Tag Archives: olivie blake

The Atlas Paradox, Olivie Blake

Read courtesy of NetGalley; it’s due out in October 2022.

This review will have some spoilers for the first book, The Atlas Six. And you really need to read the first one. Do not come to this with no prior knowledge.

This is an example of one of those books where very quickly I am pretty sick of the bullsh!t of every single character, impatient with their childishness and arrogance and lack of ability to see beyond their own selfishness… and yet I kept reading. Partly for the characters – I like Libby (and let’s not analyse that particular sentiment), and to my amusement I like Nico, and of course I like Gideon; Reina I am intrigued by. The others I find very frustrating if occasionally intriguing. But I also keep reading because I just have no real idea where Blake is going with all of this. I don’t know whether the characters are going to actually come together, or not; whether they will work with Atlas, or not; whether the world is going to end, or not. And so despite my impatience and frustration – all, it must be said, indications that Blake is skilful at creating characters; I don’t tend to waste emotions on 2D characters – I devoured this book, and am now also impatient for the third book. This situation cannot be left where it is and I need to know how it resolves.

So the book opens with Libby gone, her colleagues initially assuming she’s dead and then realising that she’s just… gone. Using his abilities, Ezra has dropped her in the past, hoping to save her or save the world or… honestly who really knows, Ezra is so messed up. The others, back in the Library mansion, are meant to spend their year doing basically an Honours project, researching their own thing. As may be of little surprise to those who’ve read the first, mostly they just don’t bother because have you ever met another group of incredibly smart people who collectively had so little interest in actually doing the work they’re expected to do? Reina is not included in that indictment. And I guess Nico isn’t either but he’s Nico, and like all the others is definitely running to his own agenda. It will also come as no surprise that things go badly for pretty much everyone at different stages of the story. They don’t cope very well with that.

There’s an enormous depth, here: Blake hints at a lot with Atlas, and with Dalton, and with Reina and Parisa in particular. There’s also terrifying potential for what could eventually occur. Both of these novels have been very well-paced; Blake uses the multiple-narrator mode beautifully to explore the variety of characters and give hints at what’s in their brains. I think, actually, that it’s using that format which makes these novels so very compelling.

The Atlas Six

I read this courtesy of NetGalley.

This is one of those books where the originality lies primarily in the execution, rather than the initial premise. And this is in no way an insult! Reading a new take on old ideas is exciting.

The basics: six people with extraordinary gifts are chosen to learn about a secret institution. Things are, unsurprisingly, not what they seem – and there is a lot of interpersonal tension as well.

See? Not a radically new idea. But the execution and the details made this a deeply intriguing book.

The world is one where magic is real, and even the non-magic users know about. Hard to hide a magic university in the middle of New York, I suspect. Also, some people have used their talents to get (legally) spectacularly rich. Anyway: it seems most people don’t have astounding levels of magic. So the six people chosen to learn about the secrets are told they’re pretty much the strongest, most gifted magic-users of their generation. Great way to manage those egos right up. Anyway, they are invited to learn about the Library of Alexandria – now somewhat metaphorical, as it’s not in Alexandria, although it is still a library. And that’s one of the key drawcards: the right, and ability, to search the library for anything they want… if they get through the year.

So we have magic, and we have knowledge, and we have massive personal conflict – mostly because of the individual personalities. Intriguingly, the narrative moves between all six of the initiates, meaning that there’s not automatically one of them the reader is guided towards supporting. While some of them are absolutely unpleasant people, this multi-focus allows the reader to see their complexities and thus make the story that much more complex.

It’s a clever set up, and the twists are just as clever, and the characters are right on that borderline of horrible-but-not-so-horrible (unlike, say, Heathcliff). Clearest sign I enjoyed it? Can’t wait to read the sequel.