Review | The Archived by Victoria Schwab (The Archived, #1)

(NOTE: This is a review repost from an old, now-defunct book blog. The main reason I’m reposting this is because I bought the second book, The Unbound, recently and I’d like to have reviews of both books on here. Also because this book is so underrated and amazing.)

Reviewer: Christina
Release Date: January 22, 2013
Publisher: Hyperion
Age Group: YA
Genres: Fantasy/paranormal, contemporary
Pages: 328 (hardcover)
Format/Source: Hardcover, borrowed from library
Find the Book: Goodreads | Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Book Depository | or look for it at your local indie!

Rating: 5/5 Stars

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.

Considering that the Fire and Thorns trilogy is one of my favorites of all time, I am willing to take almost any recommendation from Rae Carson’s Twitter. This book was brought back to mind from hearing about it a long, long time ago when Rae tweeted. But when the cover and synopsis looked like this? My mind was reeling – like ‘why have I not read this already?’ and then ‘why am I not reading this RIGHT NOW?’

I ended up finishing The Archived in a day. A lot of people, including me, were shocked. (And I owe Rae Carson another debt for introducing me to a fourth great book. Other than, you know, the three that she wrote and are now resting on my bookshelf. *whew*) And I read it so fast for GOOD. FLIPPING. REASON.

I absolutely loved Mackenzie, right from the beginning. Her voice is honest and observant and funny without being immature, something really readable and easy to get into very fast, and she doesn’t drop backstory bombs like some other protagonists do. She’s awesome without being a clichéd, kill-everything-and-blow-stuff-up type of girl. Her flashbacks are very nicely and aptly placed, weaving straight into the narrative. (Although it’s confusing at first, ‘Da’ actually refers to Mac’s grandfather – she’s got a separate ‘Dad’, too.) She’s a complex character with complex moments of grief and happiness – her emotional snippets are some of my favorite parts of the book.

The supporting characters are intriguing, from Mac’s parents to her grandfather to Wesley to Owen. They’re developed well, but not too much.

I admit the romance(s?) seemed a little thrown in there, but it didn’t detract from the story as a whole. Wesley and Mac have such unforced chemistry that it made me happy just to read their dialogue. The character dynamics throughout The Archived are so realistic and not overbearing. Just.

The worldbuilding is quite superb, and it’s paced so that I was never reading huge explanation dumps. The ingenuity of it all sort of crept up on me, you know? It’s just as original and energizing as the blurb tells you it will be – no false promises here, not a one. And the best part? It makes total sense once everything comes together.

This prose. It was the perfect pick-me-up after finishing the disappointing Keturah and Lord Death (which I’d read just before); it was everything I’d been looking for and more. Nowadays I’ve found that the writing style is becoming a steadily more important component of whether or not I like a book, and even while I’m reading I analyze what makes this turn of phrase better than another. (The pesky writer’s brain of Christina, sorry.) But this – it captures descriptions so effortlessly. The narration sounds like a teenager’s and still manages to be beautiful.

Although it’s very hard to objectively look at something I loved so much, rest assured that The Archived is truly a hidden gem. A blend of mystery, action, straight-up glorious characters, and other stuff I couldn’t possibly express, it can and should be the next thing on your to-read list. I’ll be grabbing The Unbound as soon as is humanly possible – and hopefully I can get a review straight to you all. Oh, and Victoria Schwab’s other book, The Near Witch.

*new fangirl status right here, everyone*