Review: The Unbound by Victoria Schwab
Release date: January 28th, 2014
Publisher: Disney Hyperion
Series: #2 in The Archived series
Rating: An intense, frightening, original, romantic sequel in a series you really should be reading.
Imagine a place where the dead rest on shelves like books. Each body has a story to tell, a life seen in pictures that only Librarians can read. The dead are called Histories, and the vast realm in which they rest is the Archive.
Last summer, Mackenzie Bishop, a Keeper tasked with stopping violent Histories from escaping the Archive, almost lost her life to one. Now, as she starts her junior year at Hyde School, she's struggling to get her life back. But moving on isn't easy -- not when her dreams are haunted by what happened. She knows the past is past, knows it cannot hurt her, but it feels so real, and when her nightmares begin to creep into her waking hours, she starts to wonder if she's really safe.
Meanwhile, people are vanishing without a trace, and the only thing they seem to have in common is Mackenzie. She's sure the Archive knows more than they are letting on, but before she can prove it, she becomes the prime suspect. And unless Mac can track down the real culprit, she'll lose everything, not only her role as Keeper, but her memories, and even her life. Can Mackenzie untangle the mystery before she herself unravels?
With stunning prose and a captivating mixture of action, romance, and horror, The Unbound delves into a richly imagined world where no choice is easy and love and loss feel like two sides of the same coin.
I'm going to format this review in a slightly different way, keeping this mostly if not entirely spoiler free for the first book, The Archived (read my review here). Some cute, furry animals and I are going to tell you why The Unbound is even better than The Archived, a book I adored, by the way, but primarily I am here to urge you to read try this series if you haven't. Go out and buy and borrow from bookstores, because I MUST HAZ THIRD BOOK, OKAY?
Reasons you should be reading The Archived and The Unbound:
Mac: Our heroine, Mac, is a Keeper. She's in charge of catching the dead who escape the Archive, aka the library in which the dead are stored. How COOL is that? Mac is a hardened fighter, but she's also a lonely girl who misses her younger brother terribly, and whose parents force her to move as the family tries to escape their grief. Mac spends most nights wandering the Narrows, these creepy, shadowy corridors between the Archive and the real world, catching the Histories (aka the dead people) and returning them to the Archive.
I love Mac. I feel what she feels, and she feels a lot, despite the armor she works hard at building and maintaining. She can also hear people's "noise", meaning their emotions and a smidge of their thoughts and aura, which is handy for catching Histories, but makes it difficult to be around real people. Mac went through a lot of trauma in The Archived at the hands of a rogue History, and in The Unbound, she's suffering from it. She's having terrible nightmares that just might be real, and even more dangerous things are afoot.
The writing: Hot damn, can Victoria Schwab turn a phrase. All of her books have this smoky, haunted atmosphere, lyrical prose, and knife-sharp emotions that are so perfectly described the reader can't help but feel them with the characters.
She focuses close on Mac and her feelings, the way her sanity is unraveling and the way she adjusts to the new fancy private school she finds herself in, but she also keeps the plot moving. She conveys the growing stakes, danger, and action.
The originality and the concept: The dead on bookshelves? Histories? The Archived? The Librarians? Crew? The creepers in charge of things who are capable of digging into your brain, torturing out your thoughts, and slicing out your memories? I've never read books like these before. I read The Unbound in one day, in one sitting. It was, admittedly, a long sitting, as I was getting my hair cut and colored and all that jazz, but still. The whole thing.
In The Unbound, the disparate story lines (Mac's new school, her feelings for Wes, the people who vanish mysteriously after they interact with Mac, Mac's troubles within the Archive) are all balanced, and they all manage to come together at the end.
The Wesley: Wesley Ayers, you beautiful enigma of a boy. Wesley is on my list of ultimate book boyfriends, and the ship in these books is a MIGHTY SHIP. If none of the above managed to entice you, then at least know this. There is extra Wesley in The Unbound, and that is a great thing. Wesley is full of secrets and humor and wit. He's brave and loyal, and he and Mac have a beautiful almost relationship thing that's full of spoilers so I can't really say. But he's funny, he wears guyliner, he's intensely attractive, and I want one, please. Thank you.
The covers: I mean, look at them. They're insanely gorgeous.
So, really you have no excuse. The characters are all interesting, and you never quite know if they're trustworthy (except for Roland, who is pure awesome). In fact, there was a character in The Unbound who I could never quite figure out--in a good way. I kept waiting for the other shoe to drop, and, well, it was interesting to see how Schwab handled that element. It certainly surprised me!
Go read. Go buy. Go borrow. Go meet Mac and my sweet Wesley. I'm pretty sure you won't regret it.