Review: Atlantia by Ally Condie
Release date: October 28th, 2014
Publisher: Dutton (Penguin)
Length: 368 pages
Source: ARC from the publisher
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.
Upfront: this book isn't about mermaids. It's about an underwater city called Atlantia, a city of humans who live beneath domes far below the sea, away from the polluted surface. It's a blend of sci-fi and fantasy, with a focus on sister relationships and hiding one's true nature.
Rio (do your best to ignore the names in this book) longs to leave the underwater paradise of Below for the land Above. Years and years ago, when Above became dreadfully polluted and unsafe, they built the below so that part of humanity could be safe. Now the people of above toil to preserve the lives of the people Below, but Rio still wishes with all her might to go Above (she doesn't care, apparently, about the toil-hard-and-die-youg-in-the-polluted-air part). But that's because she's secretly a siren, aka a Belower gifted with the power to compel people with their voice like the sirens of mythology, something that is very much frowned upon in Below. She's recently lost her mother, and her twin sister, Bay, is the only person she has. When it's time for them to choose whether they'll stay above or Below, Rio promises Bay she'll stay in the Below with her, just as their mother wanted. When Bay chooses to go Above, abandoning Rio below, Rio is utterly crushed.
Rio is stuck. After mourning, she decides she'll do whatever it takes to get Above--even if it means trusting people she shouldn't (handsome boys) (scary sea witch siren aunties who mayyyy have murdered her mother--and delving into the dark truths of Below that some might kill to keep hidden. it's a lot of great stuff that never quite reaches full boil (which is good, because really, the ocean shouldn't boil. That would be bad) and stays more in the dreamy, passive lane.
This is definitely a book for people who were fans of Matched, who enjoy high concept reads with slow, introspective, almost peaceful prose and still characters. While I wasn't enamored with every aspect of the world-building, it's evident that Condie put a lot of time and effort into constructing the post-apocalyptic, undersea idyll that is Atlantia, and it's definitely a rich world with its own mythology and culture and religion. Details were missing when it came to explaining all parts of the city, but I really liked the concept of the sirens (got pretty nicely creepy in parts) and the evident bond between the sisters. The romance builds very slowly and nicely, though I would have loved more from it--and from the epilogue, since the ending is a bit under-developed. And most of all, I liked how this was kind of like a sci-fi fantasy retelling/retooling of The Little Mermaid, because obviously.
I mean, Rio is all:
But her mother and her twin sister, Bay, are all:
But then Bay is all:
|GOIN' ABOVE BYE BITCHES|
And poor Rio is all:
And then Rio is all:
But then she decides:
|NO EXPLANATION BC SPOILER|
Well... kinda. They're not mermaids, but they do live in the underwater city of Below, and Rio does have a fascination with Above, and shhhh it's The Little Mermaid if I say it is.
Just like Ariel and Rio, I'm Team Above. Up where they stay all day in the sun, wanderin' free... Can it get better than that? I mean, what would you pay to spend a day warm on the sand? On land, we understand, and we don't reprimand our daughters.
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