Can you hear Atlantia breathing? For as long as she can remember, Rio has dreamed of the sand and sky Above—of life beyond her underwater city of Atlantia. But in a single moment, all Rio’s hopes for the future are shattered when her twin sister, Bay, makes an unexpected choice, stranding Rio Below. Alone, ripped away from the last person who knew Rio’s true self—and the powerful siren voice she has long silenced—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 corrupted 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.
What worked: I loved the twist on ‘The Little Mermaid’ set in a future world with Sirens. Think people that can control others with their voices. Some worship them. Others fear them. There are two worlds: the ‘Above’ which has been ravaged by pollution and destruction and Atlantia, the “Below” a domed world under the sea.
A huge plus of this story has to be the love between sisters. Rio and her twin sister Bay are very close. The loss of their Minister mother still haunts both of them. Rio longs to go above and see the sun and feel the air. When an unexpected decision has Bay leave for the Above, Rio sets out to find out the real reason.
Condie shows us the determination of Rio even when her search leads her to Maire, her mother’s Siren sister. There are twists and turns and some surprising reveals that threaten everything Rio has believed in. Condie scratches below the surface and we find that some motivations on what individuals do (or don’t do) aren’t all what they seem.
Atlantia is a major character in this story. This world is shown in vivid, rich strokes that is mesmerizing with under water temples, bats with blue wings, and metal trees with chiming leaves. The world is rich and colorful. Rio loves Atlantia but notices something is off and her world is collapsing. The contrast between the world she loves and the one that is coming apart propels her to make an important choice that pivots the storyline.
There’s even a love interest-True-who has his own secret.
There is so much to love about this story--action, suspense, and a sisterly love that transcends anything that is thrown in its way.
World building & pace: Okay, so first let me clear out that this is a dystopian book where something happened with the clima on the above and some selected people went to live below, but then some weird thing started to happen to the people below and some of them started to become mermaids, for some reason unknown. So if this kind of thing bothers you - things happen and are never given a good reason - just stay away from this book, for me it wasn't a major turn off, it bugged me a little but I could suspend my disbelief and keep going. But the thing that DID bothered me was the pace, oh boy this book was slow, and slow, and slow, and them BAM! everything happens in like 10% of the book and it's finished and that was it. Now, I don't mind slow books - hell, The Vanishing Season was more slow than this and it's one of my all time favorites - but it bothers me when there is things that should be happening and are not, and them pisses me off when things are rushed to make it fit on the ending, NOT PLEASED.
Recommended to: readers who want mermaids or really liked the atlantia idea when they're kids (which is why I picked this one up), readers who liked Ally Condie's other works.