Book: The Archived (The Archived #1)
Author: Victoria Schwab
I’m sure my love of Victoria Schwab is no secret by now, over the last year, she’s become an instant new favourite author of mine and so naturally I’ve been wanting to gobble up her entire back catalogue of books! It’s quite interesting reading an author’s earlier work after having read their latest stuff first, because I felt like I could see how much Schwab has improved in her later work with her characters and world building and writing and everything, not that this book was in any way bad at all, but it certainly doesn’t reach the heights of the Shades of Magic books. I do love how unique every single one of the concepts for Victoria Schwab’s books are, I’ve read five of them now (granted three were from the same series) and each had such a unique world, characters, concept and voice. Sometimes you find that author’s work can get a bit samey (not that that’s necessarily a bad thing, I mean if you find something that works go for it) but that is definitely not true here. I felt like the concept for this one, a library filled with the dead, was brilliant but perhaps the story didn’t live up to it? I don’t know, I think I was expecting something different to what I got, something a little more exciting as opposed to a rather slow paced mystery? There was definitely still a lot to like about this book, but I didn’t love it as much as I wanted to. Here is a short synopsis of the book:
Imagine a place where the dead rest on shelves like books.
Each body has a story to tell, a life seen in pictures 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 that 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 may 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.
Probably the biggest issue for me with this book was the pacing. It was incredibly slow paced for most of the book, I’d say about 3/4 before the stakes got really high. I did find the mystery engaging, but not so much that I forgot about the slow pace! It’s strange because the opening was actually really intriguing and I thought that would keep up all the way through, however I found myself getting a little bored in places.
I thought the flashbacks were a great addition to the book and helped to flesh Mac out a little more as a character, which was good because she felt kind of flat to me aside from that? I don’t know, I just never really connected to her as a character. Sure she was smart and good at her job and grieving for her brother and everything but I don’t know, I just didn’t feel that spark? It’s really hard to explain, but basically when I connect to characters, I get that spark, where it’s just like “yeah I get you” and I never got that with Mac.
I really loved the Histories, I thought they were such a unique and cool creation, I’ve never seen anything like that in a book before. I think it’s a really cool idea, having your entire life catalogued in a form that is you, but at the same time isn’t.
The world building was decent but I still felt like the entire Archive system could have been more fleshed out. I got the basics of the system but I still felt like there was stuff that wasn’t quite explained or didn’t fully make sense, and the world was very restricted in terms of setting (the entire book is either in the Hotel or the Narrows (kind of purgatory). I didn’t really understand why The Archive existed at all? I don’t know, it just felt like Schwab only explained the very basics and didn’t go into the more complex stuff. Maybe that’s only a problem for me though because I love complicated fantasy world building!
I did love the creepy old hotel, that’s just the kind of setting that totally screams me!
I got quite confused early on because Schwab introduces Mac’s Da who she says is dead and then later on her Dad and I assumed they were the same person! I thought her Dad was a ghost for a while and it took a bit before I realised they were different people, her Dad and her Grandpa!
I liked the fight scenes, Victoria Schwab has a certain way of making any fight scene really engaging, but they did start getting a little repetitive after a while. In fact the entire plot up until the climax was kind of repetitive, Mac fights Histories, wins, returns them, goes back to her life before the whole thing starts over again. Sure there’s a little investigative work in between but for the most part the entire book was just Mac switching between the Coronado and The Archive.
I did like that there was a nice mix of longer and shorter chapters, it helped the slow pace from becoming more of a problem than it might have been otherwise.
I wasn’t overly keen on the love triangle, I felt like Mac’s relationship with Owen wasn’t really fleshed out enough and I only really got a friendship vibe between her and Wes, so it wasn’t really believable.
Speaking of which, I loved Wes, he was the one character that really felt alive in this book, who I felt the spark from. He was so cocky and sassy and cute and I loved him!
I did like that Mac had a present family, they might have been oblivious to what she was spending her days doing but it was clear that they cared for her and wanted to be involved in her life, a rarity in YA. I also loved how excited they were about Wes, it reminded me of my own parents whenever they heard even the hint of a boy from me (which has been an extreme rarity from me!).
I felt like the climax was kind of rushed, we got a lot of information all thrown at us in the last chapters! Still I did appreciate the twists and thought they were done well.
The writing was the same wonderful prose I’ve come to expect from Schwab although there was the occasional typo here and there!
Overall, the concept for this was amazing, but the execution didn’t quite measure up to it. The plot was uneven, the pacing was off and the world building not quite as high a standard as I’ve previously seen from Schwab. Still it was a unique and interesting world and the mystery was intriguing enough to keep on reading. I liked the concept and the world enough that I will read the second book, in the hopes that the plot is a little meatier!
My rating: 3/5
My next review will be of Under Rose Tainted Skies, but you probably won’t get it for a while as I’m going to be away for the next week in Greece!