Tuesday, December 14, 2021

Escape from Atlantis

O'Hearn, Kate. Escape from Atlantis
December 14th 2021 by Aladdin
E ARC provided by Edelweiss Plus

Riley's father is a marine biologist studying cetaceans, so when his sister Mary wants to take a vacation with her son Alfie, who is having a hard time in the wake of his parents' divorce, the four end up on a five week voyage around the Bahamas on the Event Horizon. Alfie is horrible to Riley, and she misses her mother and older brother. When a storm pops up out of nowhere and a giant sea creature attacks the boat, all four are washed overboard, luckily with supply packs and life jackets. Riley and Alfie manage to survive and wash up on the shore of a deserted beach, where they are met by a boy in old fashioned clothing, Bastian. He takes them to the people who run the Community, but no one seems overly interested in searching for the children's parents, although they are all smiling and helpful. Riley is understandably upset, and once the leaders tell them their parents have died and show them the graves, she and her cousin settle down. It's a weird place. Many people, mostly adults, live in an old ocean liner, and there are strict boundaries about where everyone is allowed to go. There is a Red Cloak district that is forbidden, and when the children stray there, they are attacked by Mada. There are Blue Cloaks, like Pea, who appears to be a koala, and Yellow Cloaks, like Maggie, who helps Riley learn to sew so that she can take her part in the community work. The Red Cloaks have unicorns, gargoyles protect the area, and there are any number of strange, paranormal happenings. This is in part because the strange place, which is sometimes called Atlantis, is in the Bermud triangle. When Riley hears her aunt's voice crying out, she and Alfie dig up the graves and find there are no bodies there. They intensify their attempts to find out more about the fate of the Event Horizon and to escape from Atlantis, even though no one, for a variety of reasons, is allowed to leave. Will they be able to make it back to their families?
Strengths: Even though this weighs in at 488 pages, it is a quick read, with somewhat larger text and plenty of white space. The plot also is developed nicely and is easy to follow. This makes Riley's adventures a great choice for strong readers who are a bit younger. There is a lot of intricate world building, although there are enough questions remaining that a sequel could be in order. This is a great example of an imaginative fantasy that young readers can imagine that they are a part of. It reminds me, oddly, of Messenger's Keepers of Lost Cities, and of Baldacci's The Finisher a book about a girl in a forest written by an adult author, the name of which eludes me and will bug me until I figure it out! I don't want to spoil some of the details about the fantasy world. 
Weaknesses: Riley and Alfie are a bit too quick to settle into life in Atlantis. They're trying to find a way out, and they are in the middle of the ocean, but it still seemed a bit fast. They also took more of a liking to Pea and Maggie than seemed likely. The adventure is still good, though, and younger readers won't care as much about the characters' development. 
What I really think: O'Hearn's Pegasus (The Flame of Olympus, 2011) series was popular for a while, but readership has fallen off. I have van Eekhout's Kid Vs. Squid (2010), Lerangis The Colossus Rises series (2013) and Henderson's  fantastic Young Captain Nemo series (2019), so may pass on adding another Atlantis themed series. I have a large contingent of Rick Riordan's fans as well, so may instead add his new Daughter of the Deep.

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