Author: Olivie Blake
Series: The Atlas, #1
Age Category: Adult
Publish Date: March 1, 2022
Print Length: 384
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Each decade, only the six most uniquely talented magicians are selected to earn a place in the Alexandrian Society, the foremost secret society in the world. The chosen will secure a life of power and prestige beyond their wildest dreams.
But at what cost?
Each of the six newest recruits has their reasons for accepting the Society’s elusive invitation. Even if it means growing closer than they could have imagined to their most dangerous enemies– or risking unforgivable betrayal from their most trusted allies– they will fight tooth and nail for the right to join the ranks of the Alexandrians.
Even if it means they won’t all survive the year.
THE ATLAS SIX is set in a world where those who have magical abilities hone them separately from those who don’t. The impression is that those with magic influence society at large and thus have the ability to attain new heights. And these powers are seemingly synonymous with ambition of all types, whether over- or understated. It comes as no surprise to the reader that secrecy belies more secrets, here in the form of an ancient secret society devoted to academia and advancing knowledge.
This brooding story has six points of view. Anxious Libby and instigative Nico, who are two sides of the same coin, are physicists and can control matter. Reina is a sullen naturalist who has the power of life. Sensual Parisa can read minds. Tristan can see through illusions and Callum, who sets everyone’s teeth on edge, has the power of persuasion. Each of these individuals accepts Atlas’s invitation to spend one year under the Alexandrian Society’s wing after which only five will move on. Initially it’s all philosophy and recreation, until they discover the sixth invitee, the spare, must die.
This book was absolutely fantastic. First, I love how much effort and research the author incorporated regarding the [potential] physics (and meta and quantum physics) of magic; there was even some philosophy of magic included. I personally found these sections of the text enhanced the dark academia setting. It felt like I was learning right along side the characters. It made the context seems more realistic. However, no doubt I didn’t fully comprehend it during this first read through. But this is the first book I’ve read in a while that I wanted to reread as soon as I finished it. I even took my time reading it because it was so perfectly atmospheric in the dark academia sense: secrets, magic, and exclusive club access.
Additionally, THE ATLAS SIX oozes sexual tension despite very little happening on the page. Blake had me glued to the page with every sliver of a suggestion that something might happened between characters. I wasn’t even that disappointed off page spice because the author perfectly penned the quietly powerful buildups. However, I was a little confused about the LGBTQ marketing of this book as this aspect wasn’t obvious to me. There is an implied threesome, so perhaps that’s the reason. (Or maybe I forgot some aspect of the book.) It’s also worth noting that all of the characters are self-absorbed, so you might find yourself disliking them. I personally didn’t mind this facet of their personality. My problem with characters is when all of the problems are their own making and they keep digging themselves into deeper holes. But I digress.
At the crux of the story, though, is the philosophy of whether knowledge should be administered and kept by a few or provided openly to all. The Alexandrian Society is of the former belief and are always at odds with another secret society based in Italy. The Alexandrians sequester knowledge from the greatest societies of antiquity in the belief that it could fall into the wrong hands (i.e., the people) and used improperly. Or, that is the reasoning they provide. There are different levels of knowledge the mysterious, omniscient library grants to its visitors. Essentially, the whole affair deserves some side eye. These two diverging philosophies are a metaphor for those who have and seek to stay in power versus those who want to spread the wealth.
Though I haven’t yet read BABEL, I can’t help but wonder if those who loved it would also find enjoyment in THE ATLAS SIX. Dark academia reads aren’t a subgenre I actively seek. But the author really left an impression on my mind with this book. This book pleasantly surprised me given many of the reviews I skimmed prior to reading it were quite middling. I think THE ATLAS SIX is perfect for readers who crave a combination of magical realism and clandestine cadres with a healthy dash of blood-warming tension.
Content warnings: blood, death
Reading format: Hardback