Can you hear Atlantia breathing?
For as long as she can remember, Rio has dreamt 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. [Goodreads]
When I first heard that this book was coming out, I was very enthusiastic about it because I loved the Matched trilogy. One early reviewer described the book as a dark twist on the classic tale of The Little Mermaid, and I was totally sold. It was a little bit of a disappointment, then, when I realized that this story has very little parallel to the classic. Once I got past this predisposition, however, I found the story in and of itself enjoyable. One thing Condie does very well and continues to do well in this book is use beautiful language to describe thoughts and emotions that are difficult to detail. This same language is used to describe the city of Atlantia in such a way that the reader can clearly picture the world and immerse themselves within it. Condie’s world-building, too, is impressive and exciting.
While the setting and the narrative was very well done, I struggled to keep up with the main character, mostly because I never felt like her story progressed organically. One minute, there would be a page full of one question after another and then suddenly an answer that was presented as obvious but never felt obvious to me as the reader. The book was slow to start, the majority of the first third of it devoted almost solely to world-building and back story–both of which I felt may have been better presented slowly and threaded throughout the rest of the narrative. Atlantia is a stand-alone and I think this was one book that would have done well as a series, allowing for more time to build the worlds Above and Below, as well as to delve deeper into the characters’ stories to allow the reader to become more attached to them.
Overall, I would recommend the book to others looking for a quick, interesting dystopian that is both familiar and unique. Fans of Ally Condie would not be disappointed–her writing rings true throughout the entire novel. The book does, at times, detour into narrative that comes across as political but this is palatable in the context of the rest of the book. If you’ve never read anything by Condie, this one would be a great place to start!