Book Review: Atlas by Becca C. Smith

Atlas by Becca C. Smith

Title: Atlas

Author: Becca C. Smith

Publisher: Red Frog Publishing

Publication date: November 11, 2013

Genre: Fantasy

Summary: Book 1 of The Atlas Series, Atlas hits the ground running. In no time at all, we are introduced to Kala Hicks, an intriguing and mysterious stranger, and a President gone crazy. What starts as a seemingly routine mission for this Navy SEAL and her team ends up completely changing her life and the destinies of herself and her lover Jack. One fateful move lands her between good and evil, Greek gods and demons, all while tasked with committing an atrocious act just to save the world for another 4 days. But does Kala have the guts to commit the act chosen for her?

As a huge fan of Greek mythology, I couldn’t pass this one up. Add in a strong, yet flawed female lead and I really couldn’t say no. Much of this story was driven by the intense internal struggle Kala faced, of whether to commit the act (truly heartbreaking) or let the world burn. This conflict gradually intensified all the way to the end, complete with internal and external struggles and a few demon fights. I was pleased that the action seemed almost non-stop. There was always something happening. Kala never seemed to catch a break. My one complaint is the action sequences blended in too much with the narrative. I would have appreciated sentence structures and word choices that better matched the action. More active voice as opposed to the rather consistently used passive voice would have made more of an impact.

So why only 2.5 stars? I loved the premise, do really, really wanted to love this book. With a title like Atlas, I was expecting something more Greek mythology heavy. Instead, it was a strange mix of Greek mythology and Christianity. While I appreciated what Smith wad trying to do, it only felt strange and sometimes confusing, especially when angels started popping in. This strange mix never felt fully developed and explained, as though there was an underlying mythology that was poorly explored and expanded on. Characters literally popped in and out and with them came new revelations related to the mythology. I appreciated Kala’s struggles against these forces, but it made her feel like she was just a reactionary character. Finally, the magic was just a little too convenient and poorly explained. There were no rules or guidelines for how it worked and who can wield it. It was just another confusing element that was conveniently useful.

Even with characters that popped in and out and seemingly vanish for most of the book, I found it surprisingly easy to keep track of them. They were unique and had different roles in the story and Kala’s life. My one complaint is some of them, like Derek, just vanish completely, though maybe he’ll be seen in the next book. Kala herself was interesting, but there was too much tell going on. The reader was constant told she was a certain way and why, especially when it was convenient to the story, like a situation called for a certain trait that Kala just happened to have. It almost felt as though Smith didn’t trust the reader to understand Kala. Instead of creating space for her to exhibit a trait, we are instead told all about it, just to make sure we know what it is she has. For their parts, Turner and his wife just felt too convenient in terms of who they were and what they did. The fact that his wife was a witch kind of came out of left field, considering Turner’s characterization early on. Asmodeus would have been so much more interesting if he had actually felt like a thousands years old demon. Instead, he lacked maturity and his juvenile crush on Kala constantly let her get the upper hand. It got old after awhile. Jack, as the one meant to be the next Atlas could have been so much more interesting. He could have been furious about Kala inadvertently taking this role. He could have tried to be more of a guide. Instead he felt one dimensional, useful only to eventually force Kala to make the hard choice and make it heartwrenching at the same time. One problem is that Jack is actually absent for much of the story. We simply have to believe they have a strong romantic relationship that drives Kala away from her duty.

I was pleased that, while the story focused on Kala running from her duty because of her romantic relationship with Jack, the romance was nicely woven in and not a strong focus. However, her relationship with Jack felt weak since he was absent so much. The reader must believe that they have a strong, loving relationship since we don’t actually see too much of it beyond the beginning and end of the book. Honestly, I thought Derek would have been a better choice. He was always there for her. Sadly, after a certain point, he is never heard from again. One thing that really annoyed me was every good looking guy, angel and demon, became infatuated with her without really knowing her. It got old really fast and made the book feel more YA than it should have considering it wasn’t listed under a YA tag.

Okay, to be honest, the writing doesn’t really warrant a 2.5. It actually wasn’t that dreadful, but my issues with the story put it there. However, there was a lot more tell than show going on and I got a little tired of constantly being told everything. Descriptions, surprisingly, we’re lacking, making it difficult sometimes to visualize what has happening and where Kala was. The writing could have been more exciting with less repetition (there were instances of the same name used in successive sentences), more active voice mixed in, use of an expanded vocabulary, and more descriptive phrases. The repetition, not just of names, was evident throughout the book and made it cumbersome to read aloud, though the book did make for a relatively safe read for my toddler’s bedtime (minus a few words and passages here and there). Missing or added words that did not belong and problems with word order also made it a little confusing to read, too. Missing commas and commas in the wrong places did not help. Overall, the writing was more at a YA level when I expected more of an adult read.

Bottom line: Despite relatively boring writing that neither helped not hindered, this was an okay book with an interesting premise that, unfortunately, fell a little flat. If you like Greek mythology, angels, demons, witches, magic, and are wondering if Kala will commit another atrocious act, take a chance. It wasn’t for me and I won’t be reading the rest of the series, but I wouldn’t call it dreadful.

How many cups of tea will you need?

2 cups plus a snack 

For more of my book reviews, stop by the Bookshelf.

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