Wasp is a ghost hunter. She's one in a long line of girls who fight to the death. They're the ones who choose the "short straws" in an ancient trail that marks a new archivist. The Archivist is alone in the world. She doesn't have friends, save for ghosts and girls waiting to take her place. At the opening of the novel, Wasp is at a crossroads. She's the longest surviving Archivist. For three years she's had to defend her title. That means killing three girls each year. This year is different. While she's slower than when she started, she doesn't want to die. Yet, it seems she's had a fill of death. She does something completely unexpected, which lands her on the Catchkeep-priest's bad side. A side she was already on.
What worked for me:
Wasp is the only Archivist who challenges her role in the scheme of things. All of her actions (like letting ghosts go free) and her inaction (like ignoring the townspeople request for ghosts) becomes deliberate. There is a strong sense that Wasp has given up because her life is so routine, but also because her life is controlled by powers that she doesn't understand. There's a sense of fruitlessness in her day to day activities, like someone who has grown so accustomed with death that she wonders if it might just be better on the other side. While it wouldn't be the first time Wasp tries to run away from her duty, she does truly weigh the options: death for freedom, or maintaining this lonely miserable life.
I love that Wasp is unlike any other Archivist that's come along. This is why when she comes across "the ghost" as he's referred to the whole novel, she's the only one who takes him on on his challenge. He needs to find a ghost. Someone from his past, when the world was a different place, and Wasp's world had different names for the same stars she looks to now. It makes Wasp wonder if the myths about her calling are really just that--myth.
Some of my favorite scenes are between the ghost and Wasp. While they both come into this journey with their own lies, they commit themselves to the journey that lies ahead. Something incredible happens, a ghost and a ghost hunter find a kind of bond (it isn't quite friendship) after being alone for so long.
The scenes of the ghost and Wasp in the underworld are dreamlike, imaginative, and luxe. The worlds are created with a touch of whimsy and horror, and just enough realism to make the idea of death palatable. All of this works its way into the greater journey of Wasp discovering who is is and who she can be by breaking from her expected role, and finding that freedom that she longed for in the beginning.
There are many "memory" and flashback scenes, but I feel they are integrated well into the narrative so as to not weigh the story down.
What left me wanting more:
I felt myself wanting more from the ghost. Though I know the importance of his anonymity, his friendship with Wasp became so wonderful, it was like reading about two old friends.
This isn't your typical YA novel. With myth, mystery, and heart, it is a post-apocalyptic world unlike anything you've ever read. Perfect for fans of Anna Dressed in Blood and Science Fiction.