Book Review: Alessia in Atlantis: The Forbidden Vial by Nathalie Laine

As with other popular children’s fantasy series (e.g. Harry Potter, Keeper of the Lost Cities, Percy Jackson), Nathalie Laine’s Alessia in Atlantis: The Forbidden Vial revolves around a child, in this case 12-year-old Alessia, who discovers that she is not who she thought she was and is whisked away to a hidden world, the titular Atlantis. There, she must learn a new language, new realities, and new abilities, while making friends and going through the usual growing pains. There are a school, an unknown enemy lurking, and a mystery to solve. The novel releases in March 1.

My interest in this title, which I received from NetGalley for review, was owing to the reference to Atlantis. The mystery of this ancient city offers intriguing avenues for fiction writers to explore. For the most part, Laine draws on the legend primarily on a surface level: It clearly inspired the world’s underwater location and name. I say this not as a negative criticism but to set expectations. If you pick up the novel expecting in-depth engagement with ancient legends and concepts, you will be disappointed. If you are looking for an action-packed story set in a fantastical world that is creatively imagined and fresh, Laine’s novel more than satisfies.

The novel is more plot than character-driven. My personal preference is for a bit more attention to children’s inner lives. Seeing their emotional experiences in books can be an important way young readers develop a language for understanding and expressing themselves. That said, the writing is at times quite lovely and evocative.

How about you: Do you prefer fiction driven by plot or character?

8 thoughts on “Book Review: Alessia in Atlantis: The Forbidden Vial by Nathalie Laine

  1. What an interesting question! I often struggle with just that…I definitely need insight into characters and I feel that in certain genres, it’s especially a “must” for me – like stories with romance to them, or a really complex conflict where clarity in its characters’ personalities and motivations would help. But I also love a good story that’s well-told. So I guess personally, it’s a balance of the two. I’ve read books where the plot is really compelling and unique, but the characters are also in-depth to the point that the author seems to lose the appeal of the book because they’re stuck in interminable internal monologues. And I recently read a book that could have combined a plot resolution and a major, needed change in a character’s life, but dropped the ball in favor of focusing solely on the former. I guess I want it both ways!
    This book that you read sounds like it could be a good way to introduce the concept of Atlantis to young readers. Did you think that was the case, or do you think the mythical city should still have been described in a more in-depth (no pun intended!) way?

    1. I do think this book would be a fine way to introduce the concept of Atlantis. Though I do prefer the in-depth engagement with ancient concepts/ideas, I can definitely see the value in books like this as ways into the topic.

      And I feel similarly to you about the plot/character connection. Even as I asked the question, it felt a little oversimplified. Obviously, they’re intertwined. At the same time, there clearly are authors who do plot better than character, in which case we might see plot needs determining a character’s behavior to the point that it compromises character consistency, or character better than plot, in which case we might get miles of internal monologue that are interesting if your focused on character development but maddening if you want something to just happen already!

  2. I do like character-driven books, there are a number of books I’ve enjoyed that haven’t had too much happen in the plot but it’s been enough for me. I’m not a huge thriller/adventure reader but in those books I could definitely see more of a focus on plot

  3. I’ve heard that Leo Tolstoy was the greatest observer of human nature who ever lived and that he once described the almost imperceptible movement of someone’s lip for a whole paragraph. Actually I’m not sure if I heard that or not, but that’s the impression I have of him. But his plots must also be pretty good, since he wrote War and Peace. But I’m not the best person to write a review of that book, since I’m still only on page 24, where the drunken Pierre picks up the bear and starts dancing with it.

    1. Having read Tolstoy’s Anna Karenina, I would definitely agree that he is a great observer of human nature. I hope to read War & Peace this year, and I must admit, your description of Pierre and the bear makes me even more curious and interested to experience the book 🙂

  4. Oh, I will have to make a more serious attempt of War and Peace then! I’m in the process of buying a little wooden cabin up in the North Georgia mountains and moving off my sailboat, so I feel I will have more extra time to read Tolstoy now! I loved Anna Karenina, especially the part about Levin cutting wheat in his fields with a sharp scythe.

Leave a Reply