Rating: 4 Stars
Synopsis via Goodreads:
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.
“Under star-dark seas and skies of gold
Live those Above and those Below
They sing and weep, both high and deep
While over and under the ocean rolls.”
I’m happily surprised. I did not particularly enjoy Ally Condie’s Matched trilogy – to be honest, I found it to be a snooze fest. I had to pick myself up and force myself to finish the series. So, really, it wasn’t that the Matched series was bad in any particular way, but was just kind of boring to me. Partly this had to do with Ms. Condie’s writing style. It just wasn’t for me.
So when I picked up this standalone novel, I did so hesitantly. But come on – look at that cover. IT’S SO PRETTY.
Atlantia is a world underwater, a mixture of the tale of Atlantis with some real world dynamics. There is the Above – for the most part like the world we live in – and the Below – which is where Rio and Bay have always lived. Their late mother, Oceana (how’s that for a ironic name, huh?), was the Minister, who basically rules the city. The current Minister isn’t wholly evil-bad-guy stereotype, but he’s no good either (which seems to be a must in any dystopian/utopian book).
I enjoyed this book must more than I did the Matched series. I liked the characters and the dynamics much better here. Rio has been born a siren, but no one knows besides Bay, who has left her. All her life, her mother has forced her to change her voice, change everything about her, sheltered and protected her from anyone ever finding out what she is. Because if they did, Rio would be locked up and used for Atlantia’s purposes. She cannot be a strong siren in public, but she cannot be a strong siren in private, either.
This is a slow going tale. A lot of people will give up after so many pages in this book because of just how slow it is. Personally, I’ve never minded slow going tales, so this worked for me. For me, I find myself always a little bored at the beginning of books – no matter how action-packed they might be – but then I get bored and tired at the end – also no matter how action packed it might be.
For me, I fell in love not so much with Rio or any of the other characters, but the lack thereof. The story isn’t all about Rio and True and their budding relationship, but the story revolves around Atlantia itself.
It’s beautiful. Something out of a fairytale.
But it’s also broken.
Leaks are a possibility. People are getting sick and many want to go Above. All die trying.
I was reminded of Lauren DeStefano’s Perfect Ruin while reading this. But instead of the characters trying to get down, the characters here want to go Above. It was fantastical in the same way, with mystic worlds and religions quirked to the needs to the city and it’s people. A world full of statues made in the images of animals from Above that are called gods.
And, of course, it’s full of sisterly love. Not just sisterly love, but twin sisterly love. And I love twins in any book.
Rio and Bay are the closest that you can be as twin sisters. Not identical in the way people see, but identical in more ways than most could ever guess.
“We are not lost mermaids with seaweed hair and coins for eyes, but human girls, alive and found.
We are sisters, and we did not drown.”
They love and hate each other, all in the same breath. They have betrayed each other and saved each other and don’t regret a smidge of it. Bay has shielded Rio her whole life, making sure no one ever looks to closely at her twin sister, never find out that she’s just a little off, that she’s a siren. And Rio has protected Bay by masking her true voice with a dull, boring one. She can never slip up, not even in private, because that could mean forcing her sister to do something she doesn’t actually wants to do, but will do nonetheless because her sister’s siren voice has commanded it of her.
The writing here has nothing for me to complain about either. While Ms. Condie’s writing is not my favorite – as was proved with her Matched series – I enjoyed it here. To me, this is a very different side of Ms. Condie – writing wise, of course.
“So much of life is in the smallness of moments . . . but they are harder to mark. So we need the grander celebrations and occasions. People like to feel significant.”
Rio was not my favorite character ever, but she was admirable and had many traits I thoroughly enjoyed. She is not a pushover. She does not let her sister’s betrayal blind her to what she wants, and, darn it all, she’s going to get it or (literally) die trying. She is like Morgan in Perfect Ruin where she will happily jump off the cliff of her city in the clouds if it means there’s a chance she could reach the world below. Only here, Rio would happily risk drowning to see the Above.
The romance was also very light. It was there, and it played an important part, but, once again, I have to compare it to that of Morgan and Basil in Perfect Ruin. It is very similar – there, and perfect in it’s own way. True trusts Rio to make her own choices and decisions, even if he might not understand them and may seem a little rash and dangerous, but, ultimately, he can only ask her to re-think her plans, but even if she doesn’t take his advice (she doesn’t), then all he can do is support her. And it’s beautiful.
Also, I WANT A BLUE-WINGED BAT. WHERE IS MY BLUE-WINGED LITTLE CREATURE OF THE NIGHT?!?