book review

Series Review: The Archived

So I’ve heard a lot about Victoria Schwab’s books, especially A Darker Shade of Magic. (Alyssa in particular encouraged me) But I thought I’d start of with her YA books and see what I though. I loved them. They have the perfect amount of creepiness, a fabulous concept, amazing characters, good writing and some important themes. Just FYI: the first part of the review will be general things, then I’ll leave space and talk about the spoilery stuff. Also, I’ll only leave the description for the first book. The second one can be found here. I really hope the third book gets published eventually. 

-Shanti

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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.

First off, let me just say that I loved both the concept and the execution of this series. The balance between the real world and the Archived World was perfect, and it still felt real to me. I liked that the characters did get grounded by their parents and couldn’t just back out of things because that happens in real life too. I loved both books so much, though they do have a different feel to them, in the difference between summer time and school. The idea of having a record of human life hidden somewhere is also amazing, and the way it dealt with transportation and sadness worked very well. They aren’t quite ghosts but the Archived aren’t people either, and finding that distinguishing feature adds a solid undercurrent to the stories. The books had this perfectly eerie feel, but not enough to ever make me scared. (I don’t like horror)

I also loved the characters. I guess the main ones are Mackenzie and Wesley, but the side characters are interesting too, especially the Librarians and some of the people who go to Mack’s school in The Unbound. In both books Mack felt like this incredibly real character. She struggles to commit. She’s afraid. She can’t tell what’s real. She lies. But she’s also brave and kind and compassionate and believes in what she’s doing. It was so interesting to read about her, and the complexity of her character made me really invested in her journey. The bold sections in each chapter, which feature flashbacks, also provide a lot of insight to her state of mind. Wesley, good looks and omissions and kindness and eyeliner, is also awesome. He helps Mack out as well and is generally a good support person and interesting love interest. There isn’t really a love triangle in either book, but due to various things there is that tension which makes love triangles appealing (even though I don’t like it when they’re full blown, Twilight style)

The writing in these novels  is gorgeous. The dialogue and flashbacks are amazing. (though sometimes I didn’t quite see how the flashbacks related) But the real highlight in my opinion was the description and the voice. The way of describing things really helped me to see through Mack’s eyes and be present in the story. The empathy in the writing is amazing, and presents the characters and plot with these clear, vivid lines that bloom across the page. That sort of well crafted writing is a delight to read.

There are also themes I like in The Archived books: loss and friendship and brokenness and finding healing.

The plot is fabulous too with danger and action and darkness and conspiracy and all those good things. But I’ll discuss themes and plot in the spoiler section.

***Spoilers for both books***

So let’s talk plot. It was basically awesome. I did feel that the fighting scenes were a bit repetitive, and it seemed like Mackenzie had the same conversations with her parents lots of times. But the story arc was awesome, and it fit in really well between the books. (Now I just need the last one. Gah!) In The Archived, we have the rising action of Owen and the revelation of secrets and the blasting ending where doubt is planted and betrayal enacted. Then in The Unbound Mackenzie tries to put herself back together, with Owens appearances and the disapperances adding tension and then Owen’s plan connecting it to book one and Mackenzie’s doubt and problems leading to the cliffhanger ending. I was really attached to the plot. It felt tight and well planned, and not predictable (but not *that* surprising either*) The work Schwab put in of creating a world really paid off as the characters interacted in the space.

I also liked the themes. They fit in really well with everything else. I guess it’s English class or something, but I’m noticing themes more and more these days. Anyway, in book one, a central theme was loss with Da and Ben gone, and Mackenzie ripped from her house. The way she fit into the Conorado (doesn’t that name make you think of coronations?) and made friends brought her healing. Both The Archived and The Unbound also talked about trust and forgiveness through Mack’s relationships to the people around her and her guilt over lying and not fulfilling expectations. The Unbound had a lot of discussions around establishment and whether or not to challenge it, with the government class, Agatha+ the hearings, and Owens plans for overcoming the Archives. I really loved how Schwab wove the themes into the story.

***SPOILERS END***

So though the story was a little bit repetitive sometimes, overall I loved the atmosphere, writing, and characters of this story and definitely want to read more of Schwabs books in the future.

Have you read these books? What are some of your favourite series? tell me in the comments.

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8 thoughts on “Series Review: The Archived

    1. I do want to read ADSoM. Eventually. But in the meantime, The Archived books were amazing, and I really hope that book three can get published somehow. I hope you like it 🙂

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  1. OMG, did I tell you there’s an #ADSOMreadalong starting next Monday? I know you don’t have Twitter, but you should drop by the Goodreads group 🙂 I haven’t read the Unbound yet (huge oversight), but I also agree that the writing + characters of the Archived were much better than the storyline. The storyline was good, but compared to some of Schwab’s other novels, I feel like it could have been a lot better, so it’s not my favourite of her books.

    So happy you read these on my incessant pestering–ahem, encouragement 😛

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    1. But I can’t find any copies of A Darker Shade of Magic! I need to look out in book shops I guess… You should! I need to read some of her other books for sure– the writing and atmosphere and characters really impressed me with these ones. I’m happy to accept encouragement/pestering at any time. 🙂

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