Friday, April 19, 2013

Review: The Archived by Victoria Schwab

Review: The Archived by Victoria Schwab
Rating: The most original and intriguing world-building I've read in ages, with a strong heroine, haunting themes, no small bit of action, and a love interest who pleased me greatly. I'm feeling some serious book love. ALL THE BOOKISH FEELS.

The Archived (The Archived, #1)

 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.

Da first brought Mackenzie Bishop here four years ago, when she was twelve years old, frightened but determined to prove herself. Now Da is dead, and Mac has grown into what he once was, a ruthless Keeper, tasked with stopping often—violent Histories from waking up and getting out. Because of her job, she lies to the people she loves, and she knows fear for what it is: a useful tool for staying alive.

Being a Keeper isn’t just dangerous—it’s a constant reminder of those Mac has lost. Da’s death was hard enough, but now her little brother is gone too. Mac starts to wonder about the boundary between living and dying, sleeping and waking. In the Archive, the dead must never be disturbed. And yet, someone is deliberately altering Histories, erasing essential chapters. Unless Mac can piece together what remains, the Archive itself might crumble and fall.

In this haunting, richly imagined novel, Victoria Schwab reveals the thin lines between past and present, love and pain, trust and deceit, unbearable loss and hard-won redemption.

The cover: Just look at it. I assume you have marginally functional eyeballs of some sort, eyeballs which are currently orgasming. That haunting, ghostly blue, those eeries stacks, that beautiful key, the swirling smoke, the way the light lines her profile, and the look in her eyes... This is one of my favorite covers of 2013 by far.

The story: The first time I read that synopsis, I fell in such deep lust that I knew I needed to buy this book the instant it came out. Because I am stupid, I waited a month after buying it to finally read it, but oh, the wait was worth it. I'm so glad I didn't plow through The Archived in desperate search for answers. I'm glad I let the mystery unfurl slowly in front of me and letting my brain submerge in this mesmerizing world that Schwab has built.

The rules of the mythology are fairly simple, but contain so much depth. When you die, a record is kept of you-- a History. It takes your form and holds your memories, but it's not you. These sleeping Histories are stored in filing cabinets in the Archive, which is manned by Librarians and exists in some kind of other dimension-type place. Between the Archive and the Outer--our world-- stretch the Narrows, the creepiest, darkest, skinniest network of hallways you could ever imagine. They exist so to catch the Histories who escape. Because sometimes... the dead don't stay dead.

Mackenzie Bishop is a Keeper, tasked with battling unruly Histories and returning them to the Archive like overdue library books. I loved her as a narrator. The novel is told in first person, and Mackenzie's thoughts are so layered and full of emotion that I felt her instantly. Schwab does something a little strange in this book, narration-wise. Intercut with the first person, present-tense stuff are a bunch of flashbacks about Mackenzie and her Da, or her grandfather, the man who taught her all she knows about the Archive and being a Keeper. These sections are told in second person, as if you the reader are Da and Mackenzie is talking to you. They totally threw me for a loop originally, but I ended up loving them. Schwab uses these short and beautiful little anecdotes to reveal important information, deftly avoiding clunky info-dumps, which are the bane of my existence.

Mackenzie is an easy girl to connect to. She's tough as nails, but she's dealing with some serious heartache. She recently lost her little brother, and oh my gosh, does it break your heart. I felt so many feels. Mackenzie makes you fall in love with Ben, and Da, and having to experience her pain of losing them both is truly heart-wrenching. I simply loved the parallels Schwab drew between the main mystery of the Archive--which centered around one's inability to let the dead rest and the living move on-- with Mac's inability to overcome her brother's death. Mackenzie frustrated me in a few moments, but only a few. She withholds some key information from people who DEFINITELY could have helped out. There were one or two instances were I was yelling, "TELL THE TRUTH, YOU FOOL!", because I usually LOATHE when characters do this, but then something totally refreshing happened: Mac actually told the truth. To someone who really truly needs to hear the truth.

A lot of the book centers around a Keeper's need to lie to basically everybody about everything, because obviously discretion is imperative if your main hobby is having knife fights with dead dudes inside the walls. But Mackenzie's lies start to drain her, so it was lovely to see her learn to deal with this and open up to Wes. Which brings me to the second best part of this book, after the basic premise of the book: Wesley Ayers.

Wesley freaking Ayers, I demand to know why you are not a real person, and if you are, why you are not currently in my bedroom with your shirt off. Wesley is charming, funny, and genuine. He has spiked black hair and guyliner and is a big ball of sexiness. He's a Keeper (IN ALL SENSES OF THE WORD) and watching him play off Mac made me giggle with glee. Wes. I mean, Wes. What do I even say.

 I loved quite a few of the secondary characters. I mean, Ben made me cry, Owen was fascinating, Lyndsey was a fabulous friend, Roland was the best, and Mackenzie's parents broke my heart. They're dealing with their grief in totally different but believable ways.

The writing is stellar. Seriously so gorgeous. It's evocative, and is lyrical without being flowery. I could see every inch of the Archive. I could hear it. Feel it. I was walking around the Coronado with Mac. It's rare that I get transported to a world the way I did with The Archived.

I had perhaps a few tiny little niggling nitpicks, because, well, I always do. I'm a tough customer. I wanted more background on Wesley--for example, I'm pretty sure he's missing from home for a good couple of days there are one point, and he sustains some pretty serious injuries, but his family is never mentioned as noticing. I'm assuming there will be more Ayers family stuff in the sequel (huzzah!), and I know that Wes was trying to get away from his family, but still... we got hardly anything. I also wanted a little bit more resolution with the Ben storyline, but again. Sequel.

I understand why Mackenzie's parents believed her lies. They're grief-stricken, numb, and not in a position to investigate even though they obviously love their daughter, but perhaps their obliviousness strained believabillity in some parts. Again, the injuries. Mackenzie is totally beat up like all the time in this book-- girlfriend gets her ass kicked like every thirty pages, Keeping is no joke-- and her parents don't seem to think it's weird that their sixteen-year-old has broken ribs and a fractured wrist and the occasional knife wound.

 As for the mysterious reveal, the larger aspects of it I saw coming, but certain details completely took me by surprise. I had the main villain pegged, but I loved the way their motives dovetailed with Mac's emotional journey. The biggest shock to me was the one about the Librarians. My stomach actually curdled with that one.

If it's not entirely obvious to you by now, I adored this book. Most of the 2013 reads I've read so far have been horribly disappointing, and I'm delighted to say that The Archived was not one of them. I loved this book from beginning to end, and totally suggest you pick it up stat.


  1. I've been wanting to read this one and now I think that I'll have to make it happen sooner than later! It sounds so good! I just loved everything about this review and all the book feels that you seem to have for this novel!

    1. I really, really enjoyed it. I know some people had a few problems with it, but I, honestly, didn't. You should definitely check this book out!

  2. You seriously scare me. We differed in small points, but in others... It's like we share a mind. It's freaky.

    1. o_0.... *runs off to read your review* *returns* DUDE. WHAT EVEN.

      *tries to extricate self from Shelver's head* *gets stuck*

      Great minds, I guess. I find it hilarious that our opinions dovetail so neatly so often.

  3. I have this on request at the library, but I'm like number 200 and it will be some time before I get around to reading this. The more reviews I read, the more I think I'll buy a copy once my local B&N receives another shipment.

    1. Yeah, I just caved in and bought this one. Totally worth it.

  4. I haven't bought this one yet because I think it'll be one of those books that I fall in love with.. In which case I'd rather paperback than hardback.. I know, I'm weird. Lol. But I may just have to make some sacrifices based off of your review!

    1. No, that makes perfect sense! You might want to check it out from the library if you're still wary of that hardback price. I took a risk with just buying it outright.

  5. Yay! Great review sweetie. <3 I'm so glad you enjoyed this book :) I did too. Sigh. Wesley was just perfect. <3 But yes. I too wanted more of him. Felt like there were too little.. but hoping for tons of him in the sequel :D One thing I didn't like was Owen :\ Which is why I only gave it a four star. But I loved the story :) Thank you for sharing. <3

  6. This makes me so happy! I've been looking forward to this book since the cover and summary were first revealed. It sounds like the perfect book for me, especially with the whole concept of Histories! I can't wait to meet Mac and Wes and to get lost in this wonderful world that Schwab has created :)


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