BWW Review: ATLAS FALLEN by Jessica Pierce
"Sometimes the hardest thing is finding your place among the stars."
~Daxton, ATLAS FALLEN
I've never been a huge sci-fi reader, but books like ATLAS FALLEN by Jessica Pierce make me want to go out and read all the sci-fi. Pierce's debut novel is like CINDER meets Big Hero 6. You have illegal bot fighting and a prince who must choose a bride in three days and a girl who is great at creating and building from scraps and metal. It's not a retelling, but it has a Cinderella flair to it. I was super engaged and had a lot of trouble putting this one down--I'm already ready for the sequel in the Cyber Crown series!
YA sci-fi is really booming right now. CINDER by Marissa Meyer and The Illuminae Files by Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff have really made waves and are cherished by ardent fans. Just in the span of one month, we've seen hype around recently-released or about-to-be-released novels such as HEART OF IRON by Ashley Poston, LIFEL1K3 by Jay Kristof, BRIGHTLY BURNING by Alexa Donne, HONOR AMONG THIEVES by Rachel Caine and Ann Aguirre, DEFY THE WORLDS by Claudia Gray, and, of course, OBSIDIO, the final book in the previously mentioned The Illuminae Files. Plus, Netflix just dropped the Lost in Space reboot and there are ads everywhere for the new Star Wars movie Solo. It is a great time to be publishing sci-fi, and ATLAS FALLEN is an excellent addition to the mix, whether you're a diehard fan of the genre, or just dabble in it, like I do.
Tesla is living on her own. To pay for her father's funeral after he was labeled a traitor and floated in dishonor, Tesla, must borrow money from Minko, leader of the Red Ashes. To pay him back, she is forced to fight in illegal botFights. She always wins...until she doesn't. She now has days to build a new bot and win in the ring--or else she'll have to go in as herself and pay with her life. When she's invited to the upper levels of the Atlas above the deimark for a party welcoming citizens of Earth to the Atlas ahead of the Centennial of the Crown. She runs into another teen, Daxton, not realizing she's talking to the Crown Prince in disguise, or where their interaction will take her. There is a plot to overthrow the Crown, and together with his friends and the mysterious girl he met on board the Atlas, Daxton is willing to do whatever it takes to foil the hit on his kingdom....
The book alternates from Tesla's POV to Daxton's, and in this way, readers are able to explore the grit of life below the deimark as well as the glitz and glamour above it. Daxton has very little control over his own life. His brother Liam was the heir to the throne until he died in an accident. His father has never forgiven him for becoming the new heir. He had to say goodbye to everything he loved, such as piloting, and now he can't even marry for love, since he has to choose a bride in three days and an Earth girl he hates is blackmailing him into marriage. He can barely even slip out to go sleuthing around the Atlas for clues about a plot against the Crown that nobody believes is real. If readers only read his POV, there wouldn't be nearly as much action, just because his life is so regulated. Through Tesla's POV, on the other hand, we get all the grit and darkness and deceit lurking beneath the surface that the richies don't know exists. Tesla is forced to do a lot of things she hates in order to stay alive, but she has never given up hope on discovering the truth behind her father's death, and the expense is worth it to her. She plans to uncover the truth and cleanse her father's name. Having lived her entire life as a Gulch rat, readers are treated to a first-hand look at the inner workings of the Atlas. Both POVs and lifestyles become important as the novel reaches its explosive climax.
It's hard to talk about a lot of what made Atlas Fallen so great without spoilers. On the surface, it sounds like the outline of a story we've all heard before, but it's really NOT a retelling of Cinderella outside of a few elements like a ball and choosing a bride and stuff--which also don't go as one might expect. In some ways, it reminds me more of the movie Ever After's take on Cinderella, where the two know one another ahead of time and they're both hiding secrets about their real identities that could cause explosive confrontations if revealed. The Cinderella figure can save herself AND save the guy. But again, not a direct retelling here, either. If you hate retellings, you'll still want to read this because it's mostly original. If you love retellings, you'll want to read this because it has some familiar elements you'll love. I personally cannot wait to see where the series goes after an ending that shook things up fundamentally! I finished reading ATLAS FALLEN and really wanted to pick up another sci-fi novel because I was suddenly in the mood for more galaxy exploration, even though it's a genre that's notoriously hit-or-miss with me. Thankfully, I have a couple of new releases sitting here waiting for some love while I tucker down to wait for the next book in the Cyber Crown series to release!