Book Review: Atlantia by Ally Condie

Atlantia (2014) is a standalone YA dystopian fantasy by Ally Condie. I selected this book based on my fondness for mermaid- and oceanic-themed stories, and because I thoroughly enjoyed Condie’s debut, Matched, back when my son was born. While the rest of the Matched series didn’t hold me, I’ve still kept an eye out for Condie’s work.

This book is about an underwater city at the bottom of the ocean, called Atlantia, which was created to save a portion of humanity when life on earth became too polluted. Atlantia is ruled by an ambiguously corrupt religious group that oversees the separation and occasional negotiations between the people who live Below and those who still dwell Above. A girl named Rio has always dreamed of leaving Atlantia for the Above, but her twin sister Bay steals the opportunity from her for reasons unknown. Rio is left Below to piece together why her sister deceived her and left, who murdered their mother, and how she can find her way Above to be reunited with Bay. Meanwhile, Rio must hide the fact from her society that she is a siren – that she possesses a powerful voice, which can manipulate other people and objects.

I loved the fluid writing and the imagery of Atlantia. However, the rules and workings of the siren lore – their history, what they can/can’t do, who is/isn’t one, who’s immune to them and who’s not, etc. – became a bit convoluted. There’s a simplicity in Condie’s writing that I adore, which didn’t blend very smoothly with the complex and arbitrary rules of the siren magic and how everything played out in the third act. As well, I never understood why Rio was too stubborn to trust her siren aunt, Maire, who wasn’t an evil character at all and whom I trusted from the very beginning.

Overall, though, this was a gripping adventure that I couldn’t put down until the last page. If you like the sound of an underwater dystopia with a few drops of fantasy, then I would tell you to look into Atlantia.

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