Review: The Atlas Six by Olivie Blake

‘Beware the man who faces you unarmed. If in his eyes you are not the target. then you can be sure you are the weapon.’

***Content warnings for murder, implied relationship between a tutor and a minor, death of a sibling (off page), coercian, suicide and self harm***

I would like to preface this with the fact I only joined TikTok recently so found out about this from friend’s recommendations. And I am glad I did join since there is an entire app left just as lost as I am without the sequel being right there to grab. I am basically saying in short, this was as excellent as expected.

Secrets. Betrayal. Seduction.
Welcome to the Alexandrian Society.

When the world’s best magicians are offered an extraordinary opportunity, saying yes is easy. Each could join the secretive Alexandrian Society, whose custodians guard lost knowledge from ancient civilizations. Their members enjoy a lifetime of power and prestige. Yet each decade, only six practitioners are invited – to fill five places.

Contenders Libby Rhodes and Nico de Varona are inseparable enemies, cosmologists who can control matter with their minds. Parisa Kamali is a telepath, who sees the mind’s deepest secrets. Reina Mori is a naturalist who can perceive and understand the flow of life itself. And Callum Nova is an empath, who can manipulate the desires of others. Finally there’s Tristan Caine, whose powers mystify even himself.

Following recruitment by the mysterious Atlas Blakely, they travel to the Society’s London headquarters. Here, each must study and innovate within esoteric subject areas. And if they can prove themselves, over the course of a year, they’ll survive. Most of them.

Fun fact, I call myself a ‘failed academic’. I completed an honours degree and ran away from arts to work in retail and then admin. The latter being nowhere related to my degree’s subject. And I do that out of not an act of self deprecation but because it amuses me. And it drives a lot of people around the twist. So I love to read about disasters who succeed in academia, but are otherwise chaotic messes. That is The Magicians by Lev Grossman for me, and now The Atlas Six.

The book kicks off with a pair of graduates absolutely despising each other, at their graduation ceremony none the less. This sets the vibe for the pair, Libby Rhodes and Nico Ferrer de Varona, for the rest of the book. Both are headhunted by a man named Atlas Blakely at the same ceremony. We go on to see him recruit the other four of the six, Reina, Callum, Tristan and Parisa. Each all exceptional magic users, or medeians, beings selected as potential entries for the society. We then follow all 6 of this group over the period of a year as they test their powers and figure out alliances and how exactly they get from 6 to the 5 selected for the society.

This book reminds me in all the best ways of the previously mentioned Magicians but was very in the vein of An Unkindness of Magicians. Olivie Blake takes the disaster magic kids of Brakebills, adds them to the visible under the surface magic houses, families and society of New York and honestly made an excellent, intensely smart book out of them. There is an excellent writing style here, leaning into a lot of the even more intense character work to carry the complexity forward. I like a level of complexity actually, I can very easily emotionally react to characters. But with ones that are more layered, I can doubt myself and get easily conflicted if I root for them. Especially as the book introduced some more stakes at the second half and had me wondering who to root for. And that is a level of writing I appreciate.

It is the second half mentioned that I take my only issues with. This book is almost flawless to me, especially for a book that was indie, then mainstream and is kicking off what is at least a duology if not a series. The edition I did read is the one in the picture, not the indie copy that originally was, so I’m not sure if this critique will apply to that. But this felt like two very different books that didn’t quite meet. The first is almost no plot with some messy characters developing their alliances with each other and just trying to figure out how to achieve their ends. The second half is very much the dark academia trope of suspicion and plots to murder. They are both really well done but I just think they could have meshed easier.

If you have been on the fence and any of the above including book comparisons, I would say now is the best time as any to read this one. I am intrigued to get to read the Indie version (thank you Kaitlyn) whenever it gets here to compare but for now, I’ll thrive on the absolute angst of Nico and thoughts of Parisa. Thanks for checking in all! Happy reading!

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