Author: Victoria Schwab
Genre: Fantasy, YA, Romance
4.5 out of 5 – Okay, so this didn’t quite make it to a 5, but I couldn’t just give it a 4. I really enjoyed this book and would recommend it to so many other people, but I don’t think I’d pick it up and quote it, and that is the only reason that I haven’t given it a 5.
There are three worlds. The Outer – which we all know. The Narrows – which is the realm of doorways that lead from the Outer, to The Archive or unknown places and The Archive – a place where the bodies of the dead lay on shelves, Histories of the people, able to be read by the Librarians. The Archived follows Mackenzie, a Keeper who must patrol the narrows and ensure that awoken Histories are safely returned to their rest in The Archived. Of course, she must do this while trying to maintain a ‘regular’ life, and deal with some intense issues which have recently become part of her life.
“Everything is valuable, in its own way. Everything is full of history.”
“Lying is easy. But it’s lonely.”
I really enjoyed The Archived and gave it a 4.5. It would have been a 5, and I was edging there, but I think that a 5 should be awarded rarely, and only for the best books, so it just fell short.
I felt that Schwab’s style of writing was accessible and easy to enjoy. I found myself drawn into the world of the story before I even realised it, and I really didn’t want to leave again. The character building was done skillfully and without taking excess time. I think that this book really benefitted from the addition of the memory passages. These are small passages which look back on an event that Mackenzie is reminded of in the present – I think switching between the present and the past in this way conveniently replicated the true thinking process, and really allowed for the character to become fully realised and fleshed out. I know that some people found this aspect annoying or confusing, but I loved the addition – this is usually how we think and remember, and so it very authentic. I thought that the pacing was fantastic. Genuinely. You are thrust into a new place, but you’re thrust in there with the character, and so you learn about it as she does. The murder mystery adds an additional level of suspense and keeps you distracted in the same way that it keeps Mackenzie distracted. It also kept the plot twist suspenseful, rather than completely obvious, and that was very well thought out. While it is possible to guess the twist, I think you’re left with one of three options, and that makes it a surprise enough for me.
So what else as good? Essentially this is a book about grief. No spoilers there as you discover this right at the beginning of the novel. However, there are no long treatises on grief, it is not the major focus, and does not slow the book down. What it does is show a family who is in the grieving process, and really allows you a glimpse of what it is like to move on, and what that means. It asks the characters, and in doing so the readers, some fundamental questions about ideas on death and life after death, and how to let go, and I loved this. I thought that Schwab had been extremely clever to deal with such a delicate topic in a young adult novel, in such a mature and unobtrusive way, and I genuinely believe that this could help anyone else dealing with such issues, without feeling at all preachy.
I devoured The Archived, reading it in less than 24 hours and instantly ordering the second part. This book had a clear ending, which makes it a perfect standalone, but if you love the world as much as I did, you will be just as eager to find yourself back in it.
If you like this…
If you like The Archived then I think you would also like Sabriel by Garth Nix. Sabriel has more of a fantastical feel than the archived, but it follows a young girl who must contend with the world of the dead. It is her job to keep the dead, well, dead, and stop them from causing havoc within the outside world. The writing is excellent, and I think anyone who enjoyed The Archive would enjoy this read.