things fall apart the center will not hold
In The Atlas Six the story asks, “Who would you be if given everything, money, power, life, and magic?”
There is an age-old saying first uttered by English historian Lord Acton, but it is now in common parlance that power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely. But, I think in terms of The Atlas Six by Olivie Blake, unlimited power, wealth, and magic doesn’t corrupt per se, but it brings the chosen six more into who they already are. Weak, strong, or cruel the seeds were planted long ago amongst the students. With all of the political maneuvering, drama, and such this novel, while beloved to some did not land with me as a reader.
The story follows six advanced magic students with unusual or substantial magical gifts. They are those that float to the top as the cream of magical society.
“- 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.”
All so young, or beautiful and enchanting, or both. All, frankly, rather boring. A mysterious and powerful man invites these six people to a unique library where they can study and have access to the great collections of the lost Library of Alexandria, with a possibility of future advancement. Here they can further their skills if they work hard enough, except there is a catch. There is always a catch. Five, they are told, will be initiated. One will be eliminated.
“We are the gods of our own universes, aren’t we? Destructive ones.”
In the blurb, it sounded fascinating. I love good dark academia. The darker, the better, as I am a little tramp for any that fall into this category. Plus books. Who knows what one could achieve if given access to these resources. The possibilities of where this plot could take me were endless.
But, nothing. Nothing really happens. Frustratingly so. Don’t get me wrong; there is plenty of turmoil, relationship drama, and inner monologuing about “what does it all mean!?’ The interpersonal relationship woes reminded me of a pseudo Dangerous Liaisons mixed with characters from the tv adaption of Lev Grossman’s The Magicians. Especially Parisa as Margo Hanson and Callum as Elliot. While they are not carbon copies, the characters’ attitudes reminded me of them.
“A flaw of humanity,” said Parisa, shrugging. “The compulsion to be unique, which is at war with the desire to belong to a single identifiable sameness.”
This is a darling of BookTok and gets talked about endlessly; much of what is hailed about The Atlas Six are the characters, but not so much the plot. Again, many of these characters have the depth of a teaspoon. So much so that I had a difficult time telling them apart. Libby and Nicolás Ferrer de Varona are easy to tell apart as they are unnecessarily swiping at each other because of “sexual tension.” Out of the bunch of characters, I enjoyed Nicolas the most. He had more depth than any of the other characters as we learned more about what was happening in his life outside of the competition.
Reina as a naturalist, was odd. I could differentiate her character by the amount of plant squealing and chatter she had to endure. Parisa was a seductress. I enjoyed her openness and freedoms, but it sometimes came off as forced. Tristan was a character that blossomed but got lost in the Libby, Parisa, and Callum machinations. Callum seemed like a sociopath.
The ending upset me so much that I stood in awe at it; either it is brilliant and above my intellect or, um, “what?”. I don’t even know what to say about it other than, “wow that came out of the left field. Other than that, I have got nothing. There is a plot of something something, but it all gets lost in pretentious self-absorption.
I know The Atlas Six is beloved by many people, which is lovely! Not every book is for every reader, and this book was certainly not for me.