Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Book Review: The Archive

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. Quoted from Goodreads


This is such a unique book. The dead shelved as books, all their memories accessible to Librarians?  It's kind of crazy and awesome at the same time. Honestly it was one of the books I was most looking forward to coming out in January.  So why has it taken me three months to review it?  Good question.

First, for this book to make sense, you need to know that Da is her grandfather, not her actual dad.  This utterly confused me in the beginning.  She would talk about Da's death, then have a conversation with her father.  It didn't make sense to me until I figured out their actual relationships. Two, this book starts out kind of slow.  There is so much world-building here, plus setting up her brother's death, her family's move, they mystery of the place they're now staying, it takes a minute to pull everything together and get to the heart of the story. That's why I didn't finish this back in January.  I couldn't get past the first couple of chapters.  But, knowing how much I loved Victoria Schwab's The Near Witch, I decided to give this book another try, and it was absolutely worth it.

First, I love the writing.  It's almost tactual.  She does a great job of immersing you in the world, letting you feel the Narrows along with MacKenzie, walk into the archives with her. She also sets up a delightfully eerie atmosphere.  We have the crumbling hotel/apartment building, all the glitches and problems the Archive was experiencing, and a 60 year old murder waiting to be solved.

Plus, the author does a good job of characterization. You really get to know, Mac, her parents, Roland, Wesley, Owen, even Ben and Da, though they're dead before the book begins.  Each relationship also balances out nicely against the other ones.  MacKenzie's parents are messed up by Ben's death, but they are still there for her.  I love her relationship with Roland, a sort of Librarian mentor, and Da more than anyone influences what and how  Mac does what she does.  Then there's Wesley and Owen.  They give just the right smattering of romance to the story without it ever overwhelming the rest of the plot or even sinking into a standard love triangle pattern.

Again, I'm going to gush about the world building.  The whole premise of this book is so unique.  Plus, the Histories are fun, very different, paranormal characters. It's kind of like if everyone turned into a ghost/zombie/vampire/library book after they died and escaped from their graves. Sort of.   And really, the whole book is a mystery, which just makes it more fun.  

So if you're looking for a fun, unique read, this is it.  Just remember that the beginning is a bit slow, but once you get into the plot, it's hard to put down.  It's not the most mysterious mystery, you sort of see it coming, but there were some twists that totally blind-sided me. All in all, It's a solid 4 stars for me.  If you're looking for something that sort of breaks the standard YA mold, this is an excellent option, so check it out.

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