The Archived by Victoria Schwab
Release Date: January 22, 2013
Genre: Paranormal Young Adult Fiction
Summary: Welcome to the Archive, a library for the dead. Spending your afterlife in a library sounds like a pretty sweet deal, right? Endless books and comfy chairs! Caveat – it’s spent as a History, an exact physical replica of every person who’s lived. Histories contain the memories of each life and are usually in a deep sleep. Except sometimes the dead wake, and they want more than anything to get back to the world they knew. First, they must get through the Narrows, the shadowy realm between the Archive and the Outer. And that’s where Keepers come in. Keepers stand between the real world and the Histories, and must get them back to Returns before they become violent.
Mackenzie Bishop is a Keeper, inheriting the position from her grandfather. After a family tragedy, she moves to a new apartment building with the fractured remains of her family. She quickly discovers her new home is directly connected to the Narrows, which should make her job easier. Except more and more Histories seem to be waking, overwhelming Mac with work. And that’s not the worst part – someone has been altering the Histories, wiping memories from the dead. Mac has to find the culprit before she becomes a History herself.
Libraries! Tragedy! Intrigue! Special powers! Snarky guys in eyeliner! This book has it all.
This book was AWESOME. I didn’t really know what to expect from this – all I knew was that I’d seen The Library episode of “Doctor Who” and I like that so I’ll probably like this book right? Okay, it’s nothing like that. Let’s start right off with the world building. I’m always worried with new fantasy books that everything will seem too contrived or too same old same old. Not a problem at all – The Archived somehow in the huge amount of YA fantasy and paranormal manages to be completely fresh, interesting, and riveting. It’s also endearingly simple – the rules of this world are explained plainly – no fancy made up words, no crazy or ridiculous explanations. Just really cool stuff – The Library archives the history of every person who’s died. The Librarians keep the Library. The Keepers return the Histories who wake up. The Crew go after the Histories that escape into the outside world. EASY! But awesome! I really adored the whole thing.
Mac is a fantastic lead character – very REAL which I really value in a YA heroine. She’s a terrible friend, but loves her bestie Lyndsey deeply. She’s broken from her brother’s death, but trying to keep it together. She’s a bad ass fighter, but sometimes she totally gets her butt kicked. Also her relationship and memories of her beloved grandfather, Da, are beautiful and twisted at the same time. I’m also a huge fan of Wes – the sassy eyeliner-wearing dude who turns up in Mac’s new apartment building. Again – he’s real. He’s attractive and cool without being a Jace.
I love books that keep me in suspense for just the right amount of time – this book was really pushing it and kept me in the dark for so long. I didn’t figure out what was going on until about 83% which made this read quick and urgent. Really enjoyed the mystery aspect and how we really had to figure everything out along with Mac.
Also, I like that David Tennant is a character. This is a real thing. Read this book!!
Seriously, Victoria Schwab is phenomenal. Her writing is fun and easy to read and she has created such an elegant, interesting, and brand new world for us to enjoy. For once, I say whole-heartedly – MORE PLEASE!!
Expectations: sweeping adventure in a paranormal library of the dead.
Actuality: Beautifully nuanced exploration of grief and death, expertly balanced with a sweeping adventure in a paranormal library of the dead. PLUS BURGEONING ROMANCE.
How can The Archived be so many things at once, and be good at all of them?? Because let me tell you – it is fantastic. I spent all day in a real library and could only think about getting home to finish this book.
I was not expecting the entrance into this world to be so full of feels. Okay sure I knew it was going to be about the dead. But paranormal fantasy texts often ignore the emotional aspect of dead things. Ghosts are scary and sometimes evil! Except Victoria Schwab makes the Histories absolutely tragic. Mac was trained to think of the dead as objects that need to be sent back to Returns. But the death of her little brother Ben causes Mac to start questioning her job as a Keeper. Why can’t people know about the Archive before they die? Would it make things better for the living, knowing their thoughts and memories will live on? Or would it just cause chaos?
The family dynamic is incredibly important to this story. Mac’s family is now a shell of itself. Ben’s death is a wound, bleeding profusely even as the family won’t look at it. “The doctor tries to say there wasn’t time to feel it, but that’s not true. Mom feels it. Dad feels it. I feel it.” This line killlllled me. Take me to the Archive and let me sleep, because I’m dead now. Schwab has these aching lines all throughout the text, so Ben’s death never felt like a plot device. It’s a real part of the story, and makes the whole novel more genuine and thought-provoking.
Can we take a moment to appreciate that Mac’s Mom and Dad are at least aware that she constantly goes missing? That always annoys me to no end in shows and books when the parents are just unrealistically oblivious. Like Buffy’s mom. Gah. Mac has to constantly come up with lies to get out to the Narrows, and I wonder how this will pan out in the following books. Which I am actually really excited to read! I feel like there are so many unexplored avenues in this world, and helllloooo we need some Wes and Mac romance.
Finally, I would like to request that you all refer to me as Kelly Durkin, Rogue Librarian.
The Archived was one of the many books my fellow Bibliomantics and I heard about at New York Comic Con that we knew we had to read. Well, that and the Scottish version of Harry Potter written by Captain Jack Harkness himself, John Barrowman. We were drawn in by the premise, a Library where the dead are kept on shelves like books called the Archive, the gorgeous cover, and the plot. We were not disappointed by the contents, and if reviews on Amazon are to be believed, neither has anyone else.
Mac is a Keeper, tasked with keeping the Histories (shells of the dead) inside the Archive if and when they awaken. No one really knows why they occasionally wake up and no one probably ever will. Mac finds most of the Histories trapped in the Narrows, the buffer between the Archive and the Outer, our world/the real world and must send them through a Returns door. She is helped along by a key to open doorways, and the ability to read time. All pretty standard genetic traits.
Keepers are assisted by Librarians who organize and can read the dead. Librarians are ageless, and were once Keepers or Crew members (Keepers who dispatch violent Histories) who choose the length of their Library servitude. Each Library has their own branch and depending on what jurisdiction a person dies in determines which Library their History ends up in. In much the same vein, Keepers each have their own territories they patrol. I could probably go on for another eight paragraphs about the fabulous ways in which this imaginary world functions, but I’ll stop rambling and get to why you need to read this book. Although the premise is certainly a very good reason.
Taught by and chosen to be a Keeper by her grandfather Da, Mackenzie struggles to deal with the death of her little brother, Ben while trying to understand death by dispatching the Histories. So yes, while it’s a story about a fictional version of the afterlife, it’s also ultimately about loss and death. Mac’s family is haunted by the death of Ben and the novel is about them learning to cope with and eventually moving on from their grief. It will rip your heart out of your chest and stomp on it… In a good way.
Victoria Schwab’s writing is rich and inventive, but where she’s the strongest is in her world building (discussed earlier) and her characters. Roland the Librarian is by far my favorite character. He’s a youngish looking gentlemen from Scotland who wears red Converse, has eyes that look older than his face and has a penchant for rule breaking. Basically, he’s the 10th Doctor, David Tennant, but he’s lost his memory and is convinced his name is Roland. Or so I imagine in my head canon.
There’s also the strangely coherent escaped History with a hidden past, Owen and Mac’s new friend, the guyliner wearing Wes who likes to frequent the hotel turned apartment complex the Coronado where Mac’s mother is opening a coffee shop.
All in all a fabulous book with a great adventure, an imaginative new world, and the best use of second person ever. For once I don’t even mind that it’s a series. I just want to read more.
WHAT WE LIKED MOST:
– Roland the Librarian aka the Tenth Doctor
– Interesting and fresh world building
– Genuine exploration of grief in a paranormal world
WHAT WE LIKED LEAST
– Waiting – when does book 2 come out??
Poignant, funny, thrilling, and David Tenant. Told you this book had everything! Ask your friendly neighborhood Librarian to help you find it, unless you want to brave the stacks alone.
Join us next month when we review our February Bibliomantic Book Club Book: The Madness Underneath by Maureen Johnson.