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*

Waiting on Wednesday [2] | A Darker Shade of Magic by V. E. Schwab (A Darker Shade of Magic, #1)

Waiting on Wednesday is a weekly meme hosted by Jill at Breaking the Spine, where we bloggers get a chance to feature upcoming releases that we can’t wait for!

Find the book: Goodreads | Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Book Depository

Release Date: February 24, 2015

Kell is one of the last Travelers—magicians with a rare, coveted ability to travel between parallel universes—as such, he can choose where he lands.

There’s Grey London, dirty and boring, without any magic, ruled by a mad King George. Then there’s Red London, where life and magic are revered, and the Maresh Dynasty presides over a flourishing empire. White London, ruled by whoever has murdered their way to the throne—a place where people fight to control magic, and the magic fights back, draining the city to its very bones. And once upon a time, there was Black London…but no one speaks of that now.

Officially, Kell is the Red Traveler, personal ambassador and adopted Prince of Red London, carrying the monthly correspondences between the royals of each London. Unofficially, Kell is a smuggler, servicing people willing to pay for even the smallest glimpses of a world they’ll never see—a dangerous hobby, and one that has set him up for accidental treason. Fleeing into Grey London, Kell runs afoul of Delilah Bard, a cut-purse with lofty aspirations, who first robs him, then saves him from a dangerous enemy, and then forces him to spirit her to another world for a proper adventure.

But perilous magic is afoot, and treachery lurks at every turn. To save all of the worlds, Kell and Lila will first need to stay alive—and that is proving trickier than they hoped.

I NEED this book for several very good reasons, despite the fact that it’s an adult title and therefore not what I usually read:

The author. Although V. E. Schwab is the name she goes by for her adult books, Victoria Schwab is also the author of The Archived, which was one of my favorite reads of this year and ALL TIME. (Because I’m awful at getting my hands on books, I have yet to devour The Unbound, but mark my words, I will.) Her sharp, gorgeous writing style is genius, and the way the magic bleeds into the very fabric of the story – ugh, it’s so inspiring and breathtaking and jealousy-inducing.

The premise. Victoria herself has stated that A Darker Shade of Magic will contain magic in heaps, pirates, parallel universes, cross-dressing thieves, crazy kings and queens, fight scenes, and angst. I mean, I like every single one of these elements when they’re alone. But together? It sounds almost too good to be true.

The setting. Um, it’s London. Actually, it’s several Londons. Let’s try that again. LONDON. Need I say more?

The cover. If you don’t think this combination of an amazing red-black color scheme, wickedly cool typography, and detailed, expressive art isn’t an absolute work of genius, I really don’t know what to say to you.

Okay, there. Now that I’ve explained myself, you won’t have to think me odd whenever I practically salivate at every mention of this book, yes? And we only have to wait… six more months! *cries inwardly*