For some inscrutable reason, I delight in books where teenagers go to class. The Atlantis Grail feeds this hunger of mine, while serving up a delicious platter of “go to class to learn how to not die”. Best of all, the nickname given to the main character is superhero gold.
“Listen to her!” Laronda picks up. “She is Shoelace Girl!”
The Atlantis Grail is an epic read, crossing different genres. It is a coming of age, science fiction series shadowed by Hunger Games competitions. Add to that the classes/schooling of the Harry Potter universe, the physical survival prepping of Robinson Crusoe and all of this taking place in space, well you get the gist. Also, going to the planet Atlantis takes a really long time. I actually appreciate that. Too many science fiction novels/shows have people zipping around in impossible ways that make me roll my eyes. If the Doctor gives “Timey Wimey” as a reason for everything one more time…
It is set 19 months before Earth is Big Banged again, and follows 16-year-old Gwenevere Lark’s journey to survive. It is set in a present-day-ish Earth of cheesy eggs, TV and yellow buses. Pretty much your everyday, except for the alien spaceships in the sky and an impending doom. The people of Atlantis left Earth 1000 years ago after their own catastrophe, and found a home in the stars. And now they are back, willing to save 10 million Earth teenagers from the impending meteor by whisking them off into space.
At its core, Atlantis Grail is about a nerdy klutz who is pitted against all the other teenagers of Earth to win a coveted spot as one of 10 million refugees. Gwen is 16, full of emotions, full of ideas. The best thing she has going for her, is her brain. Mainly because she is a completely unfit potato. She spent her whole life focused on academia, and then the apocalypse arrived. So when forced to qualify or die, she finds herself starting to exercise. And it isn’t a cathartic “oh hey, I’m good at exercise” situation, but a slow and painful regime. A majority of the first half of the book is dedicated to classes, gym sessions, martial arts lessons and multiple scenes of atrocious “jogging” around a track. All this culminates in Qualification, where it is each person for themselves. A lot of children get hurt, a lot of children die.
That is probably what really drew me into the world of Atlantis Grail. The Author Vera Nazarian – a Nebula Award Nominee – doesn’t allow her characters to just be magically good at things. All of them have to work hard and fail often, which results in distinct physical and mental character growth. I love how Gwen’s friends aren’t just cookie-cutter support characters, but flawed and varied human beings. Nazarian’s teenage voice for the characters can sound a bit disjointed at times, but what is a teenager if not all over the place? One day Gwen is mature, the next she has forgotten about her responsibilities because she got caught up in a crush. She is impulsive, intelligent, resolute and tries not to let other people in on how she feels.
In order to accomplish this, the books are long. Book 1 Qualify is 210k words long, Book 2 Compete is 176k words long, Book 3 Win is slated to go up to 310k and there is still Book 4 Survive. For reference, the longest Harry Potter book (no.5) is only 257k words long (bit of trivia, total words for entire Harry Potter series is 1,084,170). While this has allowed for a truly immersive world with tons of internal monologue, interpersonal conflict and reflection – it does mean that any action scenes are fairly long. Both books could have probably been served with some better editing to tidy up a bit of the filler.
In any case, I am on the edge of my seat waiting for Win. Especially after the twist at the end of Compete. Nazarian’s website has this teaser:
And, if like me you can’t wait for the third book, well you’re in luck. Because Ms Nazarian uploaded the first 26 unedited chapters of the third book “Win” for us to read right now for free! First line of book three?
“Today is the most impossible day of my life.”
Where can you read Qualify and Compete? The eBooks are on Kindle and iTunes, and a physical copy can be picked up from Amazon. I think these are also available to read free through the 30-day free trial of Kindle Unlimited.
The Atlantis Grail Links:
Need more books to read? Check out my list of the 7 best Dystopian Novel series. Spoiler, this is one of them.