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Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Review: The Archived by Victoria Schwab

The Archived by Victoria Schwab
Amazon | Goodreads
Sci-fi/Supernatural, 336 pages
Expected publication: January 22nd 2013 by Hyperion
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 Archived has one of the most interesting concepts I've seen in awhile, vaguely reminiscent of the Silence in the Library/Forest of the Dead Doctor Who story arc, but for the YA, book/library-loving crowd. The building for Mackenzie's world - the Archive, the Narrows, the Outer, Returns, all of it - is really just spot on and fascinating. Some may find it confusing - there is certainly a lot left to the imagination, the potential for a lot of questions - but most will become completely entranced by the very thought of the world. I like a story with tough choices, a story that lacks easy answers, and I think Schwab played with this well. Also, Big Bonus: the mystery is very well done. The right amount is revealed at the right time, and even though I generally always know exactly where a mystery is going within 1/4 of the book, this time I was left wondering, and when I was right, I wasn't sure if I was. The action is also very nicely played out - not too much, not too little, and coming at the perfect time. The story as a while is paced and plotted really well.

I really liked Mackenzie - actually, I really liked all of the characters, even the not-so-good ones. They were all pretty full, pretty complete. They all seemed to have big personalities, even if we only see them in glimpses - they were distinct, which is impressive when you're talking about an entire cast. I loved watching Mackenzie navigate this secret world, and balance people who know with people who don't; the juggling act she has to maintain day in and day out lends a great tension to the story, and sympathy for Mac, that really worked. I also really liked watching her struggle to come to terms with grief, and to have burgeoning questions and worries, and how the sort of philosophical ramifications of the Archive come to play in her life.

I will say, though, that I do wish this could have been dwelt on more. There was a fair amount of introspection, and her thoughts felt right to me (and very consistent with her character), but I always felt like we were so close to a really powerful statement that just didn't come. Maybe it's because I was spoiled by the sheer beauty and effectiveness of the writing in Schwab's debut, The Near Witch, but it just felt like there was something missing. I was never able to delve as deeply as I would have liked. (Note: even though I did miss the lyrical style of The Near Witch, it would not have fit this story or Mackenzie, and I applaud Schwab for knowing that and for writing in another style just as well as she wrote in her debut.)

All in all, The Archived makes a a good stand-alone, but it certainly leaves you wanting more, which makes me really glad it's not a stand-alone (unless Goodreads is lying to me...). It feels as if the surface has barely been scratched, and there are some really murky areas I think readers (including myself) are going to want to dive into. Because Mac was raised in this, and because she idolizes her grandfather so, she doesn't really think to question anything until close to the end, when she starts to realize just how little she knows. Until then, secrecy is just part of the job, and all of the HUGE questions are still waiting to be asked. Now, knowing what she knows and seeing what she's seen, I think Mackenzie is going to be a force to be reckoned with.

So yes, I know we've still got quite a wait on this one, but I think you wouldn't go amiss to pick up The Archived - I think you'll find it well worth your wait.

Don't forget to stop by Victoria's guest vlog and enter to win some Archived goodies!!


  1. I have been waiting for this one! when I heard what it was about I was very curious how a whole novel would be able to take on the story instead of a short novella or short story. I am happy to see that you liked it! Yay

  2. Just the comparison to Silence in the Library totally sold me on this book. This book sounds amazing!

  3. Sounds pretty good to me, too! :)


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