Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Review: The Archived by Victoria Schwab

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.

Hardcover, 328 pages

Published January 22nd 2013 by Hyperion 
(info grabbed from GoodReads)

Victoria Schwab is becoming a fast favorite author for me as I love her original ideas and the way she writes.  Like in The Near Witch, her prose tends to be more long winded and breathy, giving it an ethereal feel.  It didn't have quite the effect that it did in The Near Witch, as this is an urban fantasy and would be less appropriate.  The writing is even paced and relaxed, and it never rushes.  While I do enjoy fast paced books, I also like more relaxed reads like this one.  Though the writing makes this story more relaxing to read, the story itself is not.  The Archived is full of action and butt-kickery, as Mackenzie’s job requires it. 

In The Archived, our main character, Mackenzie, works doing maintenance for the library that houses the dead.  (HOW COOL IS THAT?)  But by maintenance, I mean she has to chase down awoken spirits in the dark cloisters of the space inbetween the library and the real world and lead them back to the library -- sometimes by force.  The mystery of the book is that many more spirits are waking without any apparent reason.  Mackenzie already had her hands full with keeping her job a secret, but with an influx of spirits, it becomes more than simply overwhelming.

There is some romance in The Archived, but it’s not a huge part of the book.  More like sprinkles on top than the ice cream that is the mystery.  It is also interwoven with the rest of the plot, so it doesn’t feel like it was tacked on for marketability.  I guess that means it’s not-so-much sprinkles and more like the cookie dough in cookie dough ice cream -- it would be vanilla without it and who wants vanilla?  Bring on the cookie dough!

I also always appreciate an ending that doesn’t leave me screaming, which occasionally happens in trilogies.  I want to read more and know more about the world Victoria Schwab is designing, but I’m not ripping my hair out in agony waiting for the sequel.  However, I’m not a particular fan of cliffhangers.  If you need to be rocking in your chair with questions for the next book, this may not be for you.  But if you want a solidly great book with an awesome mystery, a heroine who can hold her own, and lyrical prose, The Archived is most likely a good fit for you.

Final Thought: 9 out 10 cookie dough toadstools

This review is also posted on GoodReads

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