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The Archived sneak peek review

A totally original and atmospheric read, perfect for anyone who wonders what will happen to their story once it’s finished being told…

the archivedThe Archived by Victoria Schwab, January 2013, Hyperion

Book blurb:

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 can’t give you a full review of this book yet, because the advance galley proof I received from the publisher was only a ‘sneak peek’, but I can tell you that I will definitely be reading the whole thing, ASAP! Victoria Schwab has come up with, as far as I can see, a totally original concept and has brought it to life with her direct, evocative writing style.

I think what I liked most was the unique setting. It makes sense that the idea of the dead becoming ‘Histories’ and being stored in a giant library called the Archive would appeal to book lovers! And it also rings true that the custodians of this realm, the Librarians, are aloof, silent types, smug in the knowledge that they are the only ones who can navigate the Archive’s vast collection. It’s a realm that somehow feels both reassuringly familiar and yet uncannily unfamiliar. The Narrows, on the other hand, are an eerie and shadowy network of empty corridors and unmarked doors which Keepers like Mackenzie must navigate alone, rounding up any escaped Histories they find and returning them to the Archive. Back in the land of the living, Mac lives in the Coronado, an old hotel that has been converted into apartments and has its own share of secrets – it’s got a really creepy, atmospheric feel to it, like The Shining with a bit of Gothic seasoning.

Spooky setting aside, you can’t help but feel for the central character MacKenzie and be drawn in by the particular challenges she faces. As a Keeper she lives among the living, but can never be ‘normal’ or share the secret of her profession with anyone. The only other person who would understand, her mentor Da, is dead. Her little brother has recently died too, and her parents are heartbroken and not dealing with it in the best way. So she’s pretty lonely and melancholy – but at the same time strong, resourceful and unwilling to accept blindly whatever she’s told. She’s a rule breaker, and that’s what leads her to start unravelling a chilling mystery connected to the Coronado.

Loss and death are prevalent themes, and they are handled uncompromisingly but not heavy-handedly. It’s by no means all doom and gloom, though, and towards the end of the preview version I read we meet Wesley Ayers, a new friend for Mac to confide in and a light relief, with his cheeky irreverent personality.

I’m looking forward to finding out how their friendship develops and what else Mac uncovers as she delves into the mysteries of the Coronado and the secrets of the Archive.

Leave a comment


  1. Oooh, this is on my list for the What’s in a Name reading challenge….I’ve seen a lot of mixed reviews for it, but I am excited to read it! Thanks for the review 🙂

  1. The Archived by Victoria Schwab | Bookish Feelings Recorded

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