December 29, 2012

Review: The Archived

Title: The Archived
Author: Victoria Schwab
ISBN: 978-1-4231-5731-1
Pages: 336                                   
Ages: 12 and up
Available: January 22, 2013

Summary (from the book jacket):

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.

My Thoughts:

I cannot express the love I have for this book. I originally read the first 100 pages when given the chance on NetGalley, and then I was fortunate enough to get my hands on the ARC. Guys, Schwab has a gift with storytelling. I thought so with The Near Witch, but her latest novel seals the deal for me.

We are thrust into a world of the dead, into the world of Histories. But sometimes they get a little restless, and they get out. It is up to Keepers like Mac to put them back. Sometimes that easier said than done.

But that is not the heart of this story. Self-discovery, knowledge, and understanding. Those three elements are the heart – and those three elements drive the plot for me. It is these three elements that humanize Mac and make her character development strong. Mac understands her role in the world, but does she truly understand the impact of that role? Especially when things are not as they appear. Especially when her life as a Keeper is so steeped in mystery that is seems impossible to solve.

Self-discovery: Mac, while keeping up with her duties as Keeper, is also learning about herself. How to deal with loss. How to deal with parents. How to deal with romantic feelings. Three things that many of us experience as we grow up. But there is a luxury the rest of us do not face. We are not constantly being summoned to help return a History to its rightful place.

Knowledge: Throughout the novel Schwab provides snapshot conversations between Mac and Da. I loved these. I thought they were a nice addition, a nice way to reveal more to readers about her relationship to Da and the knowledge he wanted to impart on her as a Keeper. But more than that, these conversations gave Mac knowledge that helped her put the puzzle pieces together. And they helped the reader as well. We discovered the necessary knowledge the moment she did, and for me I have several “a ha!” moments during these snapshots.

Understanding: Mac is dealing with loss. She is dealing with parents who are dealing with loss. And she is dealing with a job she can share with no one. As I previously stated, the snapshot conversations help put puzzle pieces together, but it the understanding of the necessary knowledge that puts Mac at ease, that allows her to move forward to do the job that needs to be done. To help her move forward within her own life.

And what is a beautiful YA story without beautiful, hunky male characters? We are treated to Owen and Wesley, two paths that Mac could take. In many YA novels, there is a bit too much “mushy mushy” to really fit into the plot. It feels as if the mush is there simply to be there, no real purpose. Well, let me tell you—not is that the case with this novel. These two gentlemen are necessities to the overall plot as well as Mac’s own self-discovery of who she is, and what she was born to do. Schwab takes care with the development of Owen and Wesley, providing enough mystery to make readers question the purpose and motives of these two characters without making us feel overwhelmed with a love triangle.

Because this book is not about a love triangle. Not even close.

The plot of the novel is nicely paced as well. Elements are revealed as they are necessary. Sometimes I read novels and it seems that authors either make them front or back heavy with information, and that can become overwhelming, especially when reading a mystery. But that is not the case with this novel. We are given information as we need it, not want it, but need it.

Ultimately Schwab delivers a tale that will keep readers engaged, cheering for Mac, and for the Histories, while guessing what will happen next. While this is a beautifully written story, it is also a mystery that needs solving, before it is too late to save the archive.

I don’t know about you, but when I read a mystery, I like to take a moment to (1) close the book, (2) look at the person next to me, and (3) guess what the author has in store. Anyone else?

Well…I did just that throughout this book, and I am usually right. But Schwab is so crafty in her storytelling that while I was able to figure out bits and pieces, I was still gasping with a beating heart as all was revealed. Ladies and gents, that is good storytelling.

I do wonder about Mac’s last name though, Bishop. Is that eventually going to tie into some kind of interesting history that leads all the way back to the Salem Witch Trials? Or am I just thinking too much about it? I swear, every time I read that last name I am just waiting for Bridget to pop up in the stories…and many times she does. I will be curious to see if there’s any kind of tie to her.

Have you read The Archived? Share your thoughts in the comments section.

Have you reviewed the novel? Leave a link.

Happy Reading!

1 comment:

  1. I was SO excited for this book, and I still am, although I'm really disappointed that there's a love triangle. I'm glad the book doesn't focus on it, but I am just so tired of them. They're cliched and usually not necessary. The rest of the story sounds fantastic, though, so I'll still pick up a copy of The Archived. (:


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