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.
The last 40% of The Archived is absolutely fantastic! And the world-building was good from the start, but it took a while for the actual plot to get started.
My The Archived review:
In a world very different from ours, MacKenzie grows up to be a Keeper, and she is inducted shortly before her grand-father passes away, giving his place in the organization to her. Learning to hear and feel histories from a very young age, she knows a lot that is hidden from most humans, and she has to keep her other life a secret from everyone she knows and loves. While over the first half of The Archived was very slow paced, and I was yearning for something – anything – to happen, the back story, as well as the glimpses into MacKenzie’s past were well done. The world-building managed to show me a place very different from where I live, even if the actual places exist in our world as well.
From the very beginning of The Archived, it was clear that MacKenzie was not exactly a stickler for rules, apart from the one about keeping everything about the Archive a secret. Balancing her life in the Outer with her clean-ups in the Narrows and visits to the Archive to try to get to see her recently deceased little brother became more and more difficult for her as the story unfolded. And the story truly did unfold, with a different prose, and a pacing that was rather slow for the most part, I nonetheless found myself enthralled by MacKenzie, the Coronado, her parents and her new friend Wesley. And as I learned more about this amazing world, I got even more entangled in MacKenzie’s story and all the sacrifices she made to make the Outer safe for everybody.
There were some instances where I wished MacKenzie would have thought a little bit further than her gut feeling, especially when things started happening in the Narrows and she really needed to just sit down and think everything through. I can’t really fault her, though, being young and impatient while trying to keep the world safe and never getting enough sleep can’t be easy. And as she got to know Wesley better, I was happy she had someone on her side, someone who could help her see that she wasn’t completely isolated even if it often felt that way for her.
The character development in The Archived was tremendous, both when it came to MacKenzie, and regarding her parents. At the beginning, they were almost strangers to each other, just interacting in order to get daily mundane things done. The aftermath of Ben’s death was hard on all of them, and neither of them had found a perfect coping mechanism yet. As the story moved forward, they all started opening up a little more, and they were able to become a family once more – even while missing a very big and important part of that same family.
Written in first person present tense, from MacKenzie’s perspective, The Archived could have made me dizzy with all the information that was shared with me through her thoughts and her eyes. What really happened, though was that I felt as if I was right in the middle of the action, even if I did have the extra-diegetic view myself and was able to sometimes understand some things that MacKenzie didn’t truly capture as it happened. A strong beginning to a young adult fantasy series, The Archived definitely left me with a sense that I want more.
Some of my favorite The Archived quotes:
I turn to take in the hall, and my stomach drops. The walls are lined with doors. Not just the ones you would expect, but a dozen more – unusable, painted and papered over, little more than outlines and ridges. “Isn’t it fascinating?” says my mother.
My chest tightens at the sight of the boxes exploding across every spare inch of the room. About half of them just say STUFF. If Mom was feeling ambitious, she scribbled a small list of items beneath the word, but seeing as her handwriting is virtually illegible, we won’t know what’s in each box until we actually open it. Like Christmas. Except we already own everything.
The dying light lends the garden a glow, shadows weaving through vines, colors dipping darker, deeper. The space is old and fres at once, and I forget how much I’ve missed the feel of green.
Reading this book contributed to these challenges: