Book Reviews, Fantasy

Review: The Atlas Six by Olivie Blake

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 civilisations. 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. Paris 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 recruitments 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.

As is so often the case,  I’m late to the party with this review. Initially, the hype surrounding The Atlas Six (and the phrase “TikTok sensation”) kind of put me off – I’ve been burned by the hype before. But, on coming across it again in Waterstones, I was intrigued by the premise of the book, and after the first few pages I was completely hooked! If I’ve learned anything from this experience, it’s to keep an open mind. In any case, my lateness in discovering The Atlas Six is a blessing in a way, as now I only have to wait one week to read the sequel , The Atlas Paradox.

The story focuses on a secret society that is responsible for protecting the archives of the Library of Alexandria, believed by many to have been destroyed. Every ten years, the Society chooses a new class of talented magicians (medeians) as potential initiates. For a year the six candidates live at the Society’s headquarters, and immerse themselves in the archives and their contents. At the end of that year, only five of the six are inducted into the Society. It raises an interesting question: what would you do for infinite knowledge and power? Or, more importantly, what wouldn’t you do?

The characters are at the heart of The Atlas Six. The story is told from the POV of the six initiates:

  • Libby & Nico: inseparable rivals and physicists who are able to control matter with their minds.
  • Reina: a naturalist who doubles up as a battery – nature draws energy from her. However, she prefers not to use her powers. She joined the Alexandrian Society for one reason only: the books.
  • Tristan: with the ability to see through illusions, Tristan sees things as they truly are, and not as they want to be seen. He can barely understand his own power, what else might he be capable of?
  • Parisa: a telepath who uses her power and exceptional beauty to unlock the mind’s deepest, darkest secrets.
  • Callum: an empath with a surprising lack of empathy for others. Callum is able not only to read people’s emotions but to manipulate them as well.

What I really like about the characterisation in this novel is how the flaws of the characters are placed centre-stage. None of the characters are either good or bad, which (IMO) makes them more authentic and relatable. That’s not to say that you don’t root for some characters more than others – I absolutely hated Callum, and I reckon I’m not the only one. And who can forget the beautiful illustrations? They really brought the characters to life!

Now, let’s talk a bit about pacing. It took me a lot longer to finish this book than I expected it to. It could be to do with the fact that I’m a slow reader, but I also felt that the pace varied considerably from one chapter to the next. In a way, I think this is unavoidable – the narrator changes from chapter to chapter, and the pace shifts to reflect that. Of course, I may be wrong – I’m not a writer. But I am a reader, and from that perspective I can say that the variation in pace did not diminish my enjoyment of this book one bit. I was gripped from start to finish. The sense of mystery surrounding the initiates and the Society, and the HUGE twist at the end made for a very exciting plot.

I wasn’t surprised when I read in the acknowledgements that many different versions of this book existed before the final one. Every word is intentional and every sentence testifies to the passion, effort and time that Blake undoubtedly put into writing The Atlas Six. It will certainly be a hard act to follow, but I am eagerly awaiting the release of the sequel, The Atlas Paradox, which comes out very very soon!! My hope is that there will be more world building in this next book – I want to know more about the world – about the divisions between medeians, witches and mortals; about the rules that underpin magic; and, most of all, about the mysterious Alexandrian Society. I felt that the first book only touched the surface of the characters – especially Reina, who we still don’t know much about. I hope the sequel explores more of her character and backstory. I also really enjoyed watching the characters form relationships with one another, and I’m excited to see how these relationships will develop in The Atlas Paradox.

For those who have read The Atlas Six, I would like to pose two questions to you:

  1. Which character do you identify most with?
  2. If you could choose, which power would you have?

My answers are (1) Libby and (2) Tristan’s ability to see through illusions.

Happy reading everyone! 😊

Book Info

Published: 1st March 2022 by Tor
Genre: fantasy
Pages: 375
Series: The Atlas, book one
Narration style: third person past tense, multiple points of view
Format read: hardback
Content Warnings: alcohol, blood, death, degenerative disease, guns, manipulation, murder, sex scenes (not explicit), suicide

2 thoughts on “Review: The Atlas Six by Olivie Blake”

  1. I finally wrote up my review for this after waiting for, like, a month! Great review, yours! I also found Blake’s writing to be very intention–I loved it.

    And fun questions to put at the end. I think I identify the most with Libby, perhaps more so when I was younger rather than currently; otherwise, maybe Tristan? For the second question, I’d also say Tristan. Callum’s power scares me.

    I agree that I would have liked to know more about Reina. She had the least amount of page time. Come to think of it, Callum didn’t have a ton of page time either.


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