The Archived by Victoria Schwab
I feel the need to make one thing clear: I have not finished this book. The publisher only made the first hundred-and-some-odd pages available to me as an ARC, so if you read this book on my advice and despise it, don’t hold me responsible.
Hyperion Book CH, ISBN-13: 978-1423157311, January 22. 2013
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.
I absolutely adored this (partial) book. The premise is fresh, the heroine is smart and tough, and gosh, I wish I could read the rest.
Mac’s dealing with the grief of losing her little brother, and worse, her mother has uprooted the family with a major move. She wants a fresh start, as though changing places will magically make losing a child easier to handle. Mac knows better than to believe the pain can be quick-fixed, and she resents her mother’s seeming determination to push all memory of her brother out of their lives even as Mac struggles to hold onto every detail and memory of him. She’s already lost her grandfather and mentor, which was bad enough, but at least she has something left of him: the vocation which he passed on to her, keeping the Histories in the Archive. I think it’s easiest to explain the Histories as opposite-ghosts. We think of ghosts as a person’s spirit left to wander the earth. In this world, the spirit goes on, and what remains is a record of a person’s life that can take that person’s form, a ghost with all of its owners memories but without its owner’s essence. Trained at an unusually young age by her Da, Mac hunts the escaped Histories and brings them back to the Archive. Some are simply lost and confused, but others are dangerous, and Mac’s got the Buffy-style skills to put them back in their place.
The world-building is mainly doled out in flashbacks which serve both to explain this fantasy world and to show the bond between Mac and Da (her grandfather, not her father.) Schwab never skimps on character development. She’s clearly not an author who uses her characters as an excuse to explore her setting; rather, she tells the story of the characters as a good writer ought to. Speaking of good writers, her prose is on a much higher level than that of most YA novels, artful and moving. She’s not just concerned with telling the story but with telling it in the best style and diction possible.
I did find the appearance of a love interest and the big reveal of his secret both quite predictable. He’s a likeable enough character, but I hope he turns out to be more integral to the plot than coincidental.
All in all, I thoroughly enjoyed this beginning and can’t wait to read the ending. I predict this dog will be among the top 2013 hunters.
Question: What’s YOUR concept of a non-traditional afterlife?