Book Review: The Archived by Victoria Schwab

Book: The Archived by Victoria Schwab

Published January 2013 by Disney Worldwide Publishing|324 pages

Where I Got It: I own the e-book

Series: The Archived #1

Genre: YA Fantasy

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 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 might crumble and fall.

In this haunting, richly imagined novel, Victoria Schwab reveals the thin lines between past and present, love and pain, trust and deceit, unbearable loss and hardwon redemption.

I’m starting to think that Victoria Schwab’s books aren’t for me.  I read This Savage Song last year, and thought things were more confusing than they really needed to be.  I felt that way about The Archived, which is disappointing, because things really picked up towards the end, and it really is a cool idea.

I just wish things weren’t so confusing for most of the book.  I really like the idea that the dead are in this archives, and are basically copies of themselves.  But the concept of the Archives and Keepers and territories is so poorly explained that by the time I was interested in what was going on, it was too late.

For one thing, I kept confusing her grandpa (Da) and her dad.  Also: her dad is mentioned in the beginning of the book, which is when we see him, and then he just disappears, never to be seen again.  We see her mom quite a bit, though, so at least she has one parent who’s there.  I couldn’t quite figure out what happened to him, and I was never quite sure if he was dead or alive.  Especially with the flashbacks of how she became a Keeper.  Which was in a different font to make it obvious it was different than the rest of the novel.

What is explained about this world is never explained in a way that actually makes sense.  The timeline was weird, and there were these time jumps that didn’t make a lot of sense.  In fact, they made things more confusing because I felt like I had to keep track of more things.  I didn’t understand how everything fit, and I couldn’t picture this world at all.

The characters weren’t particularly interesting either.  I didn’t really care what happened to Mac or Wes, and I thought they were really bland.  Things did get a little more interesting towards the end of the book, but at that point, I no longer cared.  I also wondered why The Archived hadn’t been like that since the beginning.

1 star.  The book was too confusing and poorly explained to care what happened.  It’s sad, since the idea is cool, but it didn’t work for me at all.

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Book Review Round-Up: Burn Out, The Shadow Queen And This Savage Song

I’ve read quite a few books recently, so I thought I’d do some shorter reviews about some of them!

Burn Out CoverBook #1: Burn Out by Kristi Helvig

Published April 2015 by EgmontUSA|288 pages

Where I Got It: I own the paperback

Series: Burn Out #1

Genre: YA Sci-Fi/Post-Apocalyptic

What It’s About: New in paperback! A science fiction tale of survival full of action, adventure, and intrigue. Perfect for fans of Beth Revis’s Across the Universe and Lenore Appelhans’s The Memory of After.

Some people want to save the world. Seventeen-year-old Tora Reynolds just wants to stay alive long enough to escape it. Now that the sun’s become a “red giant,” burning out far faster than scientists could ever have predicted, Earth is barely habitable and almost everyone is gone.

Holed up in an underground shelter, Tora’s only comforts are her dreams of a planet with a plentiful water supply and the bio-energetic weapons her father lost his life for. The ones that only she can fire.

When family friend Markus arrives with mercenaries to take her weapons by force, Tora must decide if trading the guns for safe passage to a new livable planet is worth the price of betraying her father’s wishes. But when she discovers the government’s true motives, her bargaining chip may be nothing more than smoke.

Burn Out combines high-stakes action, adventure, and a hint of romance in a thrilling science fiction debut.

What I Thought: I liked Burn Out!  I thought the idea of an asteroid hitting the sun, causing the sun to burn out at some point in the future to be really interesting, and different, as far as post-apocalyptic novels go.

I thought Tora to be an interesting, but semi-unreliable character.  She has her suspicions about what happened to her father, but as a reader, I was never completely sure about what happened to him, or to Tora’s mother or sister. We only get glimpses of them and the Consulate that’s now in charge, plus there are some untrustworthy characters we meet along the way.  It’s hard to know who to trust, and what’s really going on because you’re never sure who’s telling the truth or who’s lying.  And she seems to be the only female on earth, but as it turns out, there is another survivor, which makes me wonder if there are other people still on Earth, or if everyone else really has left.

I really liked the characters, though, and Tora’s pretty tough.  I also have so many questions about the other characters, and they are a big mystery to me.  What they really up to?

I can’t speak to the accuracy of the science we see in the book, and as someone who doesn’t know, well, much of anything about science…I was going to say it seemed plausible enough, but now I’m not sure.  I do get the comparison to Across The Universe, but having never read The Memory Of After, I’m not sure how it compares to that book.

My Rating: 3 stars.  I liked it enough to read the sequel, but I didn’t love it.  It did end a little abruptly, and I’m hoping the next one doesn’t end that way.

The Shadow Queen CoverBook #2: The Shadow Queen by C.J. Redwine

Published February 2016 by Balzer+ Bray|387 pages

Where I Got It: I borrowed the hardcover from the library

Series: Ravenspire #1

Genre: YA Fantasy/Fairy Tale Re-Telling

What It’s About: Lorelai Diederich, crown princess and fugitive at large, has one mission: kill the wicked queen who took both the Ravenspire throne and the life of her father. To do that, Lorelai needs to use the one weapon she and Queen Irina have in common—magic. She’ll have to be stronger, faster, and more powerful than Irina, the most dangerous sorceress Ravenspire has ever seen.

In the neighboring kingdom of Eldr, when Prince Kol’s father and older brother are killed by an invading army of magic-wielding ogres, the second-born prince is suddenly given the responsibility of saving his kingdom. To do that, Kol needs magic—and the only way to get it is to make a deal with the queen of Ravenspire, promise to become her personal huntsman…and bring her Lorelai’s heart.

But Lorelai is nothing like Kol expected—beautiful, fierce, and unstoppable—and despite dark magic, Lorelai is drawn in by the passionate and troubled king. Fighting to stay one step ahead of the dragon huntsman—who she likes far more than she should—Lorelai does everything in her power to ruin the wicked queen. But Irina isn’t going down without a fight, and her final move may cost the princess the one thing she still has left to lose.

What I Thought: The Shadow Queen seemed right up my alley- I do like fairy tale re-tellings, but this one was just okay.  I liked the idea of a dragon huntsman, and the use of magic to help out neighboring kingdoms.  And the magic that Irina used to make the kingdom hers, even though it clearly wasn’t.  I had a hard time getting into it, though, because I feel like I’ve read this story before.  It just wasn’t different enough to make it stand out against other books in the genre, and I’ve read my share of fantasy/fairy tale re-tellings.  I think people might like it, but it wasn’t for me.

I did like Kol, but not as a love interest for Lorelei.  I think they’re better off as allies, and they didn’t work as a couple for me.  I thought they had no chemistry, and I had a really hard time believing in their romance.  I didn’t care for Lorelei, and even though I felt for her, something about her character fell flat for me.

My Rating: 2 stars.  This one wasn’t for me, but I did like the idea of a dragon huntsman.

This Savage Song CoverBook #3: This Savage Song by Victoria Schwab

Published July 2016 by Greenwillow Books|427 pages

Where I Got It: I borrowed the hardcover from the library

Series: Monsters Of Verity #1

Genre: YA Urban Fantasy/Horror

What It’s About: There’s no such thing as safe.

Kate Harker wants to be as ruthless as her father. After five years and six boarding schools, she’s finally going home to prove that she can be.

August Flynn wants to be human. But he isn’t. He’s a monster, one that can steal souls with a song. He’s one of the three most powerful monsters in a city overrun with them. His own father’s secret weapon.

Their city is divided.

Their city is crumbling.

Kate and August are the only two who see both sides, the only two who could do something.

But how do you decide to be a hero or a villain when it’s hard to tell which is which?

What I Thought: I’ve heard a lot of really good things about This Savage Song, and I know it’s received a lot of rave reviews, but unfortunately, this book wasn’t for me.

I thought the world-building was really confusing and not very clear.  I knew there were monsters and they were born from really horrible things, but for me, the book made that concept seem a lot more confusing than it really was.  And the differences between the different kinds of monsters was also really confusing.   I wasn’t sure what the differences between them were, and it seemed like they were different, but it wasn’t really explained how they came to be or how they were different.

And the city of Verity, and it being closed off also seemed really confusing.  Sometimes, it seemed like the things going on in Verity were happening elsewhere around the country.  Other times, it seemed like Verity was the only city affected.  I ended up feeling really confused about it, because the history and how Verity got to that point wasn’t explained very clearly.  Not that we get much, because we don’t.  It’s hard to tell how much backstory there is on Verity and the monsters, because I thought the things we do get were confusing and not explained well.

I didn’t like Kate at all, and she seemed to be intentionally horrible and destructive- she seems to act that way to get attention and prove she’s like her father.  She sets a school on fire because she didn’t want to be there, and I wouldn’t have minded it, except it seemed random and for no reason.  As much as I know that people do act that way for no apparent reason, I also wanted something more from her.

As for August, I didn’t really care for him either.  He’s very much a tortured soul that’s supposed to be poetic and romantic and swoon-worthy, but in his case, it was just unappealing and annoying.  They live in a bleak world, but I wanted something more from them.  Maybe some hope or something?  I’m not really sure, but something was missing from both of them.  Maybe it’s because of the world they live in, which is really dark and hopeless and not a world I’d want to live in.

My Rating: 2 stars.  It’s definitely not for me, but I can sort of see why people love the book.