Review + Giveaway: The Archived

Review + Giveaway: The ArchivedThe Archived by Victoria Schwab
Series: The Archived #1
Published by Disney Hyperion on January 22, 2013
Genres: Mystery, Paranormal
Pages: 328
Format: ARC
Source: Won

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.

First Sentence: “The Narrows remind me of August nights in the South.”

Sometimes a book can be perfectly well done, and unique, and clever, but still fail to work for a particular reader. I mean, I like The Archived, but I do not have hugely strong feelings for it. On some levels, I’m really not sure where the book lost me, but I’ll try to explain as best I can. Keep in mind as you read that this is a good book, even if it’s not as much of a “me” book as I expected.

The whole concept of the Archive makes me so curious. Even now I have a million questions about what’s going on with that, which presumably are why there will be more books set in this universe. The Archive stores Histories, all of the memories and pasts of individuals in a container that looks like their body when they were alive. A whole organization keeps everything running smoothly. Librarians watch over the Histories and process new arrivals. Keepers return any Histories that have awakened. If a Histories do manage to get outside, the Crew catches them and returns them.

Mackenzie inherits her talent as a Keeper from her grandfather. Because of her devotion to her grandfather, she commits herself to the task wholeheartedly, even becoming the youngest Keeper ever. Being a Keeper requires Mackenzie to have fighting skills, and also means that she’s not at all your average YA heroine so far as mindset goes. For one thing, she hates touching people or animals, because her powers can hear all the “noise” from their thoughts and feelings.

Cool as that is, some of the practicalities really concern me. Mackenzie spends a lot of time doing this, with seemingly no clue how long she is spending in the Narrows or the Archive at any given time. How does she deal with that during the school year? The Histories get rowdier the longer they’re left untended, so she cannot just sit around and wait until school lets out to go. The book is set during summer break, but I really want to know how she will handle that in the next book.

Also, Keepers (and Crew) are not allowed to tell anyone about the Archive. In other words, her parents do not know. Despite both being there, her parents are surprisingly absent. They don’t even seem like bad parents, but they never notice that their daughter is gone constantly. There role does not fit their characters and feels forced by necessity.

At times, it seems like the Archive is going to venture into a touching story of overcoming the grief of Mackenzie’s brother’s death. Instead, Ben is a plot point, an excuse for her to be constantly in the Archive and to make some stupid decisions. The novel would benefit from a larger focus on the issues in Mackenzie’s life.

Speaking of Mackenzie’s life, I would like her and the other characters a lot better if they really had lives. The characterization remains pretty static all the way through. All I know about Mackenzie is that she’s a Keeper and that she misses her brother Ben. Wesley (aka Guyliner) is my favorite character, but the reader learns nothing about him aside from what a good friend and Keeper he is. The character with the most depth is actually the antagonist.

As a departure from the norm, one of the aspects of the novel I like best is the romance. First of all, romance is not front and center in the plot. There’s some teasing banter between Mac and Wesley, but they’re not all over each other, nor do they have a super romantic vibe. Mackenzie actually uses physical connection as an escape mechanism as she gets more stressed out, which is not something I’ve seen too much in YA fiction.

Schwab makes an odd narrative choice in The Archived. Interspersed throughout the current story are flashbacks to Mackenzie’s Da (grandfather) training her to be a Keeper. That, in and of itself, is not weird. However, these sections are written with Mackenzie referring to Da as “you,” so you read things like this: “You unbutton your cuffs and roll your sleeves up to the elbows as you speak, and I notice for the first time how many scars you have.” They are also very confusing in the beginning, since it’s unclear who she is referring to for a while. While this might work for some people, I was thrown out of the story every time I hit one of these snippets.

I will say, though, that the conclusion is pretty dang stunning. There’s a lot of action, and I really like the way the Schwab took things there at the end. Of course, it didn’t hurt that there were less flashbacks as the story went along, either, allowing the plot to really gain forward momentum. Schwab had me flipping pages with a swiftness to find out how things would go down there at the end.

Yet again, a three star review has come across really negative. Despite all of those criticisms, The  Archived held my interest and I am curious enough about the world I might even continue on in the series. All of my friends who have read this already REALLY liked it, so perhaps The Archived and I merely met at the wrong time.

Favorite Quote:

“‘Why can’t I wake up?’ she whispers. Her voice hitches.
‘Some dreams,’ I say, ‘are harder to shake.'”

This ARC is really making the rounds, since I won it from The Bookaholic myself. Due to my overflowing shelves, I try to not to keep books unless I’m fairly certain I’ll want to reread, so I’m going to pass my ARC along to one of you guys! US only, since I’m paying for the shipping. For all other rules, refer to Rafflecopter.
a Rafflecopter giveaway

48 responses to “Review + Giveaway: The Archived”

  1. Thank you for an honest, critical review. Sorry it wasn’t quite a you book but I’m looking forward to reading it myself!

  2. I can see why the flashbacks threw you off. I had to adjust to it myself, but now I don’t mind them at all. Granted I am still in the beginning because I’m a slacker and you’ve finished because you’re a Rockstar. Lol.

    Good to know that the romance is mostly on the back burner. That’s perfect. But now I can’t wait to see what happens at the end! Ahhhh!!!

    • Christina says:

      Ha, I got sort of used to them, but I never liked them, and they always brought me out of the book. I just don’t entirely feel like those bits needed to be interspersed that way. Nor do I think that storytelling method added to the book.

      Oooh, you can tweet me as dramatic things happen!

  3. ohdamnbooks says:

    I can understand how the “you” thing confused you. If I was reading The Archived, I have a feeling it’ll confuse me too – until I reread it two more times and finally get it. Nice review! I think I might just try this book. (:

  4. “I mean, I like The Archived, but I do not have hugely strong feelings for it.” <-- We had the same feelings on this one. Like you, I was confused re: Da & you, and I definitely agree about the romance. I loved the banter and the somewhat similar situation to S&B villain-wise. Also really like the quote you chose :).

    • Christina says:

      Oooh, I need to go back and check out your review. I probably scrolled past because I hadn’t read the book yet. All the other reviews I’ve seen have been such high praise, but I had a lot of issues. :/

  5. I really enjoyed this book. I, too, still have questions about The Archived, specifically The Narrows. I am hoping they will be answered more in book #2. I did rate it higher than you, I could not put it down. And after receiving a sneak peek I just could not wait to read it!

    • Christina says:

      Ha, I’m glad you enjoyed the book more than I did, as I know most people have and will. I just didn’t get sucked into the story, except at the very end. I was entertained by it and curious about the world, but not in love with it, you know?

  6. Renae says:

    Hmm. I definitely know what you mean about wonderful books just not working for some people. Happens to me all the time. A lot of the things you mention having issues with in this book are little niggles that would certainly bother me—especially Disappearing Parent Syndrome. But like you said, it’s still a great and intriguing concept, enough to draw me (and other) reader in.

  7. Tricia C. says:

    This book wasn’t on my radar, but your review made me very curious. I’m intrigued by the Histories. How are they stored? Do they wander around? How do they escape? I guess I just can’t picture it, but that’s why I should read it. Love your honest reviews. I get tired of the reviewers that always love every book.

    • Christina says:

      Ah, yes, you can learn those things from the book. I didn’t want to get too caught up in the details. Those things are pretty cool, though there’s always more to know with such things.

  8. Callie Vamp says:

    This books sounds awesome thanks for writing a review!

  9. Jaime Lester says:

    I have most definitely been curious about The Archived since it first hit the scenes, and I am getting curiouser and curiouser as time goes by. I have wondered plenty how such a story will play out, how it will be of interest to actual YA’s and oldies like me. It seems like there may be a lot of down time and some plot holes, inconsistencies in there. But I must say, I am still curious. The premise of this novel is way out there, and so new. I can’t help but hope that it is amazing. Even 3 star amazing, with seriously high expectations for the next book. Thank you for your awesome and insightful review. I love a good review!

    • Christina says:

      This book certainly does fall under the heading of curiouser. Even if I didn’t love it, I definitely think it’s well worth reading for its originality and writing. Besides, many others loved it and you could find that you agree with those people. 🙂

  10. i like a review that doesn’t always gush about the book. having concerns shows intelligence and an active imagination if you ask me. thanks for reviewing!

  11. Nori says:

    I keep reading mixed reviews for this one. You are not the only one. I’m not the biggest fan of the author. Granted, I only read one of her previous books. Her writing style is is a little off-putting. And just when I got used to it, the book ended. The premise of this one just sounds so intriguing! I think I will have to read it just to know.

    • Christina says:

      I think she only has one previous book? The Near Witch. I liked the bulk of the writing fairly well, but the bits with the grandpa were very off-putting.

  12. The parts with the grandpa sound weird and kind of creepy, not sure how I would feel about that. I like the idea behind this but seeing this makes me think that maybe it was a bit too much for the author to pull off in a believable way.

  13. This one has been on my TBR shelf since I first heard of it, but your review definitely got me thinking I might have mixed feelings about it. I often don’t click with books that everyone is raving about. Hopefully I’ll like The Archived, though!

  14. The concept sounds great. Thanks for great review.
    Happy reading,
    Brandi @ Blkosiner’s Book Blog

  15. Kirsten! says:

    Ooh, that “you” business does seem pretty weird. Though now that you’ve told me who it’s supposed to refer to, hopefully I won’t get as thrown off if I would have otherwise. This book sounds really good- hopefully I’m in the right state of mind to enjoy it 🙂

  16. Sorry you didn’t enjoy it as much as I’d hoped you would. But that’s alright. I still say 3 stars is good! And you were honest, nothing wrong with that at all. 🙂 And yay for sharing it around! Lol. :p
    Just a note–two cats have laid on it. Shannon Messenger’s cat did before she sent it to me, and then my cat laid across it a couple of times. >.> *sigh* So yeah… it’s had some kitty love. Haha.

    Good luck to the entrants!


  17. I received a sneak peek of this and really loved what I read. I can’t wait to read the whole thing.

  18. Chloe says:

    Really interesting points. It’s nice to see that you were very objective in what you liked and why you think some things didn’t work for you. This actually makes me want to read the book more than just a straight “It was fabulous!” type review, I think, so that I can see if it works more for me or not!

  19. Angela Chen says:

    This book sounds really good, but I’ve heard a lot of bad things about it, so you aren’t the only one that didn’t like it that much. 🙂 It sounds interesting, although interesting isn’t always good… Maybe I’ll like it more when I read it, or maybe less. >< I really like your review though! 😀

  20. Brooke Banks says:

    I totally get 3 star reviews sounding negative and good books that don’t connect too. Happens to me all the time. It’s nice to read those reviews that aren’t 5 stars to get a bigger picture on what could bother me. Little things often bug me to death like the Disappearing Parent Trope. I’m still going to read it because of the concept and I’m hoping I’ll connect with it. If not, then I hope I still enjoy the read.

    Plus, hey your review is the first I’ve read about the “you” passages so now I won’t be confused on who she’s talking about when I read it. =)

    • Christina says:

      Disappearing parents are worse than absent parents. They obviously do care, but just don’t notice glaring oddness with their child? Really?

      That’s why I mentioned the ‘you’ passages. They were super confusing for no reason at all. Now you know!

  21. Erika says:

    It seems like a complicated plot. I’m not sure if this book would be of interest to me or not. Still would like to read it sometime. Thanks for the chance to win!

  22. Tia Dalley says:

    I really appreciate an honest review! I am so glad when a reviewer can say that they didn’t connect with the book. I do that, I sometimes catch flack for it. More often than no, I find others appreciate honesty in a review.

    • Tia Dalley says:

      that is supposed to say, More often than NOT, Sorry!

    • Christina says:

      Awww, I’m sorry you catch flack for your honest reviews sometimes. That’s unfortunate. I don’t see the point in dishonest ones. If you mark everything five stars, you might as well not have rated it at all. We don’t love everything the same. People have their own tastes, so they can read my reviews and see that something that bothered me wouldn’t bother them. It’s all good!

  23. Dione Sage says:

    I enjoy reading reviews when they are like this one, there was not a vague issue in your review and I understand the points you made. It was honest. I also understand that not every book will mean the same to every reader so the fact that you didn’t bash this book and still gave it credit was great! Thank you for sharing your thoughts with us!

  24. Kristine says:

    I have heard so much good talkin’ about this book. Can’t wait to read!

  25. Nice review! I’ve been wanting to read this one for awhile. And seen it all over the blogs. You brought to my attention some interesting things regarding the book that I would of been like, what the heck is going on?? I’m really glad you did bring these parts of the book up because I would of been very confused while reading it. Now I’ll know what’s going on or happening while reading. Thank you for sharing your thoughts on this book! I really enjoyed reading your great review!!

    • Christina says:

      Yeah, there are a few elements that are highly confusing. Perhaps if I’d had a better idea about some of them at the beginning, my rating would have come out higher, more aligned with those of my friends. I like to report on such factors, because then they might not be issues for others, and I wish we could all love every book we read.

  26. Hmmm the flashbacks where she’s addressing her grandfather as “you” do sound like a strange choice. Knowing that going in, I think it will trip me up less.

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