Sunday, 5 October 2014

Atlantia by Ally Condie: Review

Title: Atlantia
Author: Ally Condie
Publisher: Dutton Juvenile
Buy This Book: Amazon / Book Depository
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 summary.)
When I realised it wasn't about mermaids.
I clearly didn't pay attention to the book blurb for this, or really look up what it was about. I just saw the cover, the title and the mention of Above and Below and I instantly assumed this was a mermaid story. I don't even know why. I saw Atlantia and instead of thinking of Atlantis and an underwater city, my mind went to The Little Mermaid and her home of Atlantica. It's probably for the best that it's not a mermaid story, they never usually work. I must admit though, I was kind of disappointed it wasn't a mermaid story. I clearly need more mermaid in my life than just Ariel.

Ally Condie's Matched series is one that I really enjoyed, although I know it's a series that divides opinion. I saw that Atlantia was by Ally Condie and I knew that I wanted to read it, I didn't really care what it was about. Her writing style is one that really works for me and I easily get through one of her books in just a few hours. I enjoyed quite a lot of Atlantia, even if it wasn't what I was expecting but it also had some problems that were really hard to see past.


The story is set in Atlantia, or what's also known as the Below, an underwater city where Rio lives. The Above doesn't have clean air, the people who were made to stay Above now spend their short lives helping to make sure that those in Atlantia survive. Rio had always dreamed of going Above someday, a choice that is given to everyone in Atlantia once and once only. Rio always planned to choose the Above, but her mother's death changed her plans when her sister Bay begged her to stay. Rio is shocked that, after she chooses to stay, Bay chooses to go Above and leave Rio behind. The book then concentrates on Rio's determination to get above, to find out what happened to her mother the day she died and to be reunited with her sister.


I hadn't realised that this was a standalone, even for the majority of the story I was certain it was going to be the first book of the series. Once I was almost at the end and realised my mistake, I was actually pretty annoyed with the start of the story and the pacing of it. Not too much happens, a large majority of it is spent seeing Rio training in a pool to swim better so she can escape Atlantia and hopefully swim past the mines and make it to the surface. This takes up a large portion of the book, it's quite slow going in the beginning and I didn't see a ton of character development. But that seemed okay to me, I was assuming it was the beginning of a series and we would get more action near the end of the book and more development in later books. It was pretty disappointing when I realised that wasn't the case.
The old 'miracle from God' cop out!

I was also confused because there's a ton of elements to the story that aren't explained all that well. For example, Sirens exist in Atlantia and they appeared after the first generation who came down Below began having children. We never get this explained at all, which always frustrates me when books do that. I wanted some kind of theory as to why people suddenly gave birth to Siren children who can manipulate people to do what they want, using just their voice. The Above and Below are now highly religious though, praying to their animal Gods, and so the Sirens are just seen as a miracle from the Gods. This seriously irked me, it just seemed like a way for the author to not have to explain them at all. The people in Atlantia just accept them as miracles and never question it at all.

I read a lot of dystopians which isn't a bad thing but does mean that you start to see a lot of similarities between books. Atlantia, although so completely different to it in most ways, really reminded me of Divergent at times. Okay, maybe like twice... but still. They have a choosing ceremony once a year, where they must decide whether to go Above or stay Below. This ceremony uses two bowls, one that contains salt water to represent Below and the other with earth to represent the Above. It just really reminded me of the Divergent choosing ceremony where each faction is represented by a bowl of either earth, water, stone, coals or glass. And Bay's choice to suddenly go Above really reminded me of when Caleb chooses to leave Abnegation. Both are seen as being perfect for where they are, and their sibling doesn't really see them as someone who would choose to leave.
Yes, Rio really does crave to go Above... To a world where
she'll inevitably die a slow, painful death at a young age.
Seems legit.
As I have already mentioned, the pacing of the book was a problem for me. A lot of time is spent on Rio and her swimming, which gets old pretty fast. The story really got interesting for me when she starts to talk to her aunt Maire. Maire is a Siren, who's seen by many in Atlantia as a sea witch. I loved her character and thought she added so much to the story, and brought out a different side to Rio. It's Maire who gets Rio to finally start to question the world she lives in, the Council that rules Atlantia and the new Minister who took over from her mother. Her mother's death has always been a big question mark for Rio and her sister, nobody knew what killed her mother. With Maire's help, Rio finally becomes determined to find out what happened to her mother and what exactly that had to do with Bay choosing to go above.

The ending of this book had all the twists, turns and action that seemed to be lacking for the majority of the story. It made the ending feel rushed, like too much was being crammed into that last 20%. Less time could have been spent on Rio's swimming and more time spent Above. That was it would have paced the story out a bit better, and not felt like everything happens right at the end. My other main issue with the end was how quickly and neatly everything is wrapped up.


3/5 Butterflies

I had originally planned to give it a 3.5, but writing my review has made me see that I have a lot of problems with the book. I really did enjoy reading it, I devoured it in a few hours and couldn't put it down. But the pacing of the book is all wrong, especially considering it's a standalone. The lack of character development and a barely there romance are also big negatives for me. I enjoyed the book but it's not one I am going to be rereading.  If Atlantia is a book that you're looking forward to reading then I still suggest giving it a go. I don't feel hugely let down by this book, it just wasn't exactly what I was expecting and isn't something I would read more than once. 



*I received a copy of this novel from the author/publisher/publicist via Edelweiss in exchange for a free and honest review and received no monetary compensation for this review.

31 comments:

  1. I kind of want to read to read this because WATER STUFF. I totally thought it was mermaids though...so they're not?! DISAPPOINTING. I've read a few mermaid books, but nothing has like wowed my brain off anyway. Hehe. ANYWAY. I didn't love the Matched series, but I did love her writing style, which is why I figure I need to try something else of Ally Condie's.

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    1. I feel better knowing I wasn't the only person who assumed mermaids. I was pretty disappointing that it wasn't about that too. I did enjoy it to a degree, but the pacing was all off for a book that's a standalone.

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  2. Huh I totally thought this was about mermaids too.
    I didn't like Matched but the blurb for this intrigued me.
    Grear review! I really want to watch The Little Mermaid now... :)

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    1. Me too.... I've been wanting to watch it since I read the book. I kind of wish it had been about mermaids, even if I am yet to read a decent mermaid story.

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  3. Argh I had a longish comment typed out then my computer went nuts! I haven't finished reading her Matched Trilogy but I've really enjoyed it so I was looking forward to something else of hers. I can see how you would think this was about mermaids. I'm still kind of confused about it even now you've said it's not about mermaids. Do they live in the water or like a giant dome or something haha? I always want to read more underwater books but the ones I have read have been really disappointing. I'll still probably read this one but I might go into it a bit more wary.

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    1. It's like they live in a man made underwater city. Not like the Disney film Atlantis where it somehow survives under the water. It was an okay read, just poorly paced for something that turned out to be a standalone. Boring middle and then rushed ending. Why not just pace the end action out and make that aspect longer?

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  4. Oh that's a bummer! I was having high hopes for it as well, thinking it was going to be all about the mermaids kind of story as well. At least I feel a little more prepared for it now, knowing that's not the case. Hoping to find some enjoyment in it still because I really do want to give it a go! Nice honest review! Like I said, I feel a bit more prepared and have lowered my expectations for this one!

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    1. I am really glad to know that so many other people assumed it was about mermaids. I am also glad that I have let you all know in advance, so you won't be left disappointed like I was. It was still a good book, I really enjoyed reading it and got through it in a few hours. It just wasn't amazing and the pacing was all wrong.

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  5. Hmmm…I'll probably end up reading it because I loved the Matched series, but it doesn't sound like I'm going to love it. At least I know it's a stand-alone going in and with the other problems my expectations are more appropriately lowered. As much as I have a love/hate relationship with series, it does seem hard to write a stand-alone that has really good world-building and character development. Great review! ~Pam

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    1. It was definitely still an okay read, I enjoyed reading it. The pacing was what really threw me off, it has the pacing of a first book in a series. Then this massive rushed ending to tie it all up nicely. I wasn't a fan of that.

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  6. Sounds like this could have been better all around but I am glad you still enjoyed it. It sounds really interesting for sure.

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    1. It was an enjoyable read, it just had it's issues.

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  7. Oh dear, the choosing ceremony in this one is definitely too similar to Divergent =/ I do like the fact that it is set in Atlantia which is a bit different, but for me to pick up these sorts of books they have to have something more unique. Great review Charnell!

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    1. That ceremony only takes up the first chapter and then you kind of forget about it. I just felt the need to mention it. I did enjoy this, I think the pacing of it was my main issue. It starts off well, the middle drags and then the end is rushed.

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  8. I was a bit hesitant of this one because I was a bit mixed at my feelings for Ally's Matched trilogy, and it sounds like my feelings will probably be a bit mediocre on this one as well based on what you've said. It's a shame the pacing at the beginning was a bit slow, and that there were similarities to other popular dystopian books (gah! I hate when that happens!). Nonetheless, I'm glad it was at the very least entertaining and fun to read. Thanks for sharing and, always, BRILLIANT review! <3 the Little Mermaid GIFs too! ;)

    ~ Zoe @ The Infinite To-Read Shelf

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    1. I couldn't not have Little Mermaid gifs ;) I enjoyed it and got through the book really quickly. It just wasn't everything that I hoped it would be. The pacing was definitely the biggest problem for me.

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  9. A standalone, huh? I don't read many of those, but with what you have been saying, maybe this would have been better if wasn't one. I don't know. I liked her Matched Series too. Maybe I'll check it out. Thanks for the review!

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    1. I think it would have been fine as a standalone if she had paced it better. The pacing was all wrong. Most of the time she spends learning to swim and that really bothered me.

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  10. LOL. This definitely would've been better if it was about mermaids :P

    I actually assumed this was a series for some reason, so I'm a little surprised it's a standalone! I kind of thing standalones are easier to pace, so it's a little odd that there were some issues there *sad face*

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    1. Haha, it totally would have been! ;)

      For me at least, the pacing in this was entirely wrong. It just slowed so much in the middle and then had a really rushed ending. There wasn't enough character development either. It was an enjoyable read, but I wouldn't read it again.

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  11. I love stand alones. I find I'm always disappointed in series, and by book three I'm done before I get to page 3. Of course, any book has to have good pacing and great characters to keep me reading.

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    1. I do love series, but a lot of my recent series reads have been disappointing. I hate being let down by a series.

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  12. Ohhhhh! I totally thought it was a mermaid story too. Oops. Guess I shouldn't make assumptions. I also really enjoyed her Matched trilogy. So I'm really excited to get my hands on this one.
    Thanks for the review though. It's very thorough and gives great perspective into what I can actually expect from the book. I'm still going to give it a try and maybe just go in with lower expectations. That might help the outcome. :)
    Happy reading!
    Brittany @ This is the Story of My(Reading) Life

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    1. Yay! I am kind of happy that I am not the only person who assumed mermaid story. To me at least, that cover just screams mermaids! I hope you end up enjoying the book if and when you get to read it.

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  13. Ooo, this is really interesting! I've never read a story about sirens before, and the fantasy-fed reader in me would quite like to sample it O_O The only problem is, like you, I am doubtful of how familiar this story sounds. Even more doubtful that it almost/maybe/barely met your expectations. I liked your review!

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    1. I did enjoy it whilst I was reading it, which I did in one sitting. But it just didn't wow me like I was hoping it would.

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  14. Ooh it's not about mermaids? Now that is one lot of a shocker for me too! I naturally assumed it was xD I read the entirety of the Matched series, thinking I loved it as I did, but now looking back at it, they weren't that good for me and were far too slow paced. I want to give Ally Condie another chance through these books, but I don't think I will be able to take more slow pacing O.o

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    1. These comments have made me feel much better. I am real happy that I wasn't the only one who just assumed this was going to be a mermaid story. The cover just screams mermaid to me. Be warned, it's very slow paced in parts.

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  15. I must admit, I've given up on keeping Matched on my TBR...I just don't have time for it at the moment. However, I really want to give this one a try! It sounds rather good, despite the pacing issues. I do wish you enjoyed it just a little bit more though. Thanks for the informative and wonderful review, Charnell. :)

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    1. I actually did really enjoy it, I know it seems like I didn't in my review. It was good, I read it in one sitting and was definitely gripped by the story. The pacing was just a little off and the ending rushed. I did enjoy it though, it's just not a book I'd reread.

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  16. I loved this book but I can see how you can think that. Thanks for your point of view.

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