Monday, April 15, 2013

The Archived

The Archived by Victoria Schwab

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.
-Plot summary borrowed from Goodreads

A library of the dead? Mysterious and shadowy organization of Librarians with super powers? Um, now please! 

That's what I thought when I heard the premise of The Archived. Add in a crumbling old apartment building, a guyliner-rocking love interest spouting classic poetry, and a tough as nails protagonist devoted to her supernatural job and you've got a sure thing, right?

Well, as it turns out, not quite. The whole Keeper/Histories thing never quite gelled for me, and I think more could have been done with fewer nit-picky details. I wanted to like Mac, but she was a bit of a typical Strong Female Protagonist whose strength seems to lie in being aggressive and independent, without the layers of a Buffy or a Katniss. Even the love interest fell a bit flat for me.

The Archive itself had enormous potential, but it ended up being pretty bland. Sure it's flipping enormous, and the stacks might rearrange themselves to fool unwary visitors, but other than that it's the same library you've seen in every movie with an impressive library. Tall ceilings- check. Dark- check. Lamps, tables, shelves and shelves of books, blah blah blah. Give me the Hogwarts library, with its restricted section, chained up volumes, and whispering texts. Give me the library in the Dreaming, stuffed with books that never were, or the library planet from Doctor Who, drowning in shadows and swarming with Vashta Nerada. Give me the library of the Clayr, with it's descending nautilus shape, armed librarians, mysterious chambers and creeping threats. Don't give me Tiffany lamps and card catalogs! *Librarian rant complete*

So why am I reviewing this? Well, partially because I haven't been posting enough teen book reviews and want to stay in the game. Partly because other people might have been interested in this title, so I figured I'd put in my two cents. And partly to see if anyone had a better take on The Archived, maybe something I missed.


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