“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?”
I received a copy of this book from NetGalley. All thoughts are my own.
Thie review will contain spoilers for book one, The Atlas Six. Read my 4.5* review here.
Dark Academia is one of my most adored fantasy sub-genres and the intense character exploration and trippy metaphysics discussions have launched it toward the top of my list. I was so so excited to see where these characters, and the plot, would go in book two. While I wasn’t fully satisfied, I still thoroughly enjoyed this book.
I received an audio ARC for book 2 and I think I experienced the equivalent of ‘movie casting is not my mental picture of a character’ for audiobooks. Parisa’s voice felt too ‘high school mean girl’ and the narrator for Nico/Gideon felt kinda… wrong? Not what I’d imagined? Each POV has it’s own narrator so the accents were a little inconsistent when voicing the other characters. Admittedly, it was certainly something I got used to as the book went on.
Blake returns to two of my favorite aspects of TA6, the character interplay and the long metaphysics discussion. In Paradox, our cohort of six turned five have graduated from exploration and reading to pursuing questions and drawing preliminary avenues, and boy are some of those absolutely wild. Without going into spoilers, fans who enjoyed that aspect will be very pleased. One element is will say it is one thing to write plausibly believable metaphysics, it’s another thing entirely to convince the reader of specific conclusions these characters arrive at. I loved TA6 because it was clear Blake did her research for the themes she explored, but I definitely did some eyebrow-raising with this one.
Those who know me know that the Callum/Tristan interplay, one that ended in, well, shambles, was perhaps my favorite part of TA6. I was hoping for more aftermath, but sadly it wasn’t meant to be. On the other hand, we do get a lot more character development and screentime for both Callum and Reina. Blake again pairs off the characters: Callum and Reina, Nico and Tristan, with Parisa floating about while Libby’s off doing her own thing. I do wish we got more interaction outside the pairings, surely their manor is only so big, but that might just be the style Blake prefers.
Where this book struggles, however, is in opening up the world. I commented that TA6 has surprisingly little actual plot beyond the academic exploration and that was a good thing. However, there was a lot of setup for greater intrigue, between Ezra and Atlas’s scheming, the Alexandrian Society against the Forum, and Libby trying to fix her situation. Paradox brings that scheming to the forefront, honestly, it was the least interesting part of the novel. Somehow, I felt like the scenes with the Forum had no stakes.
Part of this, I think, has to do with how Blake writes characters. TA6 was a masterclass in how to turn a trope into a fully fleshed-out character. However, when secondary characters don’t get the screentime to be fleshed out, all you have is a generic trope-y character with no strong individuality. Additionally, some of the events of the ending simply felt in part anticlimactic and in part just pointless.
Overall, I rate this book a 4/5. Blake remains strong with the metaphysics and the character work, which makes this book a delightful read, but it didn’t seem Blake quite knew what to do with the intrigue and the overarching plot beyond six academics locked in a room. Still, fans of The Atlas Six will enjoy the sequel.
r/Fantasy 2022-23 Bingo Squares:
- Published in 2022
- Time Fuckery
- Features Mental Health
- BIPOC Author