The Archived by Victoria SchwabThe Archived is without a doubt one of the most original stories I have ever come across. Considering the fact that I read a lot of epic-fantasy, that^^ is saying something. Truth be told, I've had this book on my tbr shelf since it first came out, before I even had a clue who author Victoria (V.E.) Schwab was, but true to form, she delivered yet another memorable and creative story that is sure to linger in your head for days, even weeks after you've read the last page.
The Archived #1
Published January 22nd 2013 by Hyperion
The dead rest on shelves like books. Each body has a story to tell, a life in pictures only Librarians can read. The dead, called 'Histories', rest in 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 tool for staying alive.
Being a Keeper is dangerous and a constant reminder of those she lost, Da and her little brother. Mac wonders about the boundary between living and dying, sleeping and waking. In the Archive, the dead must never be disturbed. Yet someone is deliberately altering Histories, erasing essential chapters. Unless Mac can piece together what remains, the Archive itself might crumble and fall.
The Archived is, at it's core, a mystery. Sure it has sci-fi elements, given the fact that there's this other part of our world where the dead are kept in archive - and yet another part that's sort of in between our world and the Archive (called the Narrows) where the dead 'memories' can escape to if they awaken - but at it's basest level, this is a mystery, and a good one at that. I don't want to give anything away so I won't say more, other than it certainly did a good job of keeping me guessing right till the very end, which is no small feat, especially for a young adult book. As a naturally curious person, I found myself literally driven to distraction trying to figure out all of it's secrets from the very first pages. Told in present tense, with shorter flashbacks scattered throughout, the construction of the plot itself felt like it was made to keep readers guessing; something that it accomplished beautifully.
Truth be told, I found the pacing to be quite slow moving fat the start there. I was intrigued, fascinated even by the world I was discovering as well as its characters, but most of what was going on was introductions. The story itself didn't feel like it was moving forward much and I kept waiting for the actual plot to reveal itself. But then, when I got passed that first 40%, the plot really picked up and things started to fall into place. At that point, I could not put the book down to save my life. I plowed through the remaining 60% in no time flat and despite a few lingering questions, I was largely satisfied with the story.
The Archived features a relatively small cast, which I tend to enjoy. It just feels like you get to know everyone so much easier and makes for a more personal read. Mackenzie, our protagonist was chosen to work for the Archive. She can travel between the Outer (our reality) to the Narrows and the Archive. She basically hunts down any histories - basically ghosts or memories of people who have died - and returns them to the Archive, where they are kept. Because of her job, she can also read objects, which I though was especially cool. All she has to do is touch an object, search within for a thread of memory and then she reels back time, like rewinding a film and she can see the past imprinted on any given object. It's a gift that can help her know more about any woken or escaped histories and track them down...but it can also get her into trouble. And it does. I thought that Mackenzie as a character was wonderful. A bit lost and alone, but a fighter through it all. I understood her curiosity, especially with what was going on in her life, so I felt a lot for her. I finished the book wishing that we could be friends and to me, those are the best sorts of characters. Character-wise, there's also Wesley, a neighbor of Mackenzie's, which soon becomes a friend and confidante. Wesley was a real treat, I loved his humor and how offbeat he was. Another notable character was Roland, one of the people working in the actual Archive. He was a bit more mysterious but captivating all the same and I won't say more on him, because, spoilers!
I think what struck me the most about The Archived was the setting and atmosphere. Because we're dealing with 'Histories' which are basically sleeping ghosts, the Archive itself always had this sort of hushed tone that clung to everything in this story. Even the Narrows where the Histories go to when they wake was relatively quiet, despite the fact that there was a lot of action going on there when it came to actually recapturing the Histories. Considering that this was a pretty intense mystery, the inherent quiet sort of became it's own character here and it gave everything an eerie calm.
Looking back, I could have used more information on the Histories and their reason for being. It was mentioned that the dead were kept this way to preserve memories, but what were they doing with these memories remains a mystery. Hopefully there will be more information on that front in The Unbound, or even the upcoming, as of yet untitled third book. There was also a couple of romances or potential romances here, which felt a bit out of place for some reason, and I'm not really sure why. Maybe it's because there were two of them, and one very abrupt, but it didn't really bother me all that much. It just didn't quite fit in as nicely as the other aspects of the book.
All things considered, The Archived was a great read. I'm already looking forward to discovering more about this world and it's characters. Definitely recommended for fans of sci-fi mysteries, as well as fans of Victoria Schwab.
My Rating: 4 out of 5 Stars