Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Book Review: The Archived

Book Review: The Archived by Victoria Schwab 

Goodreads Description: 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.

My Review: If you could stroll through a library of the dead, whose memories would you want to read? 

It's the question that came to me after I finished THE ARCHIVED. Honestly, going in I wasn't expecting this book to be as amazing as it was. The book begins with a back and forth in time that serves to not only reveal more of the world-building, the Archived, and all its components, but also establishes a strong emotional bond with the Archived. Because the information was relayed through Mac's grandfather, it allowed the reader to associate the Archive with the warm memories of Mac's childhood. I was sceptical of the back and forth at first, but not only did it beautifully open up the world without dumping info, but the tone and tension of each shortened scene actually made me ache for the next flashback, even if there was no overarching action taking place within them. 

Mackenzie's character opened up rather nicely. I was worried because in the beginning she came off as a tad bland, and I worried that would be a constant. Nothing worse than cardboard when you're looking for meat. But Mac proved me wrong. The way the character opened up, both with the flashbacks and then later with her actions and admissions, it made me almost feel as if I was getting to know her one on one, and the more I discovered about her passion for the Archive, for closure, and as the pieces of her character came together, the more I grew to like her. 

The rest of her characters shone through beautifully, including the antagonists of the story. Though throughout the book, the antagonists remain a mystery, I had my suspicions and was proved right in some cases, however I was surprised that at certain points I didn't want them to be the villains. They were well done characters with wonderful motivation, but more than that, the glimpses into their humanity really sealed the book for me. 

Besides the characters, I absolutely adored the world-building. The Archive itself is a wonderful idea, where history is at your fingertips. The vast, gleaming world of the Archived coupled with the dark and craggy Narrows made for great atmosphere and a fascinating backdrop. I found the use of keys and doors and locks fit so nicely with the secrecy and deceit that makes up the Archive. And just as the writing would have you believe you were looping through the Narrows, pursued by Histories, the plot is as thick and creamy as clam chowder. (Is that an expression? It is now.) As I writer, it was an absolute joy to read, because it was as though I could see each plotline spread out like threads across the pages. I couldn't always guess what was coming, but I was given enough information to guess and ponder, which I love when you've got a mystery on your hands. 

All in all, the Archived was pleasantly surprising. I didn't expect to fall as in love with it as I did, but it has left me pondering death and legacies and with a wonderful book hangover. This is a book that sinks into your skin and stays there, quiet but insistent.

TL;DR: 5/5 stars. This one's a Keeper. 

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