I’ve been dying to talk about The Atlas Six with someone ever since I finished it, and today I’m finally publicly screaming about it in the form of this review. I hope you enjoy this, and please leave a comment down below if you’ve read the book or plan to. You can also slide into my DMs and scream, I’m open to both.
All art in this post is by Little Chmura.
About the book
Genre: Adult, dark academia, fantasy, LGBT+
Representation: Queer main characters, Asian main character, Iranian main character, black main and secondary characters
Content warning: Death, manipulation
Summary: The Alexandrian Society, caretakers of lost knowledge from the greatest civilizations of antiquity, are the foremost secret society of magical academicians in the world. Those who earn a place among the Alexandrians will secure a life of wealth, power, and prestige beyond their wildest dreams, and each decade, only the six most uniquely talented magicians are selected to be considered for initiation.
Enter the latest round of six: Libby Rhodes and Nico de Varona, unwilling halves of an unfathomable whole, who exert uncanny control over every element of physicality. Reina Mori, a naturalist, who can intuit the language of life itself. Parisa Kamali, a telepath who can traverse the depths of the subconscious, navigating worlds inside the human mind. Callum Nova, an empath easily mistaken for a manipulative illusionist, who can influence the intimate workings of a person’s inner self. Finally, there is Tristan Caine, who can see through illusions to a new structure of reality—an ability so rare that neither he nor his peers can fully grasp its implications.
When the candidates are recruited by the mysterious Atlas Blakely, they are told they will have one year to qualify for initiation, during which time they will be permitted preliminary access to the Society’s archives and judged based on their contributions to various subjects of impossibility: time and space, luck and thought, life and death. Five, they are told, will be initiated. One will be eliminated. The six potential initiates will fight to survive the next year of their lives, and if they can prove themselves to be the best among their rivals, most of them will.
Most of them.
Add it on Goodreads.
Well, well, well, I have a feeling this will be a hard review to write. This book has been hyped to the extreme on social media (mainly twitter) and I certainly can see why. This dark academia story is a perfect example of this genre: atmospheric setting, morally grey—or even amoral—characters, and a mystery at its very core. Not only that but it manages to include criticism of privilege, power, colonialism, and many other issues that are quite often at the center of dark academia.
Touching on all aspects of this book would be nearly impossible because it just has so much depth so I’ll focus my review on what I personally would like to discuss, which is mainly the characters, with a hint of plot. This might be more on the side of a rant than my usual reviews and some sections will include spoilers (I’ll properly mark them).
Diverse Cast of Characters
Like I mentioned in my “Dark Academia Books I Want to Read” post, the diverse cast of characters was a selling point for me. Character-driven stories are my favourites, especially when they are told from multiple points of view. And Olivie Blake certainly knew how to utilise the different POVs to construct this story.
We have a small preface before we jump right into this story from Libby’s point of view, and I’m not exaggerating when I tell you I was immediately hooked. In the first part of the novel we are also gradually introduced to the rest of recruits: Nico, Reina, Tristan, Callum, and Parisa. With each chapter I was more and more invested in their story and in them as characters.
I want to introduce them all a bit more so I’m going to go a tiny bit more in detail about each one of them, so here they are ✨
“She needed to believe she was meant for enormity; that the fulfillment of a destiny could make for the privilege of salvation, even if it didn’t feel that way right now.”
She’s the first character we meet. A powerful medeian who can control physicality with a bit of an anxiety issue. Her growth is truly enormous throughout the novel. She’s presented as a goody-two-shoes, but by the end of it she’s more aware than ever of her power and she’s ready to do what’s necessary to continue in the Society.
Nicolás (Nico) Ferrer de Varona
“I’m rich and extremely handsome, do you think I have my own problems? No, I do not, so let me have yours. Put me to use, I beg you.”
We first see him through Libby’s point of view as rather annoying and full of himself. But it isn’t until he gets his own chapter that we truly learn more of him and his abilities: he shares Libby’s power but has a very different one of his own. I think that he’s one of the most interesting characters, and I can’t wait to see more of his story outside of the Society—meaning I want to see more of his relationship with his friend, Gideon.
“If life could come from nothing—if it could be born at all, created like the universe itself—then why should it not come from her?”
Reina remains a bit of a mystery. Although she, like the other five, gets her own chapters, these always seem to reveal less information—we learn a great deal about Libby and Nico for instance, but our knowledge of Reina always feels just out of reach. All we know is that she resents being a naturalist and that’s she’s very determined to keep her place in the Society.
“What was being human except to crave things unreasonably?”
He’s another character that we don’t know that much about—mainly because he doesn’t know much about himself either. He definitely feels like an integral piece of this story and possibly like the most important player. Although we have only seen glimpses of his power—he can see through illusions—we can guess it is a very rare and useful one for the “team”.
“There was nothing more dangerous than a woman who knew her own worth.”
Parisa is an interesting character as she can, essentially, read thoughts. I have a feeling we’ve been led to believe that we know more about her than we really do. There’s one scene when we’re retold her entire life story but, what really drives her? What is she looking to gain from this society? She remains a mystery that I can’t wait to uncover.
“We all have our own curses. Our own blessings. We are the gods of our own universes, aren’t we? Destructive ones.”
Finally, Callum. I must admit that he is my favourite character. He is definitely the black sheep of the group. But that, combined with his ability to mold feelings and emotions only makes him more intriguing. His apparent lack of drive and absolute disregard for any kind of morality makes him, in my opinion, the most interesting character to read about.
Countless Ships (INCLUDES SPOILERS)
Another aspect of this book I cannot help talking about are the ships, because here is where I was thoroughly confused. I truly thought that I had figured out what the “romantic” arrangements would be, and I was very surprised to find none of them were apparently correct. Most I wasn’t that bothered about, but there was one in particular that didn’t—and still doesn’t—make any sense to me. And that is Libby and Tristan.
This ship sprouts from Parisa’s plan—her arranged threesome between herself, Tristan, and Libby—but somehow it’s here to stay. I didn’t feel any chemistry between the two, and although I do understand why they had sex—they were all intoxicated and ready to make bad decisions, and after all, it was just sex—I cannot for the life of me understand why they would still feel this pull towards each other after the fact. I do hope we get some more insight on this relationship in The Atlas Paradox because, as it stands, I don’t understand it one bit.
The rest of ships are still a bit on the air, and I can get behind most of them. At first, I thought Libby—despite having a boyfriend, Ezra—and Nico would end up together in a enemies-to-lovers plot line, but seeing as Nico is quite obsessed with Gideon—I’m still not sure whether it’s a completely platonic relationship, and Callum hints otherwise—I don’t know that that’s going to happen. Parisa, despite all her toying with everyone, seems to foster real feelings for Dalton—another character I haven’t touched on but that I’m very intrigued by. Reina just seems completely uninterested by any prospect of romance whatsoever. And finally, I thought something would flourish between Tristan and Callum, which I’m still not discarding but we’ll have to wait and see.
Intriguing and Convoluted Plot
Look, I’m actually mentioning the plot! At this point I think it’s rather obvious that my favourite part of this was the characters, seeing as I’ve been blabbering about them until now. However, the plot is also truly interesting. We have a secret society with vast amounts of knowledge and six people fighting for entry. This dark academia concept is fantastic and the magic system is also truly captivating—I especially like how everyone has different powers.
Nevertheless, I must say that I enjoyed the first half of the book more than the second. There were a number of twists that, although very interesting, took the story in a very different direction than I was expecting. That is not to say that it was a “bad” direction, but just that I was hoping this to go a different way.
Although I mentioned how I loved the first part of The Atlas Six more, I still had a grand time reading this. It delivered the fantastic dark academia story that I was expecting. The wonderful cast of characters as well as the highly compelling plot and atmosphere made this a great read. My gripes—which let’s not forget were minor—with this were more my own fault than the author’s. I also believe that a reread of this would help me focus more on the plot and not place as many personal expectations on the characters. If you like character-driven stories with rich world-building, I think you would benefit from giving this a try.
About the author
Alexene Farol Follmuth, also known under the pen name Olivie Blake, is a lover and writer of stories, many of which involve the fantastic, the paranormal, or the supernatural, but not always. More often, her works revolve around the collective experience, what it means to be human (or not), and the endlessly interesting complexities of life and love.
Alexene tripped and fell into writing after abandoning her long-premeditated track for Optimum Life Achievement while attending law school, and now focuses primarily on the craft and occasional headache of creating fiction. As Olivie, she has been published as the featured fiction contributor for Witch Way Magazine, as well as the writer for the self-published graphic series Alpha and a variety of other books. As Alexene, her debut YA novel, My Mechanical Romance, is coming May 2022 from Holiday House.
Alexene lives and works in Los Angeles, where she is generally tolerated by her rescue pit bull. She can be loosely defined as the sort of person who picked up sparring as a means to improve writing fight scenes.
Have you read this? What are your thoughts? If not, do you plan to? Feel free to recommend me more dark academia books down below!