Summary (via jacket copy):
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 frist 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 that 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 may crumble and fall.
The Archive is beautifully imagined and detailed in its world building. Victoria Schwab creates an extensive after-life that is very original and intriguing. The book twists and turns and though I could guess a few aspects I was surprised by many of the turns. The pacing is slow and methodical, but never boring. The last third of the book picks up pace and carries you along to a wonderful climax. I prefer the end of the book to the beginning and I think a lot of that is due to the beginning narrative focusing a lot on background and explaining Histories, the Archive, Keepers, Keys, etc. It took me a few chapters before I felt like I had a grasp on what Mackenzie does. The novel has a creepy atmosphere but isn’t out right scary. Schwab uses flashbacks artfully, they always build the story and often times provide small hints as to where its headed.
Da is my favorite character, I have such a clear image of him (smoking his cigarettes) and how it would feel to have him as a teacher and relative. I found myself looking forward to flashbacks so I could read about his and Kenzie’s interactions and lessons. Da is allusive, mysterious yet loving and informative and I think he has some of the best lines in the book,
Da used to say that only fools and cowards scorned fear. Fear keeps you alive
I like Mackenzie, I empathize with her and her struggles. I don’t envy her life and what she goes through daily and I felt invested in her story. Wesley grew on me with his humor. At first I felt iffy about his description but as the story progresses it just fits him so perfectly. Roland is such an interesting character I hope we get to learn more about him in the future; I’d love to see his story in a novella.
Unique and creative afterlife that takes what is normal in our world and builds on it in such a realistic yet fantastic way. Its one of those books that you’ll want to reread after you know the full story so you can look a the book again with your gained knowledge.
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