Does The Atlas Paradox suffer from Second Book Syndrome?

Does the Atlas Paradox suffer from second book syndrome?

The Atlas Paradox was my most anticipated book of the year, so you can surely imagine that a lot of expectation were involved with the release. I think I’ve been fairly open about the fact that I’ve been a huge fan of Olivie Blake’s the Atlas series ever since it was indie published a couple years ago. Seeing its huge success now fills my heart with joy, even though I know it’s not necessarily for everyone. But how did the sequel fare in comparison to its predecessor? Let’s talk about that!

For all of those of you who are still uncertain whether The Atlas Six is for them or not, I highly recommend checking out my non-spoiler post detailing its strengths and weaknesses here! I’ve heard from fellow readers that it has helped them make up their mind, so give it a try?


The Atlas Paradox by Olivie Blake book cover

Summary according to the publisher: “DESTINY IS A CHOICE”

The Atlas Paradox is the long-awaited sequel to dark academic sensation The Atlas Six—guaranteed to have even more yearning, backstabbing, betrayal, and chaos.

Six magicians. Two rivalries. One researcher. And a man who can walk through dreams. All must pick a side: do they wish to preserve the world—or destroy it? In this electric sequel to the viral sensation, The Atlas Six, the society of Alexandrians is revealed for what it is: a secret society with raw, world-changing power, headed by a man whose plans to change life as we know it are already under way. But the cost of knowledge is steep, and as the price of power demands each character choose a side, which alliances will hold and which will see their enmity deepen?

GoodreadsStorygraph


Now, I’ve posed a question in the title of this post – Does The Atlas Paradox suffer from Second Book Syndrome? – and I don’t mean to keep you in suspense for too long, so I’m giving you the easy answer now, which is NO! However, this is supposed to be a review of sorts and even though words are currently failing me, I do want to share some general thoughts. Later on, there will be a more in-depth spoiler section, where I’ll talk about each individual character, but this part won’t reveal anything too specific.

This book – oh, THIS BOOK! It was a personal attack. My feelings were hurt. My anger bubbled up. My deepest and darkest dreams were fulfilled. It was everything I hoped and feared.

Right from the get go, Olivie Blake‘s writing is still as witty and compelling as in the first book. The philosophical and scientific conversations continue; the moral quandaries deepen. If I had to critique one thing, which a review is sort of the right place for, I would say that she struggles to convey the passing of time in her story. There are so many scenes where we go from people talking in one room to another set of people talking in another room, with often very few action-packed or faster paced snippets in between, so it tends to feel odd when all of a sudden, a couple months have gone by. It’s only a minor flaw in my eyes, but something I have noticed in the previous installment as well.

Where the Atlas Six established our characters and hinted at the greater scheme behind the secret society, the Atlas Paradox only slightly furthered the plot and rather focused on how the initiation changed each of the people involved. It remains a mostly character driven story, which I think is good, because that’s essentially what I signed up for. I, personally, would have been disappointed if we abandoned the in depth analysis of all these different personalities and focused on other hijinks instead. It gives you answers, but just opens up a whole box of new questions, which is both – so very satisfying and absolutely infuriating!

While, overall, I felt like I could predict a couple more twists and turns this time around, I still felt surprised by a lot of new character pairings/dynamics as well as character decisions. This series definitely keeps you on your toes and to be honest, I don’t have the slightest idea how it could possibly end. All I know is that I love these characters and that I support all their rights and wrongs. And I know another thing for sure, I will be first in line when it’s about getting my hands on a copy of The Atlas Complex, the ultimate conclusion to it all.

a gif showing a woman sitting in front of a bookshelf and reading, while the bookshelf behind her just fills to the brim of the room with books.
I would read a million more books in this universe, if it meant I could keep the characters close.

!!!SPOILER SECTION!!!

You have been warned, there will be spoilers for The Atlas Paradox moving forward! 

In previous reviews, I’ve mentioned that it felt like some characters got preferential treatment in the first book and that one could sort of deduce who were the author’s favorites, but The Atlas Paradox turned all of that on its head. So, instead of continuing with a “normal” reviewing format, I’d like to take a closer look at each individual character and the new pairings and dynamics.

All the main characters from The Atlas series by Olivie Drake and illustrated by Little Chmura.
credit: Little Chmura

Reina Mori

I was extremely fascinated by Reina in the first book, but felt like she was cut short on chapters for sure. Now, this time around, she definitely had more page time and suddenly I’ve grown quite scared of her.

I wasn’t quite aware of just how attached she had gotten to Nico and how hurtful it was to her that he saw her as nothing special in his initiation. But her spiraling afterwards was just terrifying to me. She really developed a sort of God complex and her teaming up with Callum just makes the potential of the horrors they could unleash together all the greater? I hope she allows herself to connect to people again, because this disconnect worries me. I mean, even nature wanted her to go outside and touch some grass.

“No, Nico, I would have lit on fire anyone with even the slightest intention of harming you, and that is the kind of friend I am, when I choose to be a friend.”

On an entirely different note, I’m very happy about it now being more or less confirmed that Reina is ace. That’s representation that is often sorely lacking in fiction.

Callum Nova

Many of you knew this, but I hated Callum Nova. I was so sure I would continue to hate him through this book and then his first POV chapter came along and my resolve crumbled quicker than anything I’ve seen before. It literally took all of one chapter for me to really feel pity for the guy. He’s still insufferable and has a plan (to kill Tristan?) that I cannot support, but I have more sympathy for him than I used to. He was mostly just a drunken mess for the entirety of the book, but still … my heart warmed to him a little bit.

“It doesn’t have to make you weaker, you know,” Callum continued. “You’re allowed to have human qualities. Which inherently means silly things like sadness and longings and flaws.”

Parisa Kamali

Parisa is one of the most badass characters in this series and I felt like she really took a backseat in the sequel. That’s not necessarily something bad, because the scenes and chapters she was involved in, were absolutely fantastic. The way she was vulnerable with Nico (not the least because of Gideon) was maybe one of my favorite bits in the entire book. He would f- her with his whole heart and she proved her point.

“To know what people really are and not destroy them is savagely remarkable. She has exceptional restraint.”

Nico de Varona

Nico, my chaos child, crumbled to bits and pieces without his twin flame Rhodes. While he was surely one of the characters that felt her absence the most and I especially enjoyed his teaming up with Tristan (look at both her men working together to get her home), I also loved to see his feelings for Gideon being spelled out more clearly (from both sides). This book proved more than anything to me that those two belong together.

Without Libby for a counterweight, there was nothing to temper his recklessness. Nothing to anchor him at all.

Tristan Caine

Tristan and Libby are my favorites – there, I said it. They are my ride or die ship in this series and I know that many people love other combinations more (there’s loads of Libby/Nico, Tristan/Callum or Tristan/Parisa shippers out there), but they just kind of do it for me. Tristan really blossomed as a person, finding his confidence in his ability and I love that for him. But what I love for myself is that there wasn’t a single chapter where Tristan didn’t mention Rhodes in some way. He’d rather see the world burn than not have her and that is such a problematic villainy thing to say, but I’m here for it?

Still, I also would like to mention that I think Atlas manipulated him to the t and actually got the person to stay that he always wanted to stay. I worry about that at night …

He knew it like his own pulse; Libby Rhodes would be back, and he would be here. Waiting.

Libby Rhodes

Libby. My darling girl. You really aren’t the moral compass of the group anymore, are you?

I felt the paranoia and fear when Libby was trapped in the past. The way she always had to look over her shoulder, worrying that Ezra might show up and imprison her again. It’s always all the more painful when it’s someone close to you, someone you trusted. And it was just so infuriating to see Ezra think he was doing her some sort of weird favor, he got what was coming to him in the end.

Nonetheless, I feel quite conflicted about her choices, which makes reading her chapters so much more delicious, if I’m being honest. She screwed some people over hard, but she has always put others first. This time it was her turn and can we fault her for it? Yep. Yep, we can. The moral complexity is what makes this so utterly great.

“She’s your true error, Ezra. Your biggest mistake was not leading her here, to me, but in allowing her to become dangerous.”

Other developments and characters

Obviously, a lot happened with Gideon, Ezra, Atlas and Dalton. I’m in no way trying to minimize any of that and have touched upon it when talking about the core six. But, there is one character in particular who I’d like to spotlight – Belen. While I guessed her identity and connections relatively early on, I feel like she deserved so much better. Whereas Ezra felt like the architect of his own demise, she is a true victim of the Alexandrian Society and their scheming. She would have never been involved in anything, wouldn’t even have known about the existence of all that secret knowledge and power, if it weren’t for the narcissistic behavior of the initiates. Not even Ezra, who so continuously spied on Libby in the past, saw who Belen really was. Her anger was more than justified. 

Is Destiny a Choice?

Now, this was the prime statement of the book. Whereas in The Atlas Six we learned that knowledge is carnage, The Atlas Paradox claimed that destiny was a choice. But is that really true considering that things, in hindsight, played out exactly like they always have? Ezra always abducted Libby, making her realize her full medeian potential. Libby always risked the lives of countless people in order to get back to the library. Did anyone make a choice that differed from the path they were once put on? I guess that is what we will find out in The Atlas Complex!

Fazit: 5/5 stars! What a wonderful continuation. It has made me all the more excited for the inevitable conclusion in The Atlas Complex!


Have you read the Atlas series? What did you think of the sequel? Let’s chat!

Carrie Soto Is Back by Taylor Jenkins Reid (ARC Review)

Carrie Soto is Back by Taylor Jenkins Reid shows a woman with golden skin in front of a vivid yellow background. The blurb says: "Carrie Soto is fierce, and her determination to win at any cost has not made her popular. But by the time she retires from tennis, she is the best player the world has ever seen. She has shattered every record and claimed twenty Grand Slam titles. And if you ask Carrie, she is entitled to every one. She sacrificed nearly everything to become the best, with her father, Javier, as her coach. A former champion himself, Javier has trained her since the age of two.  But six years after her retirement, Carrie finds herself sitting in the stands of the 1994 US Open, watching her record be taken from her by a brutal, stunning player named Nicki Chan.  At thirty-seven years old, Carrie makes the monumental decision to come out of retirement and be coached by her father for one last year in an attempt to reclaim her record. Even if the sports media says that they never liked “the Battle-Axe” anyway. Even if her body doesn’t move as fast as it did. And even if it means swallowing her pride to train with a man she once almost opened her heart to: Bowe Huntley. Like her, he has something to prove before he gives up the game forever."

PublisherA button to add a book to the platform "The Storygraph"A button that says "Add book to Goodreads": Ballantine Books
Page Count
: 352
Release Date: August 30, 2022

*I was provided with an eARC by the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review!*

CW: misogyny, sexism, ageism, loss of a loved one, mention of racism, alcoholism and injuries

Carrie Soto Is Back is my new favorite Taylor Jenkins Reid book. Honestly, this came as a complete surprise to me, but I was riveted from start to finish. I just couldn’t put it down. I never realized how much Spanish I actually understood or how much information I retained from watching tennis a lot when I was a kid, but this book was an utter delight – although I think it will work for people without any knowledge about the sport just as well.

Carrie Soto doesn’t start out as the most likable person, especially if you might harbor some resentment from Malibu Rising still, but she is a force to be reckoned with. She made tennis her entire life and when she decides to return from retirement, she is faced with relentless ageism, misogyny, sexism and just straight hostility. She never played the sport to make friends, she played it to be great and it swiftly became clear to me that there was no way I wouldn’t root for her to succeed once more.
Told from a first person POV for the most part, sprinkled with transcripts of news articles or sports commentators, you don’t just get to see the Carrie Soto the world thought they knew, but also the lonely and vulnerable person behind the tough facade. TJR just has a gift of creating very flawed characters, which you end up falling in love with regardless. They learn from their mistakes, they grow and you want nothing more for them than to get what they truly need.

While the story spans over decades, it never felt rushed or difficult to follow. We get training montages and certain scenes that make us understand what an incredible tennis player Carrie is, but I think most people will show up for the relationships she manages to cultivate over the course of the novel. Carrie has enemies and frenemies, but ultimately a very limited amount of people who really matter in her life. She was blessed with a wonderful love interest, but more importantly, there is a beautiful exploration of a father-daughter-relationship in Carrie Soto Is Back. Javier Soto is a legend in his own right and they weren’t always on the best terms, he sometimes messed up as a father, but he was there when it counted. Those two really were the heart of the story.

I don’t think this review does justice to just how invested I was in Carrie Soto’s life and success, which doesn’t necessarily look like what you would expect it to. My heart was thundering in my chest at every game she played. I was worried for her mental and physical health, while I also believed that she could do anything she set her mind to. I wanted her to open her heart to love, yet never relent to the people who told her she needed to be softer, kinder or more gracious. I wanted her to prove the entire world wrong and she. did. not. disappoint. I’m so grateful to have been on this journey with her.

Maria Sharapova celebrates her win by screaming and pumping her fists

Fazit: 5/5 stars! Fantastic and riveting!

P.S.: Yes, there are references to the likes of Daisy Jones and the Rivas. I just love the interconnectedness of these books.


Previous TJR reviews of mine:


Do you plan on reading TJRs latest tale? Are you ready to dive into the world of competitive tennis? Let’s chat!

Before Takeoff by Adi Alsaid (ARC Review)

The cover for Adi Alsaid's Before Takeoff shows the silhouette of a young boy and girl looking out an airport window. The ground seems made of snow and the ceiling made of sand. The blurb reads: "James and Michelle find themselves in the Atlanta airport on a layover. They couldn't be more different, but seemingly interminable delays draw them both to a mysterious flashing green light--and each other.  Where James is passive, Michelle is anything but. And she quickly discovers that the flashing green light is actually... a button. Which she presses. Which may or may not unwittingly break the rules of the universe--at least as those rules apply to Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta.  Before they can figure up from down, strange, impossible things start happening: snowstorms form inside the B terminal; jungles sprout up in the C terminal; and earthquakes split the ground apart in between. And no matter how hard they try, it seems no one can find a way in or out of the airport. James and Michelle team up to find their families and either escape the airport, or put an end to its chaos--before it's too late."

PublisherA button to add a book to the platform "The Storygraph"A button that says "Add book to Goodreads": Knopf Books for Young Readers
Page Count
: 336
Release Date: June 7, 2022

*I was provided with an eARC by the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review!*

CW: racism, physical altercations, death

When I first heard about Adi Alsaid’s Before Takeoff, which was described as a sort of YA The Sun Is Also a Star meets Jumanji, I was immediately intrigued by the premise. I’m sad to say that I don’t think the execution was really for me. 

Told from an omniscient POV, I found myself mostly confused by the tone of the novel. On the one hand, you have typical banter and musings about life’s meaning only a teen could express with full angst while awkwardly flirting with their counterpart – which is totally fitting since this is a YA story. The narration underlines that with a lot of humor, sprinkled with knowledge that only the reader will be privy to, while the characters are none the wiser. However, on the other hand, the story got a lot darker and weirder than I expected, with much more permanent consequences. That, in a way, made it feel much bigger than YA and possibly more suitable for older teens on the cusp of adulthood. Ultimately, this tonal inconsistency didn’t fit the narration style in my mind.

In addition to that, I thought we’d mostly focus on James and Michelle, but we also learned about so many side characters, that I eventually found hard to keep track of. Same with the layout of the actual airport and its different gates and climates. While they added to the big picture, showing that this scenario was so much grander than the two kids, it simultaneously didn’t allow for enough depth to get attached to certain characters.

Having said all that, the world building was still something else. There was a certain randomness to it that kept my heart racing with anxiety and worry, but also glee at what might happen next. It’s a micro study of human behavior in the strangest of circumstances, and while it only scratched the surface of what makes us good and terrible as a species, it really delivered on some insightful and profound moments.

Lastly, I don’t think this book will be for everyone. Personally, I was just mad at some points (mixed with some sad), but also very confused. It’s a wild ride, that’s for sure! If you feel like it might be the right story for you – go for it! Just, please, don’t read it at an airport. Read it somewhere safe at home!

a plane taking off into a bright orange sky

Fazit: 3/5 stars! Interesting but also wildly confusing and darker than expected.


Do you think Before Takeoff might be the book for you? Do you have strange airport stories? Let’s chat!

Walking Gentry Home by Alora Young (ARC Review)

The cover for the book "Walking Gentry Home: A Memoir of My Foremothers in Verse" by Alora Young shows the profile of a young Black woman with only parts of her features in focus. The rest is blurry, disappearing and fusing with a light green and peach background. The blurb for the books says "Walking Gentry Home tells the story of Alora Young's ancestors, from the unnamed women forgotten by the historical record but brought to life through Young's imagination; to Amy, the first of Young's foremothers to arrive in Tennessee, buried in an unmarked grave, unlike the white man who enslaved her and fathered her child; through Young's great-grandmother Gentry, unhappily married at fourteen; to her own mother, the teenage beauty queen rejected by her white neighbors; down to Young in the present day as she leaves childhood behind and becomes a young woman. The lives of these girls and women come together to form a unique American epic in verse, one that speaks of generational curses, coming of age, homes and small towns, fleeting loves and lasting consequences, and the brutal and ever-present legacy of slavery in our nation's psyche. Each poem is a story in verse, and together they form a heart-wrenching and inspiring family saga of girls and women connected through blood and history.  Informed by archival research, the last will and testament of an enslaver, formal interviews, family lore, and even a DNA test, Walking Gentry Home gives voice to those too often muted in America: Black girls and women."

PublisherA button to add a book to the platform "The Storygraph"A button that says "Add book to Goodreads": Hogarth
Page Count
: 240
Release Date: August 2, 2022

*I was provided with an eARC by the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review!*

CW: slavery, racism, rape, domestic abuse, teen pregnancy, teen marriage, loss of loved ones

Walking Gentry Home by Alora Young is a book, or should I say memoir, told in verse. That in itself is something you don’t come across every day, never mind find a review for on my blog. I will be the first to admit that I’m no expert on the matter, so I want to clarify that these thoughts I’m trying to compile are mostly based on what the writing made me feel – and that was a lot.

I’ve tried to learn a bit about my family’s history, but there’s many gaps and missing pieces, so I was impressed by what Alora Young uncovered and managed to bring to life on the page. Not only did she find a way to give a voice to generations that came before her, but she did so with few and yet impacting words. Her verses faced harsh realities of generational pain and trauma, but also let the light of mother- and womanhood shine through. As we followed key moments in Young’s maternal ancestry, I felt the connection and ties grow beneath each one of them and me as a reader. Sometimes it was as if we read from their perspectives, sometimes it was told from Alora Young‘s POV and other times it almost felt like a collective consciousness.

I know this is quite the brief review, but I thought Walking Gentry Home was masterfully done. I felt the emotional tether throughout, even if I got mixed up with the timeline sometimes. All of it seems not just rooted in Young’s personal family history, but that of Black history in America in general. Often thought-provoking and unflinchingly honest, it is sure to linger in your mind.

Fazit: 5/5 stars! Wonderful and impacting family history!


Do you often read entire books told in verse? Did Walking Gentry Home grab your interest? Let’s talk!

The Epic Crush of Genie Lo by F.C. Yee (Book Review)

Publisher: Amulet Books
Page Count
: 310

First of all, huge shout out to my cousin, because she technically bought this book back when she visited me in Canada. Because she went off on a world tour (making her sound like a rock star and being totally fine with it), she didn’t want to bring it along and left it with me instead. Due to my inability to not buy books during my stay abroad, I was able to ship it back to Austria with my other stuff, where I finally had the time to dive into this epic tale. Long story short, this read was sponsored by my lovely cousin – thank you!

To begin with, this book was laugh out loud funny! And sometimes that is exactly what you need in life. I am not saying it doesn’t have numerous kick-ass action sequences and even some thought provoking conversations, but I am sure that whenever I will think back about The Epic Crush of Genie Lo, I will think about its amazing humor.

I went into this book knowing very little about the plot. I was aware that there was some Chinese folklore and mythology involved, but I would be lying if I told you I knew much about that either. All I did know with a certainty was that a lot of my friends and mutuals in the book community loved reading it and had a blast. I am always wary of diving into books where the hype is real (which explains why I often read them with quite the delay to everyone else), but I am all the more happy when the hype was completely justified.

Everything was very witty and straightforward from start to finish. You were either on board with Genie’s hilariously charming but also angry voice or you weren’t and I was definitely there for all of that. The characters in general all stood out with their own personality traits, with Quentin and Genie’s interactions being weird and awkward while simultaneously amazing. (Again, I laughed out loud a lot!)

Finally, I really enjoyed seeing some parental involvement (still far too rare in YA for my taste), getting a better look at Genie’s cultural background and experiencing some real struggle to balance her demon-hunting with life/love/friendship/school/extracurriculars, because let’s face it, some book heroes just make it seem way too easy.

Fazit: 4/5 stars! Can’t wait to see where future installments will lead!

Have you read The Epic Crush of Genie Lo? Did you like it? Would you want to pick it up if you haven’t read it yet?