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.
I received a copy of this book from NetGalley. All thoughts are my own.
Dark Academia at its finest, following six of the most talented and promising young magicians invited to expand the boundaries of known knowledge at the grace of a secret society, while combating clashing interpersonal dynamics and a potentially deadly secret. The Atlas Six is a masterpiece in the budding dark academia sub-genre.
For anyone who’s just now hearing of this book, The Atlas Six will be a very polarising read. Do you enjoy people sitting in a room discussing at length magical metaphysics, the relation of thought, dreamscapes, and time, and pretentious waxing of the aforementioned subjects? (This is dark academia, after all). If the answer is yes to any of the above, this book is absolutely for you.
First and foremost, what absolutely has to be praised in this book are the vibes. I’ve never read anything like it. This is academia at its most romanticized. Pages and pages of dark academia moodboards, with their dim lighting, old European architecture and libraries, research by candlelight and academic vintage fashion cannot compare to the sheer atmosphere Blake has created. As an Ivy student, I finished this book then headed to the library to study with a spring in my step, fueled entirely by the energy in this book.
And of course, there’s the characters that populate this small intimate world of six. Libby and Nico, physicists and academic rivals, Reina, naturalist masquerading as a classisist, Parisa, telepath and seductress, Tristan, illusionist who sees through all, and Callum, empath and man with negative ambition. It’s hard to describe these characters because Blake does such a phenomenal job exploring their facets, their little details and tics through alternating POV chapters. Even my most-disliked characters, Libby (author-insert) and Parisa (girlboss slogan generator), I can only somewhat criticize because they’re impossible to describe in a single label. My one (very biased) complaint is that I wish Callum would have gotten more screen time. That being said, I’m praying he does not miraculously discover morals. You’re perfect the way you are Callum.
Surprisingly, I only realized after I’d finished the book and read through some my friend’s GR reviews how minimal the plot really is. And that’s a perfectly good thing. The academic research comes in so sharply here, with the various pursuits of interest and ideas, critique and brainstorming. And in between it all is the almost sensual interpersonal dynamics between the characters, fueled by alcohol and mutual interests. While we get hints of it, only towards the end do we, and the characters, really learn about the rumored ‘elimination’ process at the end of year one.
I’d read the self-pub version earlier this January so while I can’t say exactly, I have a strong impression of the original work. Most importantly, my two main criticisms were the pacing, which dragged in the middle and rushed at the end, and the unearned pretentiousness of the prose that took up much of the latter half. I really have to hand it to Tor’s editing team because neither complaint exists anymore. The pacing of this version feels so much more consistent and the pretentiousness is placed correctly, for maximum dark academia effect. From the word counts, about an extra 10k was added.
Overall, I rate this book a 4.5/5. An absolute triumph in the dark academia sub-genre and just an amazing book all around. Phenomenal characters, absolutely delicious character interplay, and a delightful amount of metaphysical postulating. Just stunning.
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