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.
I have learned a very important lesson on the interwebs in the past couple of years. If all the bloggers, authors and miscellaneous people you know and/or respect all start raving about a book at the same time, buy it. Don't ask questions, worry about genre or description, just walk right out, that day, and buy it. This has happened to me a couple of times, when a book is 100% not on my radar one day and the next day there is 37 (or more) mentions of it in my Twitter feed from an eclectic mix of people. Each time it happens I splash out and get myself the first copy I can get my hands on and am promptly blown away. Which I have to tell you, is a very pleasant thing to have happen on a Tuesday, which is otherwise a very non-descript day (other than being my longest, latest work day, neither of those redeeming factors, all things considered).
The Archived was that book for me this past month. Although I recognised Victoria Schwab as the author of The Near Witch (which I haven't read, but is definitely on my TBR list now), I knew virtually nothing about her, and I hadn't heard a single thing about her newest book, The Archived until it's release day, January 22nd. When suddenly my Twitter feed erupted with a mix of agents, authors, and sundry bookish folk raving about how I HAD to read it. So I trundled up to Chapters to buy it only to find they didn't have any in stock, at which point I figured it wasn't meant to be for the moment and I would just have to keep it in mind for my next bookstore visit. Thanks to the timely intervention of the hubby, it was ordered for me that very night on Amazon, and a week later it was in my grubby hands (I cannot overemphasise how handy it is that my hubby is a total enabler of my book fetish). Am I ever glad I didn't have to wait any longer, because this level of delectable bookish goodness should not be something you deprive yourself of for any length of time.
A complex and strange concept, Schwab weaves this unlikely world with a deft hand, and it wasn't until I finished it that I was able to sit back and wonder how she came up with the idea. In reality The Archived mixes three things beautifully to create a page turning read; evocative writing, a deep and complex mystery, and a beautifully rendered set of characters, full of sadness, hope, love and struggle. Although each piece is done masterfully, it's how they come together that gives this book it's atmosphere and marks it as the start of this years best YA books.
Mac is my favorite kind of YA heroine, neither the perfect darling or the princess of power who can defeat any bad guy. She's good at what she does, but she's very human, and she makes critical mistakes and bad decisions. However she's also the person who owns up to her mistakes and deals with the consequences. She's imperfect, in the most perfect of ways, and her struggles, although much greater then I ever had to deal with at her age, are totally relatable. What's more she's never angsty, or whinny about her circumstances and she doesn't prance around like a mooney eyed fool over some stupid boy. So although there are boys in the mix, and it's decidedly complicated, the story remains 100% about her struggles rather than some contrived love triangle or hopeless romance.
Layered with mysteries and reveals, the way the plot unwound felt a lot like Inception, in that it was complex puzzle but masterfully put together so that I expect it would be as rewarding to re-read right away as it would be to re-read later down the road. Rest assured, re-read it I surely will, if for not other reason then to suck up some of that amazing ambiance again.
The boy's eyes stay closed, but his smile quirks as I pass by. Odd, I think, vanishing into the stairwell. The stairs run from the top floor down to the second, where they spill me out onto the landing of the grand staircase, which forms a cascade into the lobby. A ribbon of burgundy fabric runs over the marble steps like a tongue, and when I make my way down, the carpet emits small plumes of dust.
I hardly needed more reasons to be swept off my feet by The Archived, and yet there is one more reason I fell completely in love with it. Although there is another part in the works, this book stands alone very nicely. No critical cliff hangers, and although there are some unresolved issues the main story line comes together in a satisfying way. I can't imagine why you wouldn't read every single thing Victoria Schwab has ever written after finishing, but you could feasibly read The Archived as a one off.
A book that stands out from the pack both in quality and it's very unusual subject matter, The Archived was a fantastic read I can't possibly recommend enough. Make a grand gesture to yourself this Valentines day and buy yourself a copy, then clear the decks, put up the do not disturb sign and plan on not doing anything else until you finish. On second thought, add some yummy snacks to that grand gesture, just so you don't get weak with hunger.
As an aside, because you know how you shouldn't judge a book by its cover and all of that, it's a very pretty book. All end papered like the wallpaper I imagine the Coronado is, and with a wicked cover that's just as mysterious as the story itself.
The Archived, by Victoria Schwab
Published by Hyperion, January 22nd, 2013
Buy The Archived on Amazon