Thursday, February 28, 2013

Review of The Archived by Victoria Schwab

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.

(Summary from GoodReads)

I was surprised by Schwab’s debut The Near Witch because I knew I’d like it, but I had no idea it would be such a fast-paced read.  Even though The Archived’s premise really intrigued me and I snagged a copy in June at ALA, I’d heard it would make a better winter read, so I held onto it until then.  Although I once again adored Schwab’s writing and world-building, I didn’t connect to the writing and characters as well as I did in The Near Witch.

The Archived has a great foundation.  Schwab’s world is creatively and carefully built, and it’s not like other worlds I’ve seen in YA.  It’s intriguing but incredibly creepy at the same time.  The setting outside of the world is vividly drawn.  I could easily imagine the old hotel Mac and her family moved into.

Once again, the plot of this book moves along quickly, but this time I figured out the big reveal pretty early on.  Regardless, I enjoyed reading until I got there.  I didn’t connect especially well with Mac, though.  At the beginning of the book, we learned that Mac is all too familiar with loss, and it’s something that affects her throughout the plot of the novel.  I haven’t experienced loss on quite the same level she as, but to me her character read as quite angsty. 

In her review, Misty mentions that it seems as though Schwab comes close to some deep messages in The Archived but doesn’t quite get there, and I agree wholeheartedly.  Although this is a good book and Mac’s feelings are totally valid, by the end it started to feel like they were getting in the way.  Perhaps if Mac had been just a bit less emotional there would have been room for something more.  I’m the type of reader who needs to connect with characters, so I think Schwab wrote herself into a corner here: I needed a little bit less of Mac, but would my connection with her and the book overall have been even more comprised if that happened? It’s hard to say.

I like to nitpick in my reviews, but let me set the record straight: The Archived is a fantastic novel. It’s a great sophomore novel and has the creepiness I’ve come to expect from Schwab.  I’m chomping at the bit for the sequel to this one as well as all of Victoria’s future books.  Hopefully I can pick up a gorgeous finished copy of this one soon and have it for my own shelves.

Disclosure: I grabbed an ARC of this book at ALA.

Other reviews:


  1. Interesting review. I'm glad that you liked the book overall!

  2. Yeah, this was an interesting book for sure. It's not one that I fell in LOVE with but I still enjoyed none the less. So creepy.

  3. I think it's fine to nitpick.
    Even though you didn't like a few aspects, I still really want to read The Archived although character connection is important for me -- because the concept sounds awesome and I like good writing.



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