“What if I mess up?”
“Oh, you will. You’ll mess up, you’ll make mistakes, you’ll break things. Some you’ll be able to piece together, and others you’ll lose. That’s all a given. But there’s only one thing you have to do for me.”
“Stay alive long enough to mess up again.”
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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.
TW: sibling death
Victoria Schwab pretty much never fails to make me fall in love with her books. Ever. I’m not kidding. If you look back to my post about favorite authors, you’ll see she qualifies as an instabuy author, and with good reason.
Anyways, that said, time for me to wax poetic, huh?
This book punches hard.
I almost wasn’t ready, not really. I was expecting fun, sort of ghosty and occasionally perilous adventures. There is that, yes, but there’s also a big dose of grief. This isn’t just a story about making sure the dead stay dead. It’s about mourning, coping. Mac, the main character, isn’t just trying to live up to her dead grandfather’s legacy. She’s trying to cope with her little brother’s tragic death at the same time. That was what hit me hardest as the oldest child of three: the main character’s little brother died, and I couldn’t help but think of my own siblings and how hard it would be to lose either one of them. I cried maybe more than I’d like to admit while reading The Archived purely because of that. It was emotional and it hit home like very few things I’ve read.
And when I wasn’t getting all choked up, I was in awe of the characters and the world. Everything is so multifaceted and full. The characters are flawed but still enjoyable. The roles they fill, particularly the job Mac has as a Keeper, are fascinating and incredibly creative, especially in the way they cause conflict, internal and external. The world itself, the second, hidden places of the Narrows and the Library were haunting and eerie but full of adventure. And best of all (look, some things I am always a sucker for), Mac has very cool powers.
Well, cool from a reading perspective. She can touch things and feel their emotional history, see it for herself. For her, this means a lot of pain, a lot of relying on a ring to block it out and create distance. It’s not an ability I’d particularly like to have. But as a reader, it’s absolutely an ability I’d like to see more of. Here, that skill drops Mac straight into the primary plot of the book via an old, old murder. I’d love to see how it could play out in other ways, murdery or not.
Really, the only faults I had with this book are, on the whole, small. I’m not typically fond of the “we just moved to a new place and I’m all alone” opening (though thank goodness this didn’t go into first day of school nonsense, instead taking place over the summer), and that kept me from getting into the book properly until the Library and the Narrows were introduced, which is within the first third of the book. First fourth, even.
The other thing I didn’t love was that the plot felt a touch predictable. I saw the antagonist coming a mile away, which ruined a little of the reveal. But take that with a grain of salt: I like pulling novels apart and racing the main characters to the conclusion, so that may just be me putting two and two together out of long habit.
Basically, if you like books with tough emotion, murder, ghostly goings-on, and a strong sense of family, this is an excellent candidate for your TBR. It has a lot of oomph to it that sometimes caught me by surprise and had me all teary-eyed, but it was soooooooo worth it.
What books have you read with libraries? Or sadness? Or ghosts? OR ALL THREE? What books are you looking forward to getting from the library soon? Tell me more about your library habits. Or your ghosts, that too.