Ally Condie, author of the Matched trilogy, is back with a different type of futuristic novel. This one takes us to the underground civilization of Atlantia, created because the air on Earth became so polluted that the solution was send some people under the sea to ensure human survival and continuation. At the time of the Divide, some people chose to stay Above on Earth so they could continue to work and send resources to Atlantia Below. By the time this story begins, the Above and the Below are firmly established. Those who live Below are given one chance, when they reach a certain age, to go live Above. Rio, our main character, has always wanted to go Above, while her sister Bay clearly loves the Below. However, after their mother’s death, Bay asks Rio to stay Below, and she agrees. Once she has affirmed that decision, Bay surprises her and chooses to go Above.
The first beautiful thing about this book is the cover. It’s hard to tell from looking at the picture on the screen, but the actual book cover slightly shimmers when it is held below the light. The second beautiful thing about this book is the writing. Like the sea, it flows at a certain pace — slow and steady in its descriptions, yet fast and furious when something big and dangerous is happening. This book had many surprising reveals throughout, both in plot and in its characters. I can honestly say for ALL of the main characters — no one is who they appear to be at first. I don’t mean this is a bad way: I just mean that they all have secrets they are keeping, either because they are trying to protect themselves or someone they love. I was most fascinated by Rio’s aunt Maire, because while she had a lot of knowledge and answers for Rio, our main character didn’t trust her right away and I wasn’t sure I did either.
When Bay chooses to go Above, I understood that Rio was upset, but it is only through the next few chapters that Ally establishes the connection between the two sisters and why Rio is so destroyed by her sister’s decision. Once we, the reader, understand their bond, we, too, wonder why Bay left. That’s when we start to learn more about True, an amazingly supportive ally for Rio, and more from Maire to help Rio understand herself and Atlantia.
While I loved reading about the miracles of the Below, the flow of the story got a little murky to me in the discussion of the gods and how they related to the people’s faith Below and Above. They have the Ministers and they have the miracles, so I am not exactly sure how the gods and the statues of the gods fit into all of that. And while I know that it is not necessary to completely seal up everything at the end of the story nicely, I am still left with questions about what became of certain people and how things ended up.
Atlantia was definitely an enchanted book for me. I loved reading about the descriptions of all of the spaces Below: everything was kept beautiful, from the temple to the leaves on the trees, from the gondolas to the deepmarket. I could understand completely both why Bay loved Atlantia so much, but also why Rio wanted to leave. This book was enchanted, beautiful, and flowed so easily, I didn’t realize how fast I was reading it, until I was done.