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?
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.
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.
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.
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 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 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. 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!