Monday, September 7, 2015

Book Review: The Unbound

Book Review: The Unbound by Victoria Schwab 

Goodreads Description: Last summer, Mackenzie Bishop, a Keeper tasked with stopping violent Histories from escaping the Archive, almost lost her life to one. Now, as she starts her junior year at Hyde School, she's struggling to get her life back. But moving on isn't easy -- not when her dreams are haunted by what happened. She knows the past is past, knows it cannot hurt her, but it feels so real, and when her nightmares begin to creep into her waking hours, she starts to wonder if she's really safe.
Meanwhile, people are vanishing without a trace, and the only thing they seem to have in common is Mackenzie. She's sure the Archive knows more than they are letting on, but before she can prove it, she becomes the prime suspect. And unless Mac can track down the real culprit, she'll lose everything, not only her role as Keeper, but her memories, and even her life. Can Mackenzie untangle the mystery before she herself unravels?

My Review: The sequel to the Archived starts off with Mac dealing with the events of the previous book-- her fight with Owen and the lasting scars. It's refreshing to see in a fantasy the main character actually be traumatized by the horrible things that happen to them. It's one thing to be upset by what happened, quite another to start breaking down and questioning your sanity. Mac is dealing with horrific nightmares that make it impossible to sleep and moments of blackness where she can't remember what she did, or at least has great trouble. She keeps a lot of her fears bottled up due to the very real threat that the Archive may find her unfit to be a Keeper if she's losing her mind. And so the nightmares get worse, and her paranoia grows...

This book blew me away. The beginning starts off very focused on Mac and her real life as she tries to get her life back to normal. Not easy with her brother's death still hanging over her family, let alone settling into a new school year. The opening is smooth and solid, bringing Mac into a new world with a new circle of friends. Questions quickly begin piling up-- why is Mac having black spots in her memory while out hunting? Why are people who come in contact with her disappearing? And why are Crew from the Archive following her? The best part of all these questions is the deeper one Mac keeps asking herself: is any of her suspicions of foul play real, or is it all in her head?

As the story progresses, that question only amps up to the max. Mac's breakdown is so beautifully written and articulated it had me crying while waiting in lines at a convention. Despite everything weighing against her and the very real possibility of losing everything-- her job as a Keeper, any chance with Wesley, and her relationship with her parents-- Mac continues to fight for what she thinks is right. You could almost call what Mac does a troupe-- refusing help and not confiding in the Archive about what's really going on-- but it is written in such a way that is not only justified perfectly, but that suits Mac's character and contributes to her breakdown. So when she turns around and keeps fighting with such a profound weight on her, it just felt so awe-inspiring and invigorating.

And the romance? Oh, god, the romance between Wesley and Mac is gorgeous. Mostly because it relies on their need for each other and the shared connection they have. Not to mention their shared way of "hearing" people-- Wesley's rock band noise and Mac's thunderstorms-- really adds a unique angle to their romance that left my toes tingling.

Story aside, the pacing is perfect and the writing itself is absolutely stunning without being overbearing. The plot fits together like a puzzle that does an excellent job of circumventing your expectations. I went into The Unbound expecting a decent story, as I really enjoyed the first, and came away absolutely inspired and in love. I couldn't find a single thing I didn't enjoy about it, and it has easily become one of my favourite books. I'm not usually one for rereading, but I can easily see myself going back for this one. It it something else.

TL;DR: 5/5 stars. If you buy one book this year, make it this one. This book is utter magic.

1 comment:

  1. Oh man. You know a book is good when it makes you cry in public. I remember sneaking The Great Gatsby into my orientation assembly freshman year and balling my eyes out while everyone else was chanting the school name around me. (great way to convince everyone you're a total werido, by the way)

    From the sounds of this, the storyline follows some of the great hallmarks of a hero's journey and conforms to some of the most open-ended but most compelling traditions in fantasy stories that introduce an outsider to something mysterious. Well-done romance is the perfect compliment to a complex, engaging plot like this, so it's great to hear that it was on point too. Thanks for the review!