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.
I've put off writing this review for the simple fact that I wasn't quite sure what I wanted to say. I loved the unique ideas behind this book, the writing style is incredible, and the emotions are thick ... but... something just falls flat about the story.
The character development was great. Mac was an interesting heroine, living a double life that she can reveal to no one. The emotions stirred by the loss of her little brother and the actions/decisions that ensue as a result are genuine and help Mac grow from denial to acceptance. She's a wonderful character with the attitude and courage to keep us hooked on her.
Wesley was probably my favorite character, aside from Da. He's snarky, humorously egotistical (notice I didn't say cocky), and he gives Mac something she's never had before, causing our heroine to struggle as she grows beyond the boundaries of her secret life.
I loved the flashbacks Mac had, giving us glimpses of her time with Da, her Keeper grandfather. He had this simple, logical way of looking at the world, which was a refreshing breather from all the chaos and confusion that Mac is experiencing in the present.
The idea of filing the history of a life in the form of a replica of that person like a book in a library was unique, and you couldn't help but be curious about the details. I just didn't understand the point. Why store them at the risk of them waking and escaping out into the world, since that is the ultimate fear? The Librarians are capable of "blacking" or wiping them out, so I couldn't understand what the purpose was. Are they using the histories of these people for something bigger? Or are they stored just because that's they way it's been for as long as anyone can remember? And if so, why did the process begin?
Owen was a weird little tidbit. The "romance" (if you can call it that) between Owen and Mac was, like I said, weird. Mac goes against everything she knows when it comes to him, and while I understood her hope, there was something in her desire to help him that, again, didn't have a point.
Tying into that, I can get on board with curiosity, but Mac is so obsessed with the brutal past she sees in her new home that it consumes most of the first half of the story. Then chaos begins in the Archive, and readers are brought through the book with all these little loose ends that don't seem to connect, and while it makes for a pretty thrilling ride, it can be hard to keep track of what the story is actually about. When things are finally all tied together, while the ending is dressed up in a crazy battle to save the Archive and the people in the Outside, it felt anticlimactic in its explanations. It was like those old murder stories where you barely meet the butler in the beginning, never see him again, and lo and behold, he ends up being the killer. It just wasn't involved or complicated enough to fit with the buildup in the rest of the story.
Now, it may sound like I didn't enjoy The Archived, which is anything but true. Schwab's writing style and ability to suck readers into the action can't be ignored, and while I felt there were a few holes, there's a definite talent here. I'll be reading the next book because I loved the characters and I couldn't get enough of the writing. Maybe some of my questions will be answered in The Unbound (the second novel), and I'm looking forward to discovering more of Schwab's imaginary world.