The Archived by Victoria Schwab
January 22, 2013
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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 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.
First sentence: “The narrows remind me of August nights in the South.”
The Archived is a book I have a hard time talking about because I’m forever in awe of everything that Victoria Schwab had created and managed to make me feel. I find The Archived to be utterly profound. I am impressed by how beautiful and suspenseful it is. It totally obliterates my feelings and thoughts because of the sheer awesomeness of the prose. Let me tell you that this book is dark, a bit creepy, and extremely mysterious. It’s slow paced, but it fits with the pensive tone of the story. The idea of everything in The Archived is an extremely inventive and frickin’ amazing. I want to applaud Victoria Schwab because of this beautifully awesome story.
- The concept of The Archive + Histories
An archive that is a library that holds the dead’s memories (or also known as histories)? Color me intrigued! The concept is that when a person dies in the Archived world, their memories are put into the Archive, which is referred to as a History. They take on the form of the person to hold the memories, but they aren’t necessarily “alive.” As a history lover, I am utterly fascinated by this idea. Can you just imagine the things you could learn from these records? Having it be preserved weirdly thrills me. It’s just wonderful knowing that those memories/records aren’t lost.
In this world, there are three sets of jobs for those working in the Archive —
- Keeper. They are basically like bounty hunters of the dead for the Archive, preventing them from entering the outer (aka the normal) world. They get a bounty (a name on a slip of paper), go into the Narrows to retrieve the person, and send them to Returns, where they will be catalogued into the Archive.
- Crew. They work exclusively in pairs, and their job is to track and return Keeper-Killers who managed to escape through the Narrows to the outer world.
- Librarian. They work in the Archive by cataloguing and maintaining all the histories. (There are more things about them, but you have to read this book to find out. ;D)
Each of them has a key that do certain things like open doors into the Narrow or knock at a History when they have “slipped.” All of them are sooo badass. Who wouldn’t want to become one of them?
I loved the at The Archived shows readers whether there’s life after death, especially for those who suffered loss and those Histories who have managed to escape to the outer world, in a totally innovative way. There’s a certain debate toward the end about the Archive that make me ponder about the choices everybody has made. It’s not clear-cut.
- Mackenzie + Her Relationships
Mackenzie is a resilient and strong character. Throughout the Archived, she continues to grieve for the loss of her grandfather (who died years ago) and the loss of her younger brother (who died recently, prior to the start of the book). I loved seeing her deal with her emotions because it felt very real. She’s a flawed person; she makes bad decisions like any other person. Mackenzie is dedicated in her job as a Keeper. Whatever’s thrown at her, she puts a good fight and she gets to the bottom of it no matter how difficult it is.
The relationships in this book is splendid. Each relationship shows a different side of Mackenzie.
- Da (her grandfather) – I love how her Da is so engrained into her memory because she idolized him and he taught her how to be a good Keeper. It’s hard to forget the person who has been a constant inspiration in their life.
- Roland (the Librarian) – He is a great mentor for Mackenzie. Even when she does reckless things, he has her back. He’s someone good to have on her side.
- Wesley – Mannnnnnn, everybody fawns over Wesley and for very good reason. He is an amazing and supportive friend to Mackenzie. Wesley has a way of lighting up the scene and letting Mackenzie know that she isn’t alone. (I’m actually one of those fans who do not wish for anything romantic to happen between Wesley and Mackenzie. I like them as friends.)
- Owen – He is a very mysterious character. He and Mackenzie are a lot alike, but what makes them different is the way they approach certain situations. It goes to show the readers the lengths they would go through to achieve their goals.
I find it thrilling to see how these relationships has impacted Mackenzie. Some for better, and some for worst.
- Good Grief
The emotions in The Archived are so honest. The one emotion I felt drawn to was grief. Schwab did a beautiful job of portraying that emotion. I often found myself in a state of melancholy when I read through the book because these emotions got to me. You can’t get away from The Archived without feeling like a part of your soul has died along with the characters. They make me feel emotions. (I don’t usually get emotional about books.) I have to applaud any author whose work elicits those strong emotions from me.
The concept of “moving on” after the loss of a loved one was exceptionally well-written. I love the recurring theme that certain characters in the book are unable to move on, and we, as readers, get to see what they do to and how they grieve. It’s presented in a way that’s completely relatable.
- Awesome Eerie Settings
I love the setting in The Archived — the Coronado, a 1950s hotel-turned-apartment building; the Narrows, an endless amount of corridors with doors that lead to the unknown; and the Archive, a library of the dead where Histories (aka the dead) are stored away on shelves. These places, specifically the Coronado and the Narrow, set up this dark, almost-somber setting that certainly adds a level of certain charm and personality to the story. It transports readers to a different time – one that doesn’t seem like the characters are in the present per say. I often found myself clutching my covers to my chest because I didn’t know what to expect in these places.
To me, the settings are important characters that continue to live and breathe through the stories their walls tell.
- The Mystery
I won’t say much about the mystery (because I don’t want to spoil what happens), but wow, it had me on the edge of my seat! The gist of it is that [spoiler]somebody has deliberately been erasing histories and waking up a bunch of them up. And it has something to do with the Coronado.[/spoiler] I was engrossed in Mackenzie’s investigation of what was going on. I had to know everything that was happening in the Coronado. And when it was reveal, I was a bit stunned because just imagining it was eerie as fuck and amazing.
These aren’t deal breakers. Just things I wanted more of or things that irritated me a bit.
- I want to know more about the Archive, especially [spoiler]why the Archive exist in the first place? Why was it made? And what that one character mean when he spoke about the Archive having secrets. What kind? How is the Archive “using” Keepers?[/spoiler] It seems like the Archive is much more than it seems and I want to know what it is!
- I didn’t like Lyndsey (Mackenzie’s best friend), which is because I still don’t understand her purpose in the book. She just popped up like a couple of time and then she suddenly disappears. She’s like the nonexistent best friend and that sucks.
- Like most people, I got confused with Mackenzie calling her grandfather “Da.” At first, I thought her Da was her dad because I didn’t remember any indicators in the beginning chapter saying otherwise. And once her dad actually shows up in the story, I had a big “ohhh” moment.
- I did feel like the ending part with [spoiler]Carmen went by to fast. It was tied in a neat little bow and I wanted more time and embellishment on Carmen’s role in the mystery. I don’t feel like we flushed out Carmen’s character all that much, which would’ve helped in understanding her a bit more.[/spoiler]
The Archived cements by love for Victoria Schwab. If an author is able to leave me utterly speechless because of their books, call me a lifetime fan.
Georgia Walters says
Loved this review! :) The archived sounds really interesting. I’ve heard great things about the author before so I really want to check this out now :P
Kristen@My Friends Are Fiction says
I really enjoyed this one too. I’m about to start The Unbound and I’m so excited to get back into Schwab’s writing. Her style is beautiful. Wonderful review and I love the Santa hat. Merry Christmas!
Sam @ The Nighttime Novelist says
I’ve had this on my TBR list for AGES. It looks absolutely fantastic and the cover is just gorgeous. The concept is so original and fascinating; can you imagine being there and having all of that knowledge and history at your fingertips? *swoons* I’m showing my nerd again, but seriously, the premise is just brilliant. And after this review I’m definitely going to have to hunt down a copy and curl up with it one evening. :)
Gah! My friend just gave this to me for Christmas (the hardcover’s beautiful) and I cannot wait for the said eerie settings and mysteries. I’m also really curious about this Wesley fellow. He sounds adorableee. <3
Georgie @ What She Reads says
I’ve been speculating about buying this book, the synopsis didn’t call to me all that much but just reading your review of it definitely makes me want to buy it now. I love how you’ve broken the review down and gone quite into depth about the story without giving anything away to me.
I love anything with a dark and eerie vibe(I blame the amount I spent watching scary movies as a kid), the senses of the unknown mystery is somewhat alluring too. I also sense a good main character.
Thank you for sharing the review Cee, I will definitely be buying this in the new year :)
I absolutely loved The Archived when I read it back in the summer. I loved the world Schwab created; it was very easy to get lost and spend the whole day in. The second book is coming out in January, I’ll be picking it up! Thanks for your review!