Release Date: January 22, 2013
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.
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.
The Archived was clear and dark and lovely. The flow of the language and elaboration of the story just completely sucked me into it. Victoria Schwab is one of those authors I see and I immediately snatch up from the shelf. Her gorgeous writing, meticulous plotting, and thoughtful characters are always a major draw – remember my review of The Near Witch? She still maintains that languid, fairytale vibe.
The premise was really what makes this one stand out from the crowd. The idea – the dead lie on shelves, “copies” of memories that each body recorded during their lifetime, was truly individual. In this basis that Victoria Schwab created, there are three levels of workers in the Archives, the library where these Histories are kept.
The Librarians are at the top, the workers who give up their outside lives to watch over the Archives. They and only they truly know the ins-and-outs of the mysterious otherworld. Crew are the second level. They’re there for when Histories escape out of the Archives and the Narrows, into the real world that we know. They’re the ones with the major injuries, the true hunters if you will.
MacKenzie is a Keeper, the third level – she keeps the Histories from escaping into the real world in the first place by returning them to the Archives from the Narrows – the hallway that separates the two worlds. This comes with its own trials and tribulations.
When MacKenzie moves to the Coronado after the death of her brother, a move that her parents claim is for opening a new coffeeshop but that she knows is running away, she’s assigned to new Keeper territory. The list of Histories to retrieve is growing, but at first she shrugs it off as just something that comes with the territory.
But when the list grows dangerously high, something’s wrong. Between being attacked in the Narrows by a History who shouldn’t have had a weapon, and finding the story of a murder buried in her room, MacKenzie has to admit that something is up with the Coronado and the Archived. Somebody is erasing Histories, erasing entire chunks of memories that they need to piece together what exactly is wrong with the Archives. But time is running out.
MacKenzie was stubborn, thoughtful. She still grieved over the loss of her brother but she didn’t let anything take her own control from her. She wasn’t an ice queen by any means, but she kept herself under strict checks – nothing would detract from the quality of her work because it dominated her life. She was a good liar, a good daughter, a hard worker. I could spy quite a few similarities between MacKenzie and common YA characters but it worked for the book. Similar or not, MacKenzie did wonders for The Archived.
I love how it’s basically a zombie story at the root of it. Yet it’s handled in such an elegant way, effusing grace and this undeniable organization throughout all of it that makes you really look at the simplicity of the plot. It seems like such a natural extension after you really get buried into the story and I love how well-executed all of it is. It ties together, it’s very clean and neat, but that doesn’t sacrifice any of the tension.
The characters were engrossing – they all had this purity to them, this all-encompassing mood that dominated the scenes they were in that created the book’s overall flavor. The one flaw I really had with that (because I love characters with distinct atmospheres) was that it really did sacrifice some of the depth. The characters were good and solid but not as complex as I would have liked them to be. The mood made up for it though.
My favorite character was Owen. He was absolutely stunning – about the only character with depth – and his very character was just like a whisper. He made MacKenzie calm because he practically embodied silence; his raspy voice and pale presence was exactly like white noise to her. Victoria Schwab made him so potent, so atmospheric to read about that I was absolutely blown away by how his character was put together. He was just absolutely phenomenal to read about and the reason why I loved this book so much.
The flashbacks are positively beautiful. They’re soft, dark, sweet. It’s so nice to read about a YA character who really has such a genuine relationship with members of her family despite this whole other side to her life that she has to keep hidden. Victoria Schwab didn’t sacrifice any of that authenticity and honest love.
To quell the loneliness of working a double life, MacKenzie met Wes. A sideways smile and messy mop of hair were the very tip of the iceberg with him. When he reveals a rusty Keeper key of his own, MacKenzie finally finds the one person since her deceased grandfather who really understands all of it – the hidden bruises, the constant search to find another door, mysterious disappearances, the dizzy headache when they touched anything without their Keeper rings on their fingers.
I loved the easy friendship that MacKenzie and Wes built. There was some romance there, but it didn’t overwhelm the plot of the book and it wasn’t the main focus. I loved that so much.
The setting is its own gorgeous element. The amount of history, the layered complexity between each place that MacKenzie visited, was astounding but not overwhelming. You could almost hear creaky stairs and stained wallpaper, picture so vividly each place that the story occurred. I have a weakness for stories where the setting is a character in itself so I fell in love with Victoria Schwab’s unique depictions. The Coronado was an old hotel, filled with buried secrets and plenty of doors to the Archives. The Archives were this complex (yet well-explained) system of where the dead were kept, this eerily quiet place where anything could happen.
In the end, there were so many things that really contributed to my absolute love for this book. It was well-written, taut, somber, but with an untouched loveliness reminiscent of a fairytale in Victoria Schwab’s signature style. If you’re looking for a solid read with plenty of charm and mystery, The Archived sums that up just about perfectly.