Sometimes I feel as if I have been living in a cave, far away from civilization, averting my eyes whenever smoke signals appear on the horizon.
Why, you ask? Because I am just now starting to read yet another series with a respectable backlist.
Alyssa Day’s Warriors of Poseidon series to be precise.
Atlantis Rising, by Alyssa Day
The first title in the series, Atlantis Rising introduces a rather complex universe, in which a number of seemingly disparate and disconnected mythologies turn out not just to be based on fact but also linked. There are Greek gods and their descendants (or perhaps, their chosen race?), vampires, shape shifters and humans and, inevitably, power grabbing and evil.
While not the worst I’ve read, the back cover blurb is half accurate at best:
Eleven thousand years ago, before the seas swallowed the Atlanteans, Poseidon assigned a few chosen warriors to act as sentinels for humans in the new world. There was only one rule-desiring them was forbidden. But rules were made to be broken…
When she calls…
Riley Dawson is more than a dedicated Virginia Beach social worker. She’s blessed with a mind link that only Atlanteans have been able to access for thousand of years. Being an empath may explain her wistful connection to the roiling waves of the ocean, the sanctuary it provides, and the sexual urges that seem to emanate from fathoms below…
He will come.
Conlan, the high prince of Atlantis, has surfaced on a mission to retrieve Poseidon’s stolen Trident. Yet something else has possessed Conlan: the intimate emotions-and desires-of a human. Irresistibly drawn to the uncanny beauty, Conlan soon shares more than his mind. But in the midst of a battle to reclaim Poseidon’s power, how long can a forbidden love last between two different souls from two different worlds?
The novel starts with a very short prologue, sort of a one-page summary of the history leading to the universe-altering events narrated in the book itself. Basically, Poseidon has charged his priests and his warriors with the protection of humanity. To this end, his Trident remains in the capital city while the seven precious stones which once decorated its shaft are given to groups of Atlanteans who, through their descendants, will protect the stones and keep the secret of Atlantis from humanity until such a day when its destruction is imminent.
Present day Earth in the story has a significant difference from reality: for the past decade or so, vampires and shapeshifters, of many different kinds, have been co-existing with humans, more or less peacefully. From the beginning, vampires and shapeshifters have been natural enemies, but recently there have been some alliances forming between them-furthered along by some vampiric mind control.
The balance of political power is tilting more and more in favor of the vampires, and the heir to the throne of Atlantis has been missing for years (a captive to the goddess Anubisa, the first vampire and goddess of death, as well as the daughter and consort of the god Chaos), when Poseidon’s Trident is stolen from his temple-by another prince of Atlantis. For reasons that are never made clear in the book, Anubisa frees Conlan only hours after the theft of the Trident, which starts the events in the novel proper.
The main arc of the series seems to be the conflict between vampires and the rest of the… well, the rest of the sentient beings on Earth-shapeshifters, humans and Atlanteans. Through millennia, the latter have only surfaced to deal with isolated incidents of vampiric or shapeshifter activity harmful to humankind, but since the paranormal beings have made their existence known, things have changed for everyone, to the point where their presence in government is quite prevalent. Hand in hand with their growing political influence, vampires have become bolder in their dealings with humans, which has stepped up Atlantean rescue missions on ‘land’.
In this first novel, though, the conflict centers on the discovery of humans who are empaths. Apparently, in the past some Atlanteans were capable of transmitting and perceiving emotions along with thought, but it’s been thousands of years since that ability has been lost. So when Conlan and his warriors, along with Alaric, the high priest in charge of guarding the Trident, are confronted with the reality of a female human empath, all bets are off. And for Riley, the revelation that Atlantis is as real as vampires and shapeshifters have proven to be, is not as problematic as her sudden attraction-on all levels-to the tortured soul of the soon-to-be king of Atlantis.
Obviously, all sorts of hijinks ensue, from fighting off vampires to breaking a couple of Atlantean laws and a curse. Further complications are provided by some ancient Atlantean prophecies that seem to contradict each other, as well as by the discovery of an underground rebellion against the increasingly powerful vampires, headed by Riley’s sister Quinn and a number of shapeshifters.
As befits a tortured hero, Conlan considers himself to be too broken and too dark (i.e., not good enough) for Riley, but he’s not inclined to let that get in the way of having her. And yet, other than the occasional angsty moment, I really didn’t see him struggle with the horror of the memories of his captivity. Even those moments where he betrays a lack of control turn out to be about his reaction to Riley rather than a result of trauma.
As for Riley… well, she’s annoying to say the least. She has the victim syndrome in spades, and a streak of martyr a mile wide. Nine times out of ten she behaves like the helpless damsel in the hands of the eeeeeeeeeeebbbbbol villain (the tenth time she becomes shrill and goes crazy on everyone-up to and including Poseidon himself). All of which, frankly, made it difficult to root for them to end up together.
I have several issues with the world building, which seemed a bit confusing-blurry if you will.
For example, I had some issues with the nature of the emotional/psychic bond between Conlan and Riley. It wasn’t clear to me, until late in the book, that they could shield their emotions and thoughts from each other, so a few of the exchanges where either or both are drawing conclusions from facial expressions rather than reading each other felt out of place. And even late in the novel the transitions between ‘all channels open’ and ‘closed off’ seemed a tad clunky.
Then there is the matter of age and longevity. Apparently, Atlanteans have looooooooooooooong lifespans. Vampires, too, can live for centuries depending on their parentage (if that’s the word) and their innate intelligence. However, I couldn’t tell whether shapeshifters live longer than humans or not, and how all these different life expectancies are going to affect alliances (and relationships) is never broached.
(I do appreciate that Ms Day makes an effort to explain the changes in language used by the Atlanteans, based on their exposure to human culture through their lives; i.e., during times of crisis they revert to more formal ways of speech, but try to blend with the human population for the most part.)
We are told that Atlantean warriors can manipulate all the elements, save fire, with varying degrees of power-which seems to be due partly to bloodlines and partly to serendipity. Vampires seem to have some powers of their own, which grow as they age, but by book’s end I wasn’t quite sure what those powers were. At times the vampires seem invincible-e.g., at one point they overpower and kill an elite band of Atlantean warriors, keeping a few for later interrogation. At other times, they seem too easy to kill to count as a serious enemy.
Riley’s and Quinn’s relationship is another conundrum for me. Quinn is older and supposedly so fragile that Riley, who is no Amazon, feels the need to protect and safeguard her. On top of that, they are both empaths and-we are specifically told-have a bond almost as close as that of twins. Yet we are supposed to accept that Quinn has managed to become one of the main leaders of the rebellion, killing vampires left and right, without Riley catching on?
Further, the subplot involving Quinn and Alaric took a little too much space for my taste. It seemed too obvious a set up for further novels which, while understandable for a series (hello, larger than large cast of characters) didn’t need to be so blatant. Then again, it did work, for now I really want to know how their conflict evolves and is finally resolved.
My major problem with the novel, though, is the use of Deus ex Machina-twice!-to fix otherwise unsolvable situations. Between that and the dropped threads, one would think I disliked the novel, hm?
Indeed not. Despite my quibbles, I found the universe Ms Day has created interesting, and the questions it opens intriguing. I want to know what happens next, so I’ll be reading the next story in the series soon.
Atlantis Rising gets 6.25 out of 10 from me.