review: the archived by victoria schwab

Author: Victoria Schwab
Publication Date: 01/22/2013
Publisher: Disney-Hyperion
Pages: 324
Source: ARC (Thanks to Hyperion and Victoria at NYCC!)

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.

Sometimes there are just books that you know are meant for you. Maggie Stiefvater's THE SCORPIO RACES was one of those books, and as soon as I read the tagline for THE ARCHIVED, I knew it would end up on a very small shelf of favorites, too. The narrative beautifully transitions from the present to the past, highlighting the moments that Mackenzie spent with her grandfather that lead her to becoming his successor as Keeper. Though we don't see much of him throughout the course of the book, we don't need to as the moments in which he's present his personality are vivid and commanding. These flashbacks highlight his importance in Mackenzie's life, their bond, and the rules that, as a Keeper, she must live by. Though the Archive and the outside world have a symbiotic relationship, it is precariously balanced, and it's Keepers like Mac that have to play by the rules for order to be sustained. Bruises, omissions, and absences in order to create peace for both.

The incredible thing about this book is the way Victoria effortlessly links the construct of the Archive into present-day reality. We open countless amounts of doors per day, we go to libraries for history and knowledge. Topics and genres mapped out on shelves for our perusal. But with the touch of a key Mackenzie has access to a library that makes her life so completely different than anything we can imagine. The Archive has history and knowledge on shelves, collecting first-hand accounts. Every time Mac stepped into the Archive I could imagine a sweeping great room with stacks higher than I could see, cathedral ceilings and a gilded desk neatly arranged with papers and writing utensils. And, of course, a sign. An information desk like any and none other.

In a book about information and what it means to have it, THE ARCHIVED's characters are equally nuanced. Just when I thought I knew something about someone, a layer quietly peeled back and revealed just enough of something else to be surprising but not too much so that it would be out of place with what I had already learned. Mac is a clever and strong girl with quick responses who struggles with how to relate her position as a Keeper to her life as a daughter and a normal person. She has to deal with extraordinary circumstances, yet her struggles are relatable and convincing. One of my favorite things about this book is that every conversation - every word - has a purpose without feeling overwhelming. My favorite character, Roland, is one you meet fairly soon into the story, though it's almost difficult to pick because the Archive is literally riddled with a small starring cast that shines.

THE ARCHIVED has something in it for everyone: strong characterisation, mystery, beautiful prose, and a narrative that includes a touching and believable romance. This is literally a book that I had to pace myself reading because I didn't want it to end. I will say, however, for those that tend to prefer stand-alone to series, I absolutely believe that it will stand on its own as a singular story without the necessity of reading on. Me, though? I can't wait to pre-order the second installment.

6 comments on "review: the archived by victoria schwab"

We Heart YA wrote: Mon Jan 07, 10:03:00 AM

Ooo, great review, kaye! As if we weren't already shivering with delight at the prospect of this book, you've now got us rabidly drooling too. It sounds so awesome!! And we already enjoyed THE NEAR WITCH, so we know what beauty and suspense Schwab is capable of. Gotta get our hands on this one ASAP!

Cait wrote: Mon Jan 07, 10:13:00 AM

This is such an amazing review, I loved The Near Witch a lot and I definitely want to get my hands on this one. The way you've described it makes it sound like a perfect book, I love when things tie together really well and everything feels purposeful

Cait x

Magan @ Rather be Reading wrote: Mon Jan 07, 07:36:00 PM

Oooh! This sounds so good! I haven't really read much about it (somehow) but I do think I'll now be adding it to my TBR! :)

Jenny wrote: Mon Jan 07, 09:22:00 PM

I like hearing it can stand on its own. I'm eager to get to this one.

The Reading Enchantress wrote: Thu Jan 10, 10:03:00 PM

Sounds absolutely perfect, Kristin! I've been waiting and waiting for The Archived and--although I knew Victoria would follow through with an amazing book--I am so happy to hear that you loved it so much. The Archived will definitely be a fixture on my bookshelf. Wonderful review <3

kaye (paper reader) wrote: Sun Jan 13, 01:25:00 PM

@W♥YA: I had a difficult describing putting my mind into words with this one. I wanted to discuss certain aspects, but also wanted to avoid the delightful spoilers that you get to experience while reading for the first time. I'm glad it worked, though! And I'm very curious to see what you ladies think, because I think it may be one that you all will rather enjoy!

@Cait: Thank you so much - I was nervous about this one! And that really is the way that it felt; things happened for a reason, but not in a way that is abrasive and ineffective. It's such a lush setting that would have faltered under a writer that doesn't have a delightful way with description.

@Magan: It's definitely worth it - and if you pre-order it I believe Victoria is still sending out awesome bookmark and ARCHIVED sticker swag. :)

@Jenny: I thought you would like that aspect! I know there's a lot of series out there and it's nice to have a breather every now and then. This should definitely work on its own.

@Olivia: It really is such a stunning read! V has crafted a world that I found it difficult to believe *doesn't* exist in real life. She cleverly took aspects of things people think about all of the time and fashioned them into a believable narrative. I'm looking forward to seeing what you think, because I adore your reviews! <3

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