We all know about my love for Victoria/V.E Schwab (see here and here), but one of the first books of hers that I had heard about was The Archived. Surprisingly, I struggled to find a copy in the bookshops I visited in the UK, but after being gifted one for my birthday I immediately delved into it – and I’m glad I did.
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.
Schwab has, in my opinion, the ability to truly create something that is the closest to unique you can find. With so many books these days, especially those within the fantasy/sci-fi/supernatural genres, you can see exactly what they’ve been inspired from. You see the common tropes and themes, like that classic YA line ‘they let out a breath they didn’t know they were holding’. We’re all desperate to read something new, not something adapted, and it just so happens that every time I’ve read something by the marvellous Schwab, I feel like I’m reading something new.
The Archived has the very interesting premise of a library of the dead, of their memories and lives. Yet these bodies, known as ‘Histories’, often wake up and try to escape – which is why there are Keepers, tasked with stopping them. Our heroine, Mackenzie Bishop, is a Keeper with a very interesting history of her own, and she makes a very dynamic main character.
Throughout the book, there are flashbacks to conversations with her grandfather, Da, who passed on the role of being Keeper to her. It was this element, among many, that I really enjoyed reading. Learning about her relationship with Da, and how it separated her slightly from her family and hearing other people’s thoughts on that relationship, was just fantastic to read. There are constant themes of isolation linked to grief within this book, what with the death of Da and her brother before the book begins, and these various dark edges to the novel set it apart, making it more believable as a fantasy setting.
The opening was particularly strong for me, really enticing and engaging with beautiful writing and nice detailing. Schwab again is an author who can support her fantastic ideas with fantastic writing, a style that makes putting the book down a somewhat impossibility. And the physical book itself has lovely details on the inside pages, which I especially appreciated.
So with consistent beautiful details and writing, it’s no surprise that I adored this book. Schwab introduced and maintained her world incredibly well, blending nicely the foreign with the natural. The lines between fantasy and reality for the reader link to the book’s lines between past and present, the unknown and the known.
The secondary characters are also noteworthy, but I don’t want to say too much more for fear of spoiling anything. What I will say is that this is a fantastic book with great world-building, twists, character developments, and some great humour dotted throughout the darker reality of grief, loss, and pain. A top recommendation from me.