By Cheryl Macasaet
Header: The Infinite Library
Thumbnail: Imogen's Typewriter
The Library of Alexandria: the ancient world’s greatest source of information; its knowledge was reduced to ashes by Julius Caesar in 48 BC.
In Olivie Blake’s mystical world, the Library of Alexandria still lives on in secret with its archives protected by the Alexandrian Society. Members of this secret society easily rise to positions of wealth, power, and prestige as they have access to all of the documents in the world, but they must first undergo a period of testing. Each decade, six of the most talented young magicians or “medians” are chosen by the leaders of the Alexandrian Society as potential inductees. They must spend a year living together and protecting the Library of Alexandria’s knowledge, while also researching and learning about complex topics revolving around magic and morality. At the end of the year, only five candidates are able to join the society’s ranks, and the fate of the unchosen candidate is explicitly left unsaid.
The six candidates in the novel include: Libby Rhodes and Nico de Varona, two rival physicists who can control all elements of the physical world; Reina Mori, a naturalist whose power seems to uncontrollably seep out of her; Parisa Kamali, a telepath who can travel through the depths of the mind and unlock others’ secrets; Callum Nova, an empath with a dangerous talent for controlling emotions; and Tristan Caine, the son of a notorious mobster who can see through illusions.
With a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity on the line, alliances and rivalries quickly build between these six characters. However, as their time with the Society slowly reveals their dark secrets and motivations, the truth behind why each of them had been selected is uncovered as well.
I’ve heard many people say that The Atlas Six is a character-driven story, and I can confirm that this is true — but for a good reason.
Each of these six characters has such a rich and complex personality, which is mainly due to their flaws. While characters in other novels are written to be likable and only possess one major imperfection, these characters are riddled with blemishes. Conviving, prideful, insecure, self-sabotaging, overzealous, spineless — this is a list of some of these characters’ individual faults that hinder them on their journeys throughout the book. It is these flaws that make Libby, Nico, Renia, Parisa, Callum, and Tristan so real and relatable, and how they tackle (and often fail to confront) their weaknesses is what makes this novel immersive and engaging.
Their imperfections further add a level of realism to this fantasy story. The chance to attain as much wealth, power, fame, and knowledge as you desire is bound to bring out the ugliest parts of everyone, and this result of human nature is exactly what the author uses to advance the plot and carefully add twists and turns when readers are least expecting it. This is why I would argue that the book has a definite storyline underneath all of its focus on the characters, despite many claims that the author fails to develop a concrete plot.
However, the novel’s main purpose is to set up what will happen in the second part of the trilogy, so the first book intentionally feels incomplete when you finish reading it. The author does make up for this lack of fulfillment by ending the book with a shocking plot twist, which is by no means predictable or cliché.
Another common criticism of The Atlas Six is that it’s simply “boring.” Much of the book grapples with the concepts of time, thought, space, relativity, and philosophy — ideas that many people may not be very interested in. With this in mind, I’ve come up with some sort of qualifying statement: if you aren’t interested in joining a secret society that grants you access to all of the world’s knowledge, then you may not be interested in this book.
Regardless of my personal thoughts, The Atlas Six is undeniably contemplative, which is what makes it such a hit-or-miss among readers. Even if you aren’t intrigued by thought-provoking pieces, I believe that the characters’ unique personalities, goals, backgrounds, and philosophies are what overall makes this book worth exploring.