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Book Review – The Unbound by Victoria Schwab

Mackenzie is back in this sequel to The Archived (read Karen’s review here.) It’s been three weeks since she used Da’s crew key to dispatch the deeply disturbed Owen into the void, and it’s time for school to start. Still injured in both body and spirit, Mackenzie must psych herself up to attend the selective, private Hyde School, where she will be a junior. It’s hard enough to join a new school as a junior, much less one where most of the students have known each other since kindergarten (or before.) Mackenzie must also deal with the need to hide her life as a Keeper for The Archive while acclimating to this new environment.

On her first day at Hyde, Mackenzie is greeted by the handsome and jovial Cash, who becomes a regular fixture in her school life. Cash comes with a new set of friends who welcome Mac on varying levels due to Cash’s introduction and tacit approval. One of these friends is someone Mac already knows and is startled to find at Hyde – Wesley Ayers (otherwise known as guyliner.)

The one thing that is disrupting her settling in to her new life at Hyde and complicating her home life at the Coronado is Owen. Although he is no longer physically a part of her life, in or out of the Narrows, he will not leave Mackenzie alone in her sleep. Every time she drifts off, Owen violently invades her dreams. In typical teenager fashion, Mac has decided to deal with this by not sleeping, and it is beginning to take its toll. Not only is she struggling with her studies and her relationships, she’s beginning to have difficulty with her job as a Keeper – including episodes where she is blacking out while in pursuit of rogue Histories.

To add to all of this, there has been a series of disturbing disappearances in town which have only one thing in common – the last person each victim sees is Mackenzie. Could it be the mysterious stalker (who appears to be Crew) who is causing these disappearances, or is something even more sinister afoot? Mackenzie must fight her way through multiple obstacles to uncover the truth – then she has overcome her biggest barrier – getting the people in power (especially Agatha) to believe her.

I thoroughly enjoyed this part of Mackenzie’s story. The characterization and pacing are significantly improved compared to The Archived (which was quite good in it’s own right.) In addition to only having to elaborate upon the significant world building that was necessarily a part of the first book, this sequel benefits from fewer flashback episodes. We spend more time with ‘Mackenzie of the present’ which greatly improves the flow of the story. As she grows older and must branch further out into the world, we see the complications that a life serving The Archive involves, and we begin to see it take the same toll on her relationships that it took on Da’s. The plot is complex and detailed, and so is Mackenzie’s character. It is hugely enjoyable, a completely satisfying addition to the Mackenzie cannon. I would strongly recommend it to anyone who has read The Archived.

*TLT is delighted to be a part of Victoria Schwab’s blog tour for The Unbound. This review is based on a free electronic ARC received by the reviewer (Robin.) The Unbound will be released this Tuesday, January 28th. Go get it from your local bookstore, or order it online!

Cybils Book Review: The Archived by Victoria Schwab

I am reviewing this book as part of the Cybils 2013

Let’s get right to the point: I LOVED this book.  It was a unique concept, delivered beautifully.  And it plucked every I miss Buffy heart-string I own, which is a lot.

“Imagine a place where the dead rest on shelves like books.

Each body has a stroy to tell, a life seen in pictures that only Librarians can read.  The dead are called Histories, and the vast ream in which they rest is the Archive.” – Book Jacket Copy

Mackenzie Bishop has always wanted to be a Keeper, like her beloved Da.  So when he passes on, he chooses her as his successor.  Her job is dangerous, to track down lost Histories in the Narrows (the space between the Archive and our world) before they make it across.  Losing Da was hard enough, but when her younger brother is plucked too young from this world, Mac’s family can’t cope.  Hoping a change of scenery will help them forget, Mac’s family moves into a hotel.  A hotel with secrets and memories and Histories that want out into the real world.

The Archived is a beautiful exploration of what it means to be both living and dead, and how we can sometimes be in both places at once.  It is a haunting, melancholy read that drips with grief and ripples with the promise of magic.  It is a gentle reminder that even though it is hard, we must find a way to let go and move on because holding on can break the things around – and inside – of you: family, friendships, and yes – even your spirit or your mind.

Mac is a magnificently complex character; lost, aching, hiding secrets, striving to be strong and fierce.  Her grief was real and palpable, her temptation to take her brother’s History from the archive understandable, and her fierceness in the face of all of what she was going through heartbreaking and at times inspiring.

There are flashback scenes that help us understand the role of the Keeper and paint a rich portrait of a truly moving relationship between a young girl and her grandfather.  I always give bonus points for strong, healthy multi-generational relationships. 

There is action, suspense, mystery, a little bit of romance potential . . . definitely recommended.  And, obviously, it takes its rightful place among my ongoing YA Lit for Buffy Fans list 1 and list 2.