Easily the biggest reason I loved The Archived was its fantasy-esque world, where people become Histories in death, shelved in a place called the Archives, cared for by Librarians. But, as with every system, there are flaws and sometimes, Histories wake up, finding themselves in the Narrows – the place in-between the Outer (real world) and the Archives. And this is where MacKenzie comes in – she’s a Keeper, garnered with the responsibility of tracking down Histories who have made it into the Narrows and showing them the way to the Return, so they made be shelved again. Schwab was able to articulate this world so clearly and so fluidly, that I was never lost about how it worked and any questions I was able to think of, were answered by the end. I loved learning about how the Archives functioned, and why they existed, so much that I was kept turning the pages in the hopes of being given another glimpse into such an interesting and complex system. Every time I thought I had a handle on why things were done, Schwab threw in another detail that left me scrambling to re-envision the world in light of this new information.
There was one thing that I found confusing in The Archived though: Mac’s flashbacks to the time spent with Da. For the longest time, we’re not told who Da is, so I couldn’t figure out if he was supposed to be a neighbour, some random creepy stranger, some relation or someone who just happened to choose Mac as his replacement. Once we found out that Da was her grandfather, I found the flashback scenes much more useful, as I wasn’t focusing on who he was as much as what he was trying to teach Mac about being a Keeper.
Mac was a wonderful protagonist! Extremely proactive, she wasn’t afraid of finding the answers on her own, even when that put her into uncomfortable or dangerous situations. I loved watching her internal struggle with lying to her family, since being a Keeper meant a lifetime of lies as no one is allowed to know about the Archives, and I found most of her reactions to be realistic, though I did question her judgment when it came to Owen; am I the only one who found their relationship kind of icky? That being said though, I understood Owen’s attractiveness, as he was able to quiet the noise that came with her responsibilities and grief over losing her little brother. Her easy and light friendship with Wes was a nice break from the darker tones of her life as a Keeper and he brought out a side of Mac that we otherwise wouldn’t have known existed. But, even though I enjoyed the characters – even rooted for them – I never truly connected with any of them; I don’t want to suggest in any way that The Archived’s characters were static or undeveloped, they just weren’t overly memorable.
Fortunately, The Archived’s plot moves at such a great pace, that I wasn’t really focused on my lack of connection to the characters. With the dawning realization that a Librarian is responsible for wiping certain memories from certain Histories, and that those memories all happen to correspond to a string of suspicious deaths at Mac’s new apartment complex, I was completely caught up in playing who-done-it. While I found the direction the plot took to be a bit predictable, it didn’t lessen my enjoyment. If anything, it made me even more curious to see how Schwab was going to tie up all the loose ends.
With several mysteries that were seemingly unconnected, only to come together to form one large conspiracy toward the end, The Archived’s plot kept me guessing for most of its duration. Add in some great characters and even better world-building, and the Archived succeeded at trapping me in its fantasy world until I had uncovered all of its secrets!