The Archived and The Unbound by Victoria Schwab – Book review

                      the archived    the unbound

Rating: 4.5/5

After discovering V.E. Schwab’s books back in April with ‘A Darker Shade of Magic’, I have been rapidly devouring her books. After ‘A Darker Shade of Magic’ and ‘Vicious’, The Archived is the third of her books that I have read (and comes a very close second favourite to ADSOM) and The Unbound, the fourth.

I had been reading more adult books prior to this read and so was a little sceptical about diving back into a YA book. But I pushed myself through the first couple of chapters, determined to read more of Victoria Schwab’s books, and let me tell you: this is the kind of book that is the reason I still love YA so much.

The Archived follows 16 year old Mackenzie Bishop, a Keeper for the Archived; her job being to catch the Histories that wake up, before they reach the real world, and return them to the Archive. She has just moved with her family to the Coronado, a creepy, and supposedly haunted, hotel that happens to surround a territory teeming with waking Histories. When Mackenzie finds her list of Histories awaiting to be returned growing larger every day and, even stranger, Histories appearing to be being altered, she suspects that something is wrong with the Archive, and plans to find out what.

The idea of Histories made me want to read this book back when it was released. Being a history geek, and soon-to-be history student at uni, the idea of storing people’s Histories was fascinating, and Schwab executes it brilliantly. It made me think about the branches of the Archive that house mysterious historical figures, like Rasputin or the real Jack the Ripper, and the librarians that would be  able to read their lives.

I often have problems with sequels, where they just can’t live up to the first book. This was not the case with The Unbound. While I did rate The Archived a 5 stars and The Unbound a 4.5 stars, the sequel was not at all a disappointment, and took some interesting unexpected twists and turns that marked it as both a necessary addition to The Archived, and a great mystery in itself.

This was obviously a really interesting world. I mean, archives of dead people’s histories! But it is so much more than that. The layers of the world are so intricate and so slowly built and developed that it is clear that the author has put a lot of thought and work into it. I did find it quite confusing and it took me a while to feel like I could fully immerse myself in it, but once I did, I was hooked. It’s a kind of paranormal-urban fantasy hybrid; so unique and so interesting.

I thought Mackenzie was a great protagonist. I loved the way that these books about dead people being stored as Histories, incorporate the theme of loss and death and how it affects those in the real world. Mackenzie, at the start of these books, is dealing with the loss of her brother and grandfather, which is a source of internal conflict for her throughout the books. It was really emotional seeing her interactions with the Histories, (one in particular!) given her own losses.

And of course, there is Wesley. He is the kind of character I haven’t seen often, especially not as a love interest. With his black spiked hair, and his guyliner! I loved the interactions and dialogue between Wesley and Mackenzie, and how protective he becomes of her. He threw me off at the start of book 2 for a while (if you have read the books you know what I mean!) but his personality is still so strong and consistent that I could not help but love him.

I also loved Roland, Mackenzie’s tutor and father-like figure in the Archive. He was so trusting and caring towards Mackenzie, and she of him, particularly in The Unbound. I feel he has a lot more of a story to tell though – just one of the reasons why I am holding out for a book 3!

Both books wrap up their stories well, but I still have many questions. I don’t know if there will definitely be a book 3, but I have read somewhere that a third instalment is outlined, but it is unclear whether the original publishers will publish it. Either way, whether it is published or self-published, a physical copy or an e-book, even if it is just a weekly instalment of chapters on a website, I would read it. I need more Mackenzie and Wesley in my life. These books got me through a very low time and gave me something to be excited for again, and I will forever owe a lot to these books and to Victoria Schwab for writing them. 


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