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?


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.


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!

Should YOU Read “The Atlas Six”? (What I learned from my reread!)

If you’ve followed me for a while, you know that I’ve read The Atlas Six by Olivie Blake when it was still a self-published book sometime last year. I immediately fell in love with the characters and the world and was craving more. I “only” had a digital copy of the book, so, when it was traditionally published this year, I went to the shop and grabbed a copy to do something I usually never do – reread, annotate and highlight the entire thing! To my utter surprise, I loved it even more the second time around, but I also know that opinions on the book vary quite a bit.

With this post, I intend to highlight some aspects of the book (don’t worry, no spoilers!) to help you determine whether The Atlas Six is the right read for YOU or not. It’s not a traditional review by any means, so if that’s something you’re more interested in, I recommend you visit my post from last year here. While there were some slight edits made for the newly published version, the majority of what I said still rings true and is an accurate depiction of my feelings towards the story.

Now, let’s get started on me rambling on for way too long!

The Atlas Six by Olivie Blake

Blurb according to the publisher:
The world’s best young magicians accept the opportunity of a lifetime.
Six are chosen. Only five will walk away.

The Alexandrian Society is a secret society of magical academicians, the best in the world. Their members are caretakers of lost knowledge from the greatest civilizations of antiquity. And those who earn a place among their number will secure a life of wealth, power, and prestige beyond their wildest dreams. Each decade, the world’s six most uniquely talented magicians are selected for initiation – and here are the chosen few . . .
– Libby Rhodes and Nicolás Ferrer de Varona: inseparable enemies, cosmologists who can control matter with their minds.
– Reina Mori: a naturalist who can speak the language of life itself.
– Parisa Kamali: a mind reader whose powers of seduction are unmatched.
– Tristan Caine: the son of a crime kingpin who can see the secrets of the universe.
– Callum Nova: an insanely rich pretty boy who could bring about the end of the world. He need only ask.

When the candidates are recruited by the mysterious Atlas Blakely, they are told they must spend one year together to qualify for initiation. During this time, they will be permitted access to the Society’s archives and judged on their contributions to arcane areas of knowledge. Five, they are told, will be initiated. One will be eliminated. If they can prove themselves to be the best, they will survive. Most of them.


The Writing

First things first, this is the opening volume to a  dark academia/fantasy trilogy. I want to point this out, because sometimes I wonder if people think it’s a self-contained story, when it’s very much not. In other words, it is to be expected that The Atlas Six does not give you answers to all your questions, might even leave you confused on some subjects and definitely has a grueling cliffhanger.

Other than that, the story is told in third person and from multiple POVs. There’s quite a big cast of characters, but more on that later on. Something that’s very much notable in Olivie Blake’s writing is that everything sounds flowery, yet incredibly sophisticated, but even more so, she heavily focuses on dialogue. This can be both, actual conversations between certain people, or inner turmoil. There will be entire pages of discussions on matters of philosophy and science, which to me felt invigorating, while I can see others struggling to the see the point or importance of it. But that’s the thing, while I read it, I felt like there was a purpose to everything and we learned many things along with the characters. Also, it’s balanced well with humor!

“We study the realm of consciousness because we understand that to decide something, to weigh a cost and accept its consequences, is to forcibly alter the world in some tangible way. That is a magic as true and as real as any other.”

What I struggled with a bit reading it for the first time, but not so much on my reread, was figuring out how much time had passed between certain scenes. This book covers a lot of ground and not always linearly, so that’s something to keep in mind.

It’s definitely written in a witty and clever way with lots of turns and twists. Something I will admit though, is that it felt frustrating to me that the characters didn’t realize one of the biggest (in my opinion *obvious*) turn of events for the majority of the book. Ultimately, in this volume, we get eased into this world. We are meant to hopefully fall in love with who the story is about and to care deeply about what happens next. Because there will be a definite shift in The Atlas Paradox.

The Characters

Did you ever want a cast of characters where every. single. one of them is morally grey and (probably) also not straight? I present to you: Libby Rhodes, Nico de Varona, Reina Mori, Tristan Caine, Parisa Kamali and Callum Nova

“No one here is good. Knowledge is carnage. You can’t have it without sacrifice.”

There’s actually more characters in the book that aren’t exactly unimportant, but these six, they really are the backbone of the story! You won’t like all of them, I sure didn’t and they definitely often can’t stand each other, but you will appreciate every single one of them for what they bring to the table. There are almost limitless possibilities for shipping, there’s even a threesome somewhere in there, but the bonds are so complex that it goes beyond just romantic attachment.

I think a lot of whether the reader enjoys The Atlas Six hinges on how many characters fascinate them. I personally loved three characters with my entire being, was intrigued by one more, felt disappointed at the lack of page time for a certain someone and just despised the last. That one’s a literal psycho and I cannot. (I was just referring to the above mentioned six leads here.)
It’s easy to sense a certain kind of favoritism the author has, in my opinion, as some characters either got just more chapters in general or the more interesting (to me) plotlines. I don’t know if that will be consistent throughout the entire series, or whether there’s more “to do” for certain characters in the later books. Either way, that favoritism might also make the reader lean more towards those figures.

Something that can definitely go one of two ways were the ample illustrations of the characters between parts of the book. I, for one, adored them! They were done by Little Chmura in the indie version as well as the traditional one, although they are different (yet both gorgeous). I know that certain people prefer to imagine the appearance themselves and not get a certain look “forced” on them. Here’s a taste of what the portraits approximately look like, although I’ll forever be salty we don’t have colored versions in the printed books:

The World-Building

This is probably the point I heard the most criticism about since the traditional release. If you are looking for a book with a very strict and structural magical system, this might not be it for you! Honestly, I love when magic is just woven into the fabric of every day life, when there’s hints of otherness around every corner and you can see that there lies a certain power within some and not others, but it is never explicitly mentioned why that is. In a way, magic is common in this world and if you have it and can monetize it, you’re on top of the food chain. Power is everything and knowledge is power, which is why the Alexandrian Society is so secretive and competitive.

Those who can practice magic as more than just a spell or charm are called “medeians” and they usually have a specialty or tendency in which their power develops. Those powers can present phyiscally (being able to set fire to things, grow plants, etc.) or in a non-physical way (empathy, telepathy, illusions, …), giving each person a completely unique and individual experience with their magical gift.

Aside from people who can do magic, there also exist “creatures” in this world. That’s a point that could have definitely been expanded on and it’s something that regularly took me out of the story a little bit, as there’s only one POV that deals with the matter. “Creatures” (think satyrs, mermaids, etc.) are looked down upon in the magical society and if don’t fit into a pre-classified system, you are forgotten about altogether. I can imagine this being dealt with more in the future, but it was a bit of a lackluster point.

To sum it up, I adore books that just live off of vibes, never-ending philosophical and moral dilemmas with a little science thrown in. To me, that is heaven, but I understand that some people need more. They need certain charms or spells that only work when done just so, which The Atlas Six also has, but definitely doesn’t focus on. This is more of a trial and error way of using magic.

“The problem with knowledge, is its inexhaustible craving. the more of it you have, the less you feel you know.”

Have you made up your mind and did this help you? Did you already read the book? What are your thoughts? Let’s talk!

My Top 10 Books of 2021

If you’ve visited my blog these past days, you will have noticed me having started my year in review posts, chronicling my top movies and shows to an extent. Today is all about my top reads of 2021. Once again, I need to clarify that I only read these books in 2021, not all of them were published that year!

I managed to read 50 books in total last year, which was a mix of comics, poetry collections, fiction and non-fiction. Thanks to my reading experiments, I often stepped out of my comfort zone and glad I got the chance to do so. However, I want this list/ranking to focus on fiction. I will, however, include some poetry books, etc. in my honorable mentions at the end of the post!

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The Atlas Six by Olivie Blake (Book Review)

The Atlas Six Book Cover

Publisher: self-published
Page Count
: 461

CW: death, murder, degenerative diseases, suicide, sex scenes (not explicit), manipulation and psychological trauma

This book blew my mind in the best of ways! I finished it mere moments ago and I have absolutely no idea how to feel, other than I cannot wait for the sequel to release next year.

“Knowledge is carnage. You can’t have it without sacrifice.”

Although a couple of my friends and fellow bloggers have loved The Atlast Six, I was still trying to go into it with fairly low expectations. From experience, nothing kills the enjoyment of reading a book more than it being hyped too much, but it barely took me a couple pages until I was completely enthralled in what was happening. There is some rich worldbuilding, however it isn’t initially clear who knows about what kind of magic, as it seems to be omnipresent in the world and almost like an open secret. Just like the candidates, you get thrown into this new life and have to figure out a lot of it on your own, often being met with closed doors which harbor secrets behind them. While there was mystery, it only propelled me forward to read more rather than put me off with frustration, which was nice.

“We study the realm of consciousness because we understand that to decide something, to weigh a cost and accept its consequences, is to forcibly alter the world in some tangible way. That is magic as true and as real as any other.”

What drives a lot of the story are the characters. Even though I think you can sense which ones the author preferred in the way the POVs were written, I found all of them equally as interesting. You might not like everyone and I definitely had a personal preference in characters (Libby and Tristan, hello?), but I never felt that kind of dread that can easily come with books that are written from various points of view. Even when I wasn’t a big fan of a character, I still found value in their thoughts and observations, they were all so uniquely complex. All the more fascinating were the relationships between the candidates and the people in their orbit. While I could guess some developments, I still felt that it was all written in a very satisfying way, making me crave more of them in the process.

“A flaw of humanity,” said Parisa, shrugging. “The compulsion to be unique, which is at war with the desire to belong to a single identifiable sameness.”

If I had to criticize one thing, it would be the fact that I was often confused about how much time had passed. As the story had proven several times, time isn’t exactly linear and it was actually a field of study for the candidates of the Society, but I still never really got a feeling for it within the story, which felt disorienting. Sometimes there would be mere days between chapters and then entire months. That was the one thing I found hard to keep track of. It also took the candidates way too long to figure out what the fate of the eliminated person would be, but I won’t hold it against them. Who likes to think about sacrifices like that?

Still, in the end, I would love to dive into the sequel right away. I fell in love with the secrets and intricate dynamics. I want to know more so bad, having possibly been poisoned by the library and knowledge a little bit myself. It was such a fantastic read that I can sense will linger in the back of my mind for a while now.

“The problem with knowledge, is its inexhaustible craving. The more of it you have, the less you feel you know.”

Lastly, something that made the book even more unique were some really gorgeous illustrations of the characters by Little Chmura! I adore that kind of attention to detail!

Lowkey considering getting the The Atlas Six character art print from Little Chmura’s Redbubble shop (click here)!

Fazit: 4.5/5 stars! I want more right now, always and forever. The world and characters sucked me in completely!

Have you read The Atlas Six? Do you plan to? What’s the last book that completely enthralled you? Let’s talk about that!