Can you hear Atlantia breathing?
For as long as she can remember, Rio has dreamed of the sand and sky Above—of life beyond her underwater city of Atlantia. But in a single moment, all her plans for the future are thwarted when her twin sister, Bay, makes an unexpected decision, stranding Rio Below. Alone, ripped away from the last person who knew Rio’s true self—and the powerful siren voice she has long hidden—she has nothing left to lose.
Guided by a dangerous and unlikely mentor, Rio formulates a plan that leads to increasingly treacherous questions about her mother’s death, her own destiny, and the complex system constructed to govern the Divide between land and sea. Her life and her city depend on Rio to listen to the voices of the past and to speak long-hidden truths.
Thank you Carynn Tey from Penguin Books Singapore for providing me a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.
Prior to Atlantia, I’ve read Matched by Ally Condie quite a few years back (when it had just been published). To say I disliked it would be pretty big of an understatement. However, I decided to give her the benefit of the doubt and hope after publishing another 2 books, this latest one would be better than her debut. I would say Atlantia was a lot more captivating than Matched, although it still retained the detached and dull plot execution.
One of the main reasons I took a chance on Atlantia had been its interesting synopsis and story concept. There are only a handful of YA books set in futuristic underwater cities (the only other one I can remember off the top of my head being The Elysium Chronicles by J.A. Souders—which debut I loved though the sequel not so much) and as someone fascinated with such settings (very Bioshock-esque*), I simply had to give it a shot.
However, with the numerous plot holes yet enchanting and mysterious storyline, Atlantia might have made a better fairytale-like short story than a 300+ page novel. Like many fairytales, the characters here all seem rather detached and hard to connect with and the world-building, despite sounding pretty, was actually very weak. The whole theory of sirens came off like a bunch of facts and myths stringed together with no reasoning whatsoever.
Condie’s attempt to interlink the futuristic/sci-fi and paranormal genres was also sloppy and awkward. There had been substantial quirky mythology and supernatural elements but a lack of the detailed explanations known to the sci-fi genre. Hence, reading Atlantia had been both fascinating and frustrating.
The characters, too, had been captivating yet wildly infuriating. Rio, the protagonist, had so much growth yet can be so plainly stupid at times. There were characters who were amazing developed—like Rio’s aunt, Maire—and others that were evil simply because they had been stuck with the role of the villain in the story.
All in all, Atlantia was a much better book than Condie’s debut, Matched, but still far from spectacular. The overwhelming amount of emphasis put onto tiny, insignificant things to show growth, irony, some deeper meaning or literary whatnot made the novel quite a bore and personally, pretty unappealing. However, if you had been a fan of Condie from the start, you’ll probably love Atlantia since even an anti-fan (I’m not so extreme as to be a hater) found it tolerable.