The Archived by Victoria Schwab is another book that has been gathering great buzz on the booktuber network, and with good reason. It is a very fresh young adult paranormal mystery with great characters and excellent worldbuilding. it tells the story of Mackenzie Bishop, a young woman who has a secret job as Keeper; in the world of The Archive, when you die, your life history is recorded and kept in the Archive, physically represented by a copy of your body. Occasionally a History will wake and try to escape to the real world and it’s a Keeper’s role to return this History to the Archive.
When Mackenzie moves to a new area she finds that her Keeper territory is extremely busy and that it could be related to a series of murders that took place in her new building as well as an an internal betrayal within the Archive. She must investigate this connection as well as adapt to her new home.
What I liked
The supernatural murder mystery. I really enjoyed the way this was built up with various suspects and roadblocks to information. I enjoyed that Mackenzie had to use both her supernatural and her normal powers of deduction to work out what was happening.
The worldbuilding. I enjoyed learning with Mackenzie about the Archive’s secrets. The novel also incorporates flashbacks to the time when Mackenzie first became a Keeper and her induction. This was an effectively done way of providing the information without slowing down the pacing.
The writing style. Schwab clearly has a classicist background with references to both Faust and other classical literature. Her writing style is clear, crisp and very engaging.
Identity questions. Mackenzie has been a Keeper since she was twelve years old and it is a major part of her life. Some of the time she wishes she were ordinary – she thinks of the normal girl she would have been without the Archive and identifies her as “M.” Yet she fears losing her Keeper identity. I felt this conflict was very well done, as was the way the M persona was in a way turned against her.
What I didn’t like
Slow start. It took me a little while to become immersed in the world of the Archive. This was partly due to my confusion between “Da” Mackenzie’s deceased grandfather, who was the previous Keeper from whom she inherited the role, and “Dad” who is her perfectly normal father. I kept wondering what the deal was with her father, who I’d assumed to be dead and the person from whom she’d inherited her role.
The romance. I didn’t particularly feel invested in the Wes/Mackenzie romance. I’m not entirely certain why. Perhaps I felt it was a little too contrived.
All in all, I loved The Archived and gave it four and a half stars out of five.
From Netgalley I received a sneak preview of the first few chapters of The Unbound, the sequel. In it, Mackenzie is dealing with some serious post-traumatic stress after the events of The Archive as well as adjusting to her new school. Given what she learned about the Archive, this poses a serious threat for Mackenzie’s future. We also meet some new characters at the school. I was particularly interested in Amber Killey who seems good best-friend material, a relationship that was rather on the back burner in The Archived.
The Unbound is released later on this month and I have preordered it from Amazon. I’m looking forward to reading the next chapter in Mackenzie’s story.