Title: Atlantis Unleashed
Publication Date: June 2, 2009
Author: Alyssa Day
I really liked the first two books of this series.
But I loved this one. Luh-huh-huuhved it. Day totally hits her stride in this third full-length book of the series-- Unleashed is tight from beginning to end, from character to conflict, from the series arc to the scene-by-scene pacing.
Prior books spent a little more time on developing secondary characters and side arcs, and that didn't bother me, but there was less of it in this book, and I think it helped a lot with the focus.
Although the Warriors definitely take center stage in these books, I'm a big fan of Day's heroines. They have their own fabulous, valuable talents that make them not only a match for their Atlanteans (because what ordinary Earth girl wouldn't be a little bit intimidated by thousand-year-old warriors of Poseidon from a mythical kingdom?) but also makes them critical partners in the Quest to Save The World As We Know It. (Don't you love those plots??)
Honestly, I like Riley, I really do. Erin too. But Keely struck a deeper chord. She seemed more real. Perhaps it's because her talent, "object reading" in Day's vernacular (or more commonly called psychometry), is a bit more familiar of a concept than say, gem singing. Or because her permanent outsider status rings bells for everyone who was ever picked last in gym class (maybe that's just me... it's not just me, is it??). But Keely is steady and lonely in a way that is very appealing.
Justice too --whoo boy. He's got a secret, one he's kept all his life upon pain of a terrible curse if he ever reveals it. Day plots this in circles -- it's totally airtight and very clever how she creates curses and ingenious loopholes that are reminiscent of my favorite mythological stories-- the Minotaur comes to mind. Man. Poor Justice. This guy has really been through the wringer. He makes an incredible cliff-hangerish sacrifice at the end of the previous book, and Day fully delivers on how awful it was (makes VC war crimes seem like a playdate) and the ripple effects on Justice's fellow warriors. Finding Keely gives him the strength to free himself, but also breaks down some protective walls he's built over the centuries - I found his dual nature absolutely fascinating, not only for this book but for the potential directions it adds to the world-- see, it's another layer. And I liked what the title implies about his other side. His character arc is just--augh, words fail. It's fab. Only better than fab.
One subtlety of fantasy series - whatever subgenre they might be in - that I'm coming to appreciate is the layering of the complexity in the world building. You can firehose it all into the first book and then stay consistent, or you can gradually build up nuances with each book. Meljean Brook is a particular master at this, IMO, and Day is doing a great job too. The world of the Atlanteans is a natural fit for this method, since the talents are not particularly well-known or predictable -- they just show up, and the Atlanteans and their allies make the best use of them they can.
But Day doesn't take the easy way out with this kind of thing. It would be easy to set up obvious yin/yang match-ups where, I dunno, one person sets fires uncontrollably and the other controls water or something, making for perfect and facile pairings. Rather, Day has two unique people with unique gifts and unique wounds that are able to help each other. It's not that the gifts are a perfect puzzle-fit for the other's damage, it's that they find common ground in having been wounded, and are able to accept each other flaws and all. Not just despite the flaws, but at least in part, because of them. Because of the person that has resulted. Does that make sense?
I have one small worry that the Big Bad here is shaping up to be invincible - and I'm sorry, but I'm gonna need her to be vinced. Or minced. Vanquished. Defeated. Finished. Right? Right. I'm trusting you, Ms. Day. Don't let me down here.
I think this book perhaps more so than the last could stand on its own, but you'd have to let the bits about Riley, Erin, and Quinn sail over your head. You're really better off reading them as a whole. Don't forget the less-necessary but still fun shorts in the anthologies, either. You can find Day's reading order in my previous post.
This and That
Although the secondary characters are less involved in this book, they are not completely ignored. I quite like the new girl, Tiernan, who can detect truth from lies. Nice, eh? Although I can see how that might be hard on a relationship.... We get a just a peek at Quinn - don't want to forget what's up with her and the larger war outside of the caverns of Atlantis, and Day is clearly not going to be satisfied until we're all panting for her and Alaric's star-crossed story. The interplay between Grace and Michelle was a very nice touch -- we might see more of them, but if not, the scene was complete of itself. And I also liked the wholly unnecessary but sweet addition of Eleni.
A small item of note - Keely's talisman. I really loved the role it played here. The fish is an obvious connection to the Atlanteans, but I wondered if it might also be a reference to Justice's duality. Yes, I *am* a Pisces, why do you ask?
Who doesn't love a story about fabulous jewels? I am totally girly enough to appreciate a fantasy world where at least part of the magic hinges on fabled stones, and I have loved the questing story since my first book of fairy tales. A few series featuring magical sparklies that come to mind are Melanie Rawn's Sunrunners series, Anne Bishop's Black Jewels series (of course) and even Gabaldon's Outlander series is shaping up to take certain powers from precious stones (note, links will take you to the first book in the respective series.) I know there are others -- help me out in comments!