements are told second-hand, and the reader is seldom invited in.

This could’ve maybe worked, if the characters had been interesting and/or likeable, but they were all selfish and self-serving (Nico’s attempts to help Gideon the only exception, though we don’t really know why he’s doing it.) Reading endless chapter after another of unlikeable people interacting for their own gain was not entertaining. Having them contemplate killing one of them didn’t make them more interesting.

It didn’t help that they were like copies of the characters from The Magicians by Lev Grossman, or the TV version of it. I kept imagining Libby as Alice, Tristan and Nico as Quentin (one was filled with Quentin’s self-hatred, the other his quest of impossible), Parissa as Margo, Callum as Eliot and Reina as Julia. There even turned out to be a version of Penny among the characters.

For a book about magic, we learn very little about it. The reader is only given glimpses of magic being wielded by the POV character, so we never learn what it feels like. Most of the time we only observe it through other characters. The magic takes some kind of toll on the user, but basically there’s nothing the characters, especially Libby and Nico, can’t do. In the end, magic wasn’t all that important, only the end results.

Then came the out of the blue twist at the end, which the book should’ve worked better at foreshadowing to make it anything other than a blatant f-you on reader’s face. It does promise a more plot oriented second book, but it basically rendered the entire book until that moment pointless, especially the bits about time-travelling.

With the way the book ended, the follow-up should be more interesting, with proper stakes. But since I didn’t care about the characters, I’m not compelled to read it.

I received a free copy from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

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