IT’S TIME. This review is one of the hardest I’ve ever had to write for a multitude of reasons. It’s literally longer than essays I’ve had to write for school. It’s somehow both a tribute and a rant. So buckle up my friends, it’s about to get chaotic on this blog!
📚 Dark academia
🏛 Secret Society
TL;DR: Six magicians are recruited to compete for spots in an elite, secret magical society.
The Atlas Six is a literary conundrum. We follow six talented magicians who are invited to a top secret society to prepare for initiation to said society…except one of them will have to be eliminated. So yes, this is fantasy dark academia and now you see why I read it.
When I first finished this book, I was almost deadset on giving it 5 stars. The vibes? THE VIBES???? If you like dark academia, and if you like magic, then you will cry with joy over this book. It’s so satisfying. If you’re a fellow morally messed up nerd like I am, then you truly will enjoy at least some aspect of this book! It’s just an all-around addicting time even though there isn’t a ton of action.
anyways it’s character time because these people are somehow both my life force and my death wish.
Libby and Nico are masters of physical manipulation and sworn enemies. They’re also soulmates in my opinion and if you dare to disagree with me, just know that the queen miss Chloe Gong says the same thing in her Goodreads review. NICOLIBBY STANS RISE UP. If we could have book bloopers, I want book bloopers of all of their moments together. Actually, just get me a book where all of their scenes are copy-pasted together.
Anyways, these two had such a fascinating dynamic* and probably the easiest type of magic to grasp. My only complaint involving the two of them is that I feel like Libby was shortchanged on backstory. Nico has an entire sideplot involving his friend Gideon to give him some depth, but Libby didn’t even have that. Still, they’re my favorite characters in this whole book. Also, Nico is Hispanic!
*in hindsight it’s probably because i shipped them so hard that i was so invested in their characters-
I’m grouping Reina and Tristan together because they fall firmly in the “I like them well enough but don’t love them” category. Reina has naturalist abilities and Tristan can see through illusions. That’s the most basic description I can give for reasons later explained in this review. They were both okay. I liked the depth of Tristan’s character, and I don’t think Reina got enough pagetime. She actually felt like she belonged there. I mean, they’re in the FREAKING LOST LIBRARY OF ALEXANDRIA FOR GOODNESS SAKE and Reina is the only one impressed by that??? It honestly feels like only she and Libby actually lean into the academia setting. And yet, Reina has almost no pagetime. Also, Reina is Japanese, and Tristan is Black!
Now I have two names for you: Callum and Parisa. Callum is white and Parisa is Desi I believe. I just wanted to mention everyone’s ethnicities because I really appreciated having a diverse cast of characters, especially in a dark academia book. Anyways, time to begin my rant!
I HAVEN’T HATED A MAIN CHARACTER THE WAY I HATE PARISA IN SO LONG. WHAT THE HECK.
First of all, let’s talk about Callum. He’s a rich pretty boy who emotionally manipulates people. He’s genuinely unlikable. But his chapters are few and far between, and are always at least psychologically interesting. He doesn’t overstay his welcome. His moral convictions are easy to disagree with, yet he’s still a fascinating character. Although honestly, after writing all of the above, I just realized I literally know nothing about him? Why is he there? What does he do in his spare time? I’M SO CONFUSED HOW IS HE A MAIN CHARACTER??? I guess you could say that no matter how vague or intentionally unlikable he’s written, his character is at least fun to read from though.
She’s a mindreader. Sounds cool, right? No. She’s not cool. I hate her character with the passion of a thousand flaming tomatoes. Why, you might ask? Let’s make a list like organized people, shall we?
- Her perspective is so annoying I would rather eat glass than read from her. Her entire personality is seduction and sexual escapades. If the tables were turned and she were a man, red flags would be going up all over the place. Not only is that just disgusting to read about, but she’s also a mind reader like I said. This combination of seduction and mind manipulation really toes the line of consent. She basically abuses her emotional manipulation and physical attractiveness to get what she wants. So yeah, she’s not just uncomfortable to read from but she’s also quite frankly disgusting.
- This wouldn’t be so bad if I DIDN’T FEEL LIKE I WAS BEING FORCED TO SYMPATHIZE WITH HER. Callum is garbage but he’s entertaining garbage that I don’t have to read from very often. Parisa is garbage disguised as a beautiful woman who uses her, well, physical and magical advantages to get what she wants and everyone just kind of…likes her? Except for Reina who has some sense thank God. With that being said, Parisa just isn’t written the same as Callum, despite being almost as morally bad as him (at the very least). WHICH LEADS ME TO MY NEXT POINT:
- The author is CLEARLY biased and has Parisa as the favorite. She gets the most pagetime and the most advantages throughout the book. She literally feels like a caricature of an overpowered superhero. Flaws? Parisa doesn’t know them because she’s perfect and every other character exists only to supplement her boring chapters despite the rest of the gang being infinitely more interesting than anything her idiotically egotistical brain could ever dare to comprehend. The entire time I was reading from her perspective I was like am I supposed to unironically like this woman? Am I supposed to root for her because she’s some sort of play on “feminism”? Ooh, she’s a little morally grey how quirky! She’s incredibly powerful, such an icon! Oh no, she draws the line at straight up killing someone! What an angel!
- AND IF THAT ISN’T ENOUGH, SHE HAS SO MANY FREAKING CHAPTERS. I don’t want to read from the perspective of someone whose main role is literally sexual (which I don’t understand why the author wrote her as this flawless magician if she’s just going to use her body half the time) in general. That feeling is multiplied by a hundred when I’m forced to about her in half of the book. Reina got shortchanged just so Parisa can read the minds of others and attempt to seduce half the men in this story? Her chapters aren’t psychologically interesting. They’re not romantically interesting. Heck, they’re not even useful half the time. They just made me hate her more and more.
- Like I said before, only Reina and Libby seem to understand the value of academia. And yet, at least Nico trains, Tristan observes, and Callum…well, I don’t really know what he does because he doesn’t have a lot of chapters. But Parisa? This sort of dark academia vibe is absolutely wasted on her. She literally took me out of the immersion of the book because she didn’t fit in. If this was a single-perspective book called The Seduction Games, yeah okay, I can see it. But this is a grand academic library! A magical secret society! With FIVE other (and much better) characters! The worldbuilding could honestly have been so much stronger if we spent more time learning about the society and the academics and the research instead of…whatever the heck her expository chapters were. I swear, the longer I talk about her the more I just want to throw a brick through a window.
- QUICK NOTE: I actually went back and counted every single chapter for every single perspective. What I found is that the chapter amount was actually very nearly equal, but the page count for Callum and Reina’s chapters were vastly surpassed by Tristan and Parisa’s. The former two would have maybe 5 pages, while the latter two would be closer to 12. So while I was mistaken in the number of chapters, I was correct in the disparity regarding pagetime.
i need to move on because while i could rant about parisa all day…we gotta talk about the magic/worldbuilding and the plot.
Again: after I finished this book, I was ready to give it a bunch of stars. Like, a whole cluster of them. But after reading the reviews of my fellow booklovers, and thinking long and hard, I realized: I have no idea how the magic works in this world. Anytime anyone describes using magic it’s through vague terms that are loosely related to real science. I don’t understand the difference between Callum and Parisa’s abilities aside from the mindreading. There’s a lot about Reina’s magic I don’t understand (bc we didn’t GET TO SPEND TIME WITH HER) besides plant manipulation.
If something like time travel was discussed, it was just thrown out there and somehow, through some combination of abilities and smart-sounding theories, all the characters understood how to do it. That is why I call this book “just vibes”: you want dark academia magic? Awesome, enjoy! You want dark academia magic that doesn’t just sound smart but actually makes sense? Uh…sorry, can’t help you there. This book is like a carnival game: impossible to understand because it’s RIGGED to make you not understand.
Not a lot of things happen during this book but I didn’t really mind that. I was too busy grinding my teeth over Parisa and fawning over every NicoLibby interaction to get caught up in the slow plot. I really loved the ending to this book, and I think that the twists are well-done. This is a very character-driven novel, reminiscent of The Raven Boys. The major difference is that The Raven Boys has…more of a plot.
One of my biggest concerns (apparently I have a lot of them) is that I technically have no real concept of this world? Again, we spend too much time in some characters heads who are consumed with their own motivations to actually dive deeply into the background of this society. I don’t know what makes it elite and secret, nor what exactly they do. AGH. On the bright side, there’s character art (this was originally self-published if you didn’t know!) at the beginning of every section. I wish more books could do that because it really made the characters come to life a bit more.
And this, my friends, is why I call The Atlas Six a Monet painting. It is wonderful from far away; it contains an incredible premise, setting, atmosphere, and seemingly well-rounded characters. However, if you look a little closer, you’ll see the blobs of paint. You’ll see the cracks in the characters, and the practically non-existent magic worldbuilding. That is why I simply can’t rate this book: I enjoyed it SO much (except for Parisa pls go hide in a shack forever) but it objectively is not a great book.
You are literally going to love this or hate it or both at the same time. I’m interested to see what happens with the sequel because the author has so much potential! Her writing is a little too wordy and a little too flat but I think that as she improves in her craft, her prose will reflect that. I’m very excited to see what the next book brings and hopefully, it contains more NicoLibby and less Parisa! I kind of want to reread it now if I’m being honest…please share your thoughts in the comments below because I’ve ranted long enough.