The Archived by Victoria Schwab

August 12, 2013 Reviews 2 ★★★★★

The Archived by Victoria SchwabThe Archived (The Archived #1) by Victoria Schwab
Published: 22nd January 2013 by Disney-Hyperion
Format: Hardcover, 328 pages
Genres: Fantasy
Source: Library
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5 Stars

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 rarely get to go into a book with no expectations what-so-ever, but I picked up The Archived on a whim at the library, because it was a relatively new hardcover edition and the cover looked interesting. From the moment I read the first page, I was hooked – the voice, the quality of story-telling, and most-importantly, the world, is so interesting, that The Archived suddenly became very hard to put down!

Mackenzie is the kind of YA protagonist I love to read about – brave, flawed, and intelligent. She’s a Keeper, which means that she makes sure that the Histories (memories of people now dead) don’t wake up and get out into the world of the living. This, coupled with the recent death of her younger brother, makes Mackenzie a really interesting character, because she’s constantly having to balance her duties with her all-too-human need to grieve. A wonderful aspect of her character is her ability focus on the task at hand, for example, she’s not thinking about some cute boy’s eyes when she’s fighting rogue Histories. I think she is believable and refreshing, a far cry from the usual affair.

I love the world-building of this novel – it’s so new! Histories being kept on shelves in a Library, who can wake up and roam the nightmarish corridors of the Narrows, the space between the worlds of living and dead, and the Keepers and Librarians who keep them in check. It’s all explained exquisitely through Mackenzie’s memories, all the more poignant because the person who taught her about these things, her grandfather, is now dead. The nuances in the relationships between the characters, especially between Mackenzie and her parents, is refreshing, and balanced out the isolation she felt because of her duties as a Keeper.

The pacing and plotting of the novel couldn’t have been better – the book flows smoothly and doesn’t stagnate, and is devoid of the tired old markers of YA fiction. In fact, it’s more of a throwback to the Tamora Pierce and Trudi Canavan brand of fantasy – original, complex, emotional, and honestly, just superb.

I also enjoyed the balance between the plot and the romance. So rarely do authors get it right, but Schwab nails it. Mackenzie is aware she hasn’t known Wesley for very long, and it factors into everything she does. The slow development of their trust and resulting friendship is, in my mind, a lot sweeter than any insta-romance could have been. It’s obvious they both like one another, but they are careful to establish a friendship first, which is great.

Featuring an awesome protagonist, creative and original world building, and a host of deep characters and relationships, The Archived is undoubtably a welcome deviation from most of the young adult fiction available these days. A truly stand out novel, it’s perfect for fans of fantasy of all ages. I can’t wait to read the sequel, The Unbound, next year.

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