Every ten years, the six most talented magicians are selected for potential initiation into the Alexandrian Society. For one year, they will have selective access to the secret society’s extensive archives and will have to eliminate one of their group, as only five will be initiated.
I didn’t know much about this book when I decided to listen to it. I felt I was seeing the title everywhere, had read that it was queer, and since I needed a change of pace, thought that was enough. In all fairness, it was, and it wasn’t. The author doesn’t seem to understand the hype either, which actually makes me like the book even more. I mean, I really enjoyed it and am looking forward to the next books, but I didn’t love everything.
This book has had an interesting journey: it was self-published, then, after suddenly becoming viral on TikTok, it was picked up by Tor Books as part of a trilogy, with the second book, The Atlas Paradox, coming out next fall. It should also come to TV, with Amazon getting the adaptation rights.
I probably wouldn’t have enjoyed this audiobook as much if I wasn’t so character-driven. The plot should be fascinating but it takes second place to the characters, who they are, who they become, how they are with one another, who they become to one another. There are six main characters and three very important secondary characters, which is a lot to keep track of. I thought having a full cast – my first audiobook with one! – would help, but the book is told from each MC’s point of view, in alternate chapters, and the different styles of narration actually made it a bit difficult for me to keep the same level of attention for each chapter.
My favourite narrators are the ones who act and do different voices for each character, but I also prefer a narrator who reads well to one who is bad at voices. In this cast (Steve West, Siho Ellsmore, Munirih Grace, James Patrick Cronin, David Monteith, Damian Lynch, Caitlin Kelly, and Andy Ingalls), each narrator was well-matched to their character but some are readers, others act more, with different voices for the characters interacting with theirs. While each was good in their own way, it feels a bit unfair to the author, who created a whole array of characters, with real, layered personalities, that these personalities wouldn’t resonate in every chapter. My favourite narrators were Caitlin Kelly as Libby, Munirih Grace as Parisa, and, to a lesser extent, David Monteith as Tristan.
About the queerness: in most books I review, there’s no question that the MCs are queer. It’s a lot less obvious here. They feel queer, and the author has confirmed they’re all sexually fluid, but besides an FFM threesome that’s fade-to-black, nothing is ever said explicitly. I liked that a lot more than I would have thought, it adds one more layer to the relationships and the will they/won’t they tension that permeates the whole story. I do hope, however, that things will be more explicit in the next book, now that the characters and plot have been established. Fade to black and innuendo are only exciting for so long.
Anyway, if you’re into dark academia, you should enjoy this too.
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