Atlantia Summary and Analysis of Chapters 4-7

Summary of Chapter 4

Rio has slept in, and is late for her duties at the temple. She knows that her fellow temple acolytes notice her unkempt hair and the dark circles under her eyes, but she has no energy to care about what they are thinking. Her friend Hali tries to shield her from the gossips and rumor-mongers in the temple.

Rio talks to Hali about her grief at losing her sister. Hali also expresses surprise - she thought that Bay would eventually follow in her mother's footsteps and become Minister of the temple. Hali suggests that Bay wanted to live a life of sacrifice, and that was why she went above. Still, Rio remains puzzled about why her sister hadn't told her any of this.

Rio resumes one of her favorite duties - cleaning and repairing the temple trees, which have images of the gods nestled high in their branches. She scales the glittering metal trees easily and repairs the broken paw of a tiger god. This sort of damage is often caused by the temple bats, who often settle in the trees at night. The bats are sacred, and considered the second miracle of Atlantia: at the time of the Divide between the Below and the Above, no one was allowed to bring any animals into Atlantia. However, the bats were spotted flying in the air of Atlantia, and even more amazingly, their wings evolved to become a bluish color that allowed them to blend in with their surroundings. The bats were not considered a nuisance, but hailed as a miracle. The sirens are considered the first miracle.

After finishing her task (Rio is considered one of the most talented welders in the temple), Justus tells her that minister Nevio is waiting to speak to her. With a great deal of anxiety, she enters his office, which used to be her mother's.

Minister Nevio acknowledges her losses, but remarks that the temple has never been the right fit for her. Rio knows that this is technically true (she always imagined that she would go Above and live out her life there), but she does not want to leave the temple, which connects her to the memory of her mother and sister. Seeing her hesitation, Nevio shows Rio some of her mother's personal papers, in which Oceana agonizes about being unable to teach her daughter Rio to think of the collective good. It hurts Rio deeply to read her mother's secret thoughts about Rio's personal failings. Rio continues to read other notes that her mother jotted down on the paper, including a peculiar note that simply reads, "Ask Maire." Nevio snatches the paper from Rio's hands before she can read more.

Nevio says he will allow Rio to keep her living chambers in the temple, but that she will begin working in the mining bays. Rio leaves his office stunned at this new loss.

Summary of Chapter 5

Rio begins her work as a machinist in the mining bay. Her supervisor is a man named Josiah, and she begins her work repairing damage to the drones that mine the sea floor for precious minerals.

Josiah gives her a tour of the work-station, and explains that there are two types of mines in the waters around Atlantia: mines where the drones get ore, and floating bombs that circle the city. These exploding mines are the reason that drones get so badly damaged and need repairs so frequently. Josiah further explains that the exploding mines are there to make sure that no one leaves the city without Council permission. Rio, who was plotting to escape through the ocean door where the drones are brought in, remains silent. Josiah continues, saying that he explains this to every new machinist because occasionally they will get someone who thinks he or she can sneak to the Above through the ocean door. However, they always die from suffocation, exploding mines, or the pressure of the ocean.

Rio works next to a sarcastic and harsh girl named Bien, and a woman named Elinor, who is kind and sweet. Elinor speaks of her deep respect for Rio's mother, as well as her belief that Oceana had the power to work miracles. She also gives Rio a statue of a tiger god holding a trident - a somewhat blasphemous symbol because it mixes the iconography of the Below and the Above.

After work, Rio goes to the temple and plots ways to sneak to the Above. She has three choices: Council transports, the mining bay, and Maire. Suddenly, Maire appears next to her in the temple, despite the fact that sirens are not allowed to set foot in this building. She tells Rio that Bay left her something under the middle of the third back pew; she also tells Rio that she should sit under the god Efram's tree in the temple plaza if she ever wants to speak to her.

Incredibly, Rio finds a heavy bag containing a large amount of gold and a seashell under the pew. The seashell is a symbol of both the Below and the Above, because it comes from the ocean but is often found on the beach. Rio imagines that she can hear her sister's breath inside the seashell.

Summary of Chapter 6

Bien is promoted at work, and uses the opportunity to bully Rio. She sarcastically asks Rio what it was like to live with someone so famous, and suggests that Maire murdered her sister. Elinor chides Bien for her disrespectful attitude, but Rio replies calmly, saying that she has no idea who murdered her mother. Rio's unruffled attitude dissuades Bien from bullying her, but Rio is surprised to learn that other people in Atlantia share her suspicion that Maire killed Oceana. Elinor apologizes to Rio for Bien's behavior, explaining that Bien's brother was a siren and forced her to do terrible things before the Council took him away.

Back in her room, Rio weeps for her sister. In the depths of her despair, she clings to the seashell that Bay left for her, and holds it to her ear. To her surprise, she hears her sister singing a lullaby from their childhood.

Summary of Chapter 7

Rio has finally decided to meet with Maire, and waits for her under the tiger-god Efram's tree in the temple plaza. She needs to know what Maire knows about Oceana's death and Bay's departure for the Above, and part of her also longs to speak freely to another siren. Rio is horrified to find the body of a temple bat on the ground, a terrible omen. The priest Justus gathers up the little creature's body, remarking that the bats have been dying more quickly since Oceana passed away.

At last, Maire comes. She says that she can help Rio reach the Above, just as she helped Oceana and Bay in the past. Maire takes her to the floodgates where Rio and Bay prepared their mother's body for release into the open ocean, which evokes Rio's painful memories of her mother's funeral. Despite the prohibitions on civilian access to the floodgates, Maire uses her siren voice to force the guards to let them enter. Rio wonders how great Maire's powers really are, and how many people she can command. As if she can read her niece's thoughts, Maire replies that she cannot command an army.

The two women stand in the floodgate chamber itself, where corpses are placed before a gate lifts to allow the ocean to rush in and carry them to the surface. Rio remembers her mother's funeral, and the way that the water lifted their mother's body up. Bay had forgotten to bring Oceana's ring, and chastised herself for this error.

Maire explains to Rio that the dead are not the only ones who leave Atlantia this way. Sometimes members of the Council will go through the floodgates to negotiate with the people who live Above; the next time they leave, they are planning to take the sirens as well. Maire explains that the Council controls the sirens by threatening or benefiting the people they love - if a siren uses her powers for the Council's gain, they will make sure her loved ones have better lives. Maire says she loves only herself. Rio realizes again how similar she and Maire are, because though Rio does want to get Above to see her sister again, she also wants to get Above to satisfy her desire for freedom.

Maire also explains that as part of the selection process for new Ministers, each candidate must lie down in the floodgates in order to simulate death and conquer fear. They must also prove that they are immune to the influence of sirens. During Oceana's candidacy for minister, Maire was the siren chosen to test her; the Council knew that what she had to say would be even more difficult to hear coming from a sister. In her siren voice, Maire told Oceana horrible things: her husband never loved her, her daughters would die young, she wanted to be Minister for all the wrong reasons. Oceana's ability to resist Maire impressed the Council and ultimately led them to choose her as Minister. Maire helped her sister secure this position, but she also wounded her deeply with her cruel words.

Maire explains that her help is Rio's best chance to get Above. She also explains that Oceana cut Rio off from her very early on, out of fear that Maire would accidentally expose Rio's powers. Maire also ponders what Oceana was trying to tell her the night she died.

The Council guards bang on the door of the chamber, and Maire gives Rio a black-and-white colored seashell. Maire explains that this seashell holds her voice; Rio can ask questions into the shell and Maire can answer her. In the same way, Maire was able to contain some of Bay's voice in the turquoise-and-brown seashell before she left for the Above. Rio is stunned at Maire's power, and Maire explains that voice control is the least of a siren's abilities. Rio rushes from the chamber just as the Council guards come in and take Maire into custody.

On her way home, Rio ponders why Maire risked getting locked away to take Rio to the floodgates. She realizes that Maire wanted to remind Rio of what death looks like to emphasize the consequences of trying to escape through the mining bay. Additionally, Maire is insinuating that Rio cannot leave Atlantia the way her sister did, but she can leave it the way her mother did. However, Rio will leave Atlantia alive.


Nevio's meeting with Rio raises a number of questions. Why does he feel it is necessary to expel her from the temple? Has he discovered that she is a siren? Moreover, his access to the personal files of Rio's mother seem more like a violation of privacy than a viable exercise of governmental power. Nevio seems to have a sinister set of motivations. But the greatest mystery of all is why Oceana's private papers contain the notation "Ask Maire." Not only does this indicate that she placed a great deal of trust in a powerful and dangerous siren, but also begs the question - what did Oceana think Maire would know?

Chapter Four introduces an important symbol in the novel - the bats of Atlantia. These creatures appeared mysteriously, and adapted extremely quickly to their underwater environment, developing blue wings to allow them to blend in with their surroundings. For the people of Atlantia, the bats provided proof that living creatures can not only adapt but even thrive in a new environment. Bats also have complex symbolic meanings outside of the book: in East Asian cultures, bats are considered symbols of good luck.

Maire's powers are even greater than Rio previously understood - she has the unique power to use shells to communicate, and to use her voice to control people who are generally immune to sirens. It is not always clear when Maire is being cruel and when she is doing things that will help the people around her.

Sirens not only have the power to control people around them, but also have the power to emphasize their words in a way that will make their listener believe them entirely. This is a potent but dangerous power - sirens can make people behave ethically, but they can also force people to submit to their selfish whims.

These chapters also flesh out the strict political structure of Atlantia, which includes the use of mines to deter people from leaving the city and attempts to control sirens by threatening or bribing the people they love. Perhaps this city is not the paradise it first seemed, and perhaps not everyone who risks life and live to reach the Above is doing so out of curiosity. These literary strategies create a complex portrait of a rather totalitarian society.