by Victoria Schwab
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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 she 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.
” What if I mess up? ”
” Oh, you will. You’ll mess up, you’ll make mistakes, you’ll break things. Some you’ll be able to piece together, and others you’ll lose. That’s all a given. But there’s only one thing you have to do for me. ”
” What’s that? ”
” Stay alive enough to mess up again. “
See, I don’t know if that’s because :
a) I actually read a lot of slow-paced-kill-me-now books when I was in college – like this one, the riveting story of a man who decides to never go out of his house anymore because “too much luxury, people!” and intends to describe everything he thinks or sees or does in his freakin house during about 3 months (yes, that’s as horrible as it sounds and yes, I had to read it like, 3 times. My eyes are still hurting – and I don’t care how mind-blowing it’s supposed to be – I read French literature so. damn. better.)
b) I used to be a fantasy fan, aka a reader who used to go through 3 books in a series before –
✶ getting in the middle of the action,
✶ understand who is Tennahra and Kileken exactly (yes, I’m typing randomly on my keypad) and why the King/the Queen/The Witch/*add random character here* are such weirdoes.
But what do I know? In my opinion the beginning isn’t dull or boring. It’s called… watch out, big big words! world-building people. Characterization.
I know, that’s pretty rare out there.
Striking fact# 1 : The writing was impressive
The story is told from two different times : in present day, we follow Mackenzie, the youngest Keeper in the Archive organization (whose purpose is to keep the dead quiet on shelves), when her family moves in the Coronado Hotel whereas other parts let us have a glimpse of the memories of her training which took place years before – before her grandpa died.
Before her baby brother died, jeopardizing all her family, leaving an incurable wound in their heart.
I loved the writing, which contains the kind of magical blissfulness I found in The Raven Boys – we’re struck by the way the objects seem to be brought to life somehow. The only thing we have to do is to let ourselves get lost in these corridors, walking through these doors hidden behind our consciousness, and enjoy the enchanted feeling created by Victoria Schwab’s pen.
I ruined my post-it reserve I had created for… work. Bad me.
” Why? ”
You take the cigarette out, jabbing the air with the unlit tip. “That is the most worthless question in the world. Use your words. Be specific. Why is like bah or moo or that silly sound pigeons make.”
Striking fact# 2 : The story fascinated and enthralled me from the beginning to the end : I was hooked.
I won’t get back to the no, I don’t think the beginning is boring conversation, because hey, I’m pretty sure you saw my point earlier.
So let’s go straight, shall we?
– The world-building is inventive and filled with originality. Of course it is! Seriously, have you ever heard about dead people resting on shelves? Keepers whose job consists of hunting Histories, aka dead who’re not so comfortable on their shelves? Well?
– Now, the romance. You’re worried to find another love at first sight/love overtakes the plot/whatever love does?
Try this : friendship, getting to know each other, light and smile-inducing flirting.
– Here’s a mystery book which actually contains a mystery. I know. I’m excited too. That plot? Thrilling. Intoxicating. Slightly creepy at times. Because murderer people! Trust issues! Bunch of lies!
Oh. My. Am I bad to love that so damn much?
– Also, Histories’ waking up? It gets a strong but awesome zombie vibe, without the lame heroine – yes, you got me! I don’t like zombie books! While here I found it fascinating.
Striking fact# 3 : Can I have more of these characters, pretty please?
As I said earlier, I was amazed by the characterization qualities : you won’t believe me, but we get the impression to really know the characters, who are far from the ghosts we’re sometimes accustomed to. Now tell me, how incredible is that?
” Well, there’s this new girl who just moved in on floor three. Her family re-opening the café. I hear she likes to lie, and hit people.”
“Oh yeah? Well, there’s that strange goth guy, the one who’s always lurking around Five C.”
” Strangely hot in a mysterious way, though, right? “
Multiple choice quiz time!
can’t stop thinking about the eyes of some boy
✔ genuinely thinks before acting
makes me want to throw the book in my chimney with her annoying crappie thoughts
✔ could be a friend of mine – apart from the fact she can’t really have friends, of course, duh.
“M. That’s what I call her, this normal, nonexistent me. (…) I can pretend to be M ; I can wear her like a mask. But I can’t be her. I’ll never be.
M wouldn’t see blood-covered boys in her bedroom.
M wouldn’t spend her time scouring her dead brother’s toys for a glimpse of his life.”
is the savior everybody was waiting for. Hey, what did you expect? He’s a boy dammit!
✔ likes blueberry cupcakes and … let’s see… Did I smile so big it hurt each time he made an apparition? Absolutely.
✔ wears guyliner. Okay, I know, nobody cares about that, but –
✔ is genuinely interested in Mackenzie, takes her feelings in consideration, and never tries to take the decision out of her.
” It’s the same for me, you know? This is all new to me. And I’m not going anywhere. It takes at least three assassination attempts to scare me off. And even then, if there are baked goods involved, I might come back. “
✔ Is an Archive Librarian whose age isn’t really clear and whose life is a mystery and whose choices are full of selflessness and caring and courage, okay?
Why, thank you, can I have the sequel pretty please?