by Olivie Blake
This is a hard book to review because it’s good, but all the characters are terrible people. Did I enjoy reading about them? Maybe in a twisted kind of way where I couldn’t bring myself to look away from their messiness. If you’ve ever watched bad reality TV, you know what I’m talking about. You watch because you want to see people run face-first into the consequences of their actions.
The Atlas Six is like that. It’s also like if Harry Potter and The Magicians and Vita Nostra and A Deadly Education had a baby. The setting and the magic and the high stakes all felt very familiar. That’s not to say this book is derivative, but it’s not the most original magical school story I’ve read.
Where it stands out is the plot. Six highly gifted young magicians are invited to join an elite society responsible for maintaining the legendary Library of Alexandria, which, it turns out, didn’t burn. All the other previous “graduates” from the program have gone on to have illustrious careers and are recognized as some of the most powerful magic-wielders in existence.
But there’s a catch. Only five of them will advance into the next year, and how the sixth one is eliminated is just as ruthless as you’d expect from the dark academia genre.
I will say that if you go into this hoping for a lot of detail about magic and spells and the supernatural, maybe shift your expectations. There is some, but this is much more a character-driven story, and a lot of page space is dedicated to the internal musings of six people that range from neurotic to sociopathic to apathetic. They are all power-hungry in their own way, though they try to tell themselves they’re in the program for more honorable reasons – the search for knowledge, chief among them.
“The problem with knowledge is its inexhaustible craving. The more of it you have, the less you feel you know”
While the main characters can be difficult to like or relate to, it’s hard to deny the fact that they’re all compelling in their own way. Blake does a great job with their backstories, adding small nuggets of information here and there like a scattered bread trail. I gobbled each one up along the way, hoping that at the end, I would have a better understanding of these people and their motivations.
I did, and that’s what makes me want to continue the series more than anything else. Also, that plot twist at the very end had me shook. Did NOT see that one coming.
If you don’t have to love your main characters to enjoy a book, definitely give this one a try. It’s a solid addition to any dark academia TBR.