Brunch Book Club: The Archived by Victoria Schwab

archivedImagine 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 she 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.

 

There are certain books that you are reluctant to start, simply because you have heard so much about them. Throw in a dash of ‘Hey, I met the author at this thing and she was AWESOME, so what if I don’t like her book?” and you have a complicated relationship in the making. Thankfully, Michele from Just a Lil’ Lost and I made the bold decision to put “The Archived” on our reading list as our final book for 2014 … because I loved it so much. Yes, Terri from Read and Riot, you can stop poking me now.

You are drawn into the suspense and tension of the narrative right from the beginning, and it never lets up. i loved the use of flashbacks to tell the story of how Mackenzie became a Keeper. I loved how Mackenzie’s memories of her grandfather – her Da – and her brother were so vivid, even as she talked about how afraid she was of losing those very same memories. I thought the ongoing development of the Archives was brilliant, and it brought flashes of the library in Harry Potter to mind, with endless rooms and secret chambers where you dare not tread. There is a heavy gothic influence afoot, but it’s used with the best of intentions and to great effect.

I also enjoyed that Mackenzie was such a strong and capable character. She tried to listen to the advice she was given, and to follow the instructions taught to her by her Da, but she also gave in to her humanity, allowing herself to miss her brother and to risk breaking the rules for the chance to see him again. Her explanations about the origins of Histories, and what they were compared to ghosts aligns with my own personal views, in that the Histories are not really the people they used to be. Wes was a perfect foil for her – light to her dark, daring when she would hesitate, and ultimately, he centred and became a focus for her. That he was nicknamed “guyliner” was also a great twist of humour; a knowing nod to the romantic entanglements so common to teen books these days.

The supporting characters were also really well done, and I loved the twists and turns as tiny facts were revealed about them. There’s a whole intricate backstory for the Archives that could fill at least three more books, and I’m glad that we had a taste to whet our appetite. I hope that we learn more about Mac’s parents in later books; I think that they are still peripheral characters, mainly because Mac is so consumed in her own grief that she has relegated them to that role. I also think that there is more to tell with Ben, and perhaps a side novella could be written about his brief life (and after life?).

I’m really happy that we had this book on the Brunch Book Club roster, and I’ve already moved The Unbound to the bedside table.

“It takes at least three assassination attempts to scare me off. And even then, if there are baked goods involved, I might come back.”

“You’re trying to block out every bit of noise. But people are made of noise, Mac. The world is full of noise. And finding quiet isn’t about pushing everything out. It’s just about pulling yourself in.”

bbc_decjan15_header

 

The Archived was purchased by me for our book club discussion. It is available (along with its sequel) from Hyperion, a division of Hachette Book Group, and may be purchased from your favourite indie bookseller or fine bookstore or online retailer.   ISBN: 9781423171089, 352 pages.