Atlantis Rising
by Alyssa Day
(Berkley Sensation, $6.99, R) ISBN 0-425-21449-7
****
There is a very familiar feel to Atlantis Rising. Even if I’ve never encountered these sexy underwater warriors (in fact, they are nothing like Disney’s account of the lost island), they are close cousins to other bands of paranormal brothers. They too are committed to saving each other, their bonded mates and the entire world from an apocalyptic cataclysm. That said, Day’s rendition of this over- exploited concept is gripping enough to warrant a strong recommendation.

After years of captivity in the hands of the evil vampire queen, Anubisa, Conlan has finally escaped. He returns to the hidden world of Atlantis, ready to assume his place on the recently-vacated throne. New problems await him, the most serious of which is the theft of Poseidon’s powerful and magical trident. He returns to earth to retrieve it and instead finds himself saving human Riley Dawson from near rape.

Readers won’t be surprised to hear that Riley and Conlan are instantly attracted to each other. Nor will they start when Conlan immediately realizes that there is something unusual about the social worker and her empathetic powers. He believes she needs both investigation and protection, so he takes her back to meet his warriors. This gives them ample time to “soul-meld.”

As the couple work out the (relatively minor) wrinkles in their relationship and the warriors try hard to recuperate the missing trident, we are introduced to a wide range of characters, who will obviously feature in future books. The warriors get first billing. Since these hunky heroes have to battle on several different fronts, their enemies are not far behind. They include dissenting Atlanteans, whose rebellion needs to be put to rest, as well as vampires, who spell the destruction of humanity. In fact, humans are already subject to a curfew dictated by these evil creatures. Resistance, involving humans and their shape-shifting allies, has begun to organize. Given Atlantis’s millennium-old sacred mission, it is quite clear whose side Poseidon and his warriors are on.

The presentations and explanations are deftly done. Although they do command a little too much attention, they rarely interrupt the flow of the story. Nevertheless, the convoluted plot and the elaborate set- up mean less time for character development. Conlan and Riley are quite likeable, but they remain rather one-dimensional. Much about them (including Conlan’s close encounter with Anubisa and the origins of Riley’s mysterious gift) goes unexplored. Perhaps the answers to these questions will rise to the surface in some forthcoming episode, but that’s small comfort to my present frustration.

Day, who as Alessia Holliday has written several light-hearted and humorous chick lit books, has worked hard to create a macho, street- smart style that fits well in this subgenre. Still, some of the tough- guy prose sounds wooden. What’s more, when Poseidon makes his occasional appearance, he speaks in capital letters, which is hard on the eyes.

Of course, anyone interested in a satisfying action-adventure story featuring a cast of sexy but tormented alpha heroes could easily overlook these small faults. Atlantis Rising should definitely go to the top of their must-read list.

--Mary Benn


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