The Archived

What happens when you pass away? Where does the soul go? And what happens when long passed souls wake up and try to re-enter the world?

Mackenzie Bishop is a Keeper, a person tasked with returning awakened souls – known as Histories – to the Archive, a library of the dead. Trained by her now deceased grandfather, Mackenzie is proficient at a number of traits: combat, reading objects with her touch, lock picking, talking to dead souls. Sometimes being a Keeper isn’t too bad; sometimes the Histories return easily. Other times, the souls are so distraught and confused – called slipping – that they lash out at the Keepers. Sometimes the Keepers don’t come back alive.

For four years, Mackenzie as done her job as a Keeper efficiently despite being the youngest Keeper hired by the Archive. It isn’t easy as she has no one to talk to about being a Keeper. The Archive has a strict rule about secrecy, so Mackenzie must constantly lie and stretch the truth about where she goes and what she does. Still, she loves being a Keeper and wouldn’t change anything. But things change when her younger brother, Ben, dies and her family moves to the hotel-turned-apartment building, the Coronado, to start anew. Mackenzie’s summer is now filled with her mother’s too-bright enthusiasm, her father’s quiet, and her increased duties as the new Keeper of the Coronado territory. It should be enough to take her mind off Ben – but it’s not. Lucky for Mackenzie, she meets Wesley who is also a Keeper and now she finally has someone to talk to about the Archive.

But the Coronado is old and has many secrets. Secrets that come back to haunt Mackenzie. Secrets – and Histories – that could kill her if she’s not careful.

Years ago, The Archived would not have been a book I would have thought about reading. It’s a haunting story with enough thriller elements to put me off (I don’t do thriller or horror movies/shows/books). But these days I will read anything by Victoria Schwab and the concept of a library of dead souls sounded interesting. Schwab manages to write both a haunting story and a growing up story as Mackenzie learns to cope with the loss of two of her beloved family members.

Like all young adult novels, there are elements of romance, but that’s one of the things I love about Schwab’s writing: romance isn’t the focal point. Mackenzie coming to terms with loss while struggling with her duties as Keeper is. Mackenzie learning to move on is the focus, not who she is falling in love with (which was no one). I really enjoyed this story more than I thought I would. Good thing too since I already have the second novel, The Unbound, and have heard there are more coming.

My rating: 4/5



Based on Lewis Carroll’s Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, Furthermore is Taherah Mafi’s foray into middle grade literature. It is the story of Alice Alexis Queensmeadow and her adventures in the land of Furthermore to find her missing father.

In the magical land of Ferenwood, Alice lives with her mother and three younger brothers. Alice’s relationship with her mother is stranded though Alice is not sure why. It likely has to do with the disappearance of Alice’s father, who went missing three years prior. See, that’s a strange thing in itself because citizens of Ferenwood do not simply go missing. There is also the matter of Alice’s color; in a land full of color, Alice has none. This makes her different from her peers, nearly an outcast in bright Ferenwood.

Alice is on the eve of her twelfth birthday and the event known as the Surrender. Upon their twelfth year, the young citizens of the magical land of Ferenwood put their magical talents on display (you see, everyone in Ferenwood has magic, even no color Alice). Before her Surrender, Alice is confronted by Oliver Newbanks, a boy from her school years who has already undergone his Surrender but has not yet completed the task given to him. To complete his task, he needs Alice’s help. But Alice won’t help Oliver because she does not trust him and the lies he tells.

When her Surrender doesn’t go as planned, Alice finds herself following Oliver into the odd country of Furthermore. It is here that Oliver tells Alice her father disappeared to – and they he knows where Alice’s father is. Compelled to find her father and bring him home, Alice follows Oliver into Furthermore despite her mistrust of him. They find themselves in dangerous territory, where the magic of the land works differently than in Ferenwood, and where the citizens are so starved for magic they consume everything. Including children.

Furthermore is a whimsical read, full of magic and adventure. I found it to be fun, but a little confusing at times. I couldn’t understand some of the rules the land of Furthermore had, nor could I understand some of the actions Alice and Oliver took. Perhaps it’s because I’m well past my middle grade years and, as much as I wish I could keep it, my adult mind works differently from my childhood mind (Alice’s father says at much at one point in the story).

For fans and readers of Lewis Carroll’s work, you will find some notable but different scenes in Furthermore. The fall down the rabbit hole, the small door that opens into a wonderland, there are many elements in Furthermore that are recognizable in some way. Having read Lewis Carroll earlier this year, these similarities were more apparent since Wonderland was still fresh in my mind.

While I found the story whimsical and a fun read, my adult brain was puzzled by how quickly the ending occurred. It seemed as if the ending was far too easy a resolution given all the trials and dangers Alice and Oliver found themselves in. After all, breaking into a prison is far easier than breaking out. But I suppose middle grade stories deserve a happy ending.

I applaud Mafi for creating a heroine who is visually different from the other characters; this allows children who have physical differences to learn it’s okay to be different, that the strength of your inner character is far more important than looks. I do wish, however, that Alice had remained disabled – at one point in the story, she loses her arm due to some bad decisions. Having Alice learn to cope with her disability, I think, would have been a great tool to teach that bad decisions can have dire consequences but that one can still live and learn and cope with their mistakes.  A lesson that not everything has a simple solution. But in a land of magic, Alice was made whole again and I found that lost lesson to be a disappointment.

Overall, I found Furthermore to be a fun read with lessons to be learned but it is not without its faults and holes.

My rating: 3.5/5

Nevernight Chronicles: Nevernight

The first in the Nevernight Chronicles, Nevernight is the story of Mia Corvere, who seeks vengeance on the men who murdered her family.

In a world where the sky is filled with three suns and true night – known as truedark – only comes once every two and a half years, it’s tough being an assassin. But sixteen year old Mia Corvere is on a mission. Six years ago, at the age of ten, her father was executed as a traitor to the government of Godsgrave; her mother and infant brother were imprisoned in the city’s darkest prison. Mia managed to escape and was raised by Mercurio, a disciple of the Red Church who worship the night goddess, Niah.

In order to prepare to murder the three men responsible for her family’s death, Mia sets out for the Red Church to continue her training and become a Blade, one of its deadliest assassins. In her journey, she meets Tric, a boy who also seeks to become a Blade and vengeance against his grandfather. The pair undergo extensive training along with 26 other Acolytes, but only four of them will become Blades. But before initiation, they must survive deadly combat, poison teachers who try to kill them, learn the arts of seduction and thievery, and just seek the approval of their instructors – who are deadly assassins themselves.

But vengeance isn’t the only thing Mia seeks. She is a darkin, one who has the ability to control shadows and darkness. But what does it mean to be darkin? The only one who can give her answers is Lord Cassius, Prince of Blades and head of the Red Church. But he won’t tell her anything until initiation – if Mia can survive her teachers and classmates that long.

Although Nevernight‘s protagonist is a teenager, don’t let that fact fool you. The story is full of violence (this is a story of assassins in training, after all), gore, sex, and swearing. But it’s also rich in a world’s history that Kristoff provides in a series of footnotes scattered throughout the text. Kristoff writes the book as a historian following the adventures of the world’s greatest assassin, providing context when necessary. I found the footnotes to be enlightening, broadening my knowledge of his richly imagined world. But they were also funny, providing commentary in a tone that sometimes lightened the dark mood.

Throughout the story, Mia struggles to maintain the humanity in her. She is constantly reminded by her various companions that she doesn’t belong in the Red Church, but vengeance is so strong in Mia that she ignores these words. She is willing to do anything to become a Blade – until the very end, when Mia realizes that her humanity actually makes her a stronger assassin.

This book took me longer to read than normal because there was so much information I was soaking up. I was so in love with this book that I read every little footnote and drank up every detail. I’ve heard wonderful things about this story, and it did not disappoint at all.

While the story ties up nicely, it ends on a note that hints at more to come. I look forward to reading the next chapter in Mia’s story and more of Kristoff’s amazing writing style.

My rating: 5/5

Red Queen

The debut novel of Victoria Aveyard, Red Queen is the story of a girl in a world divided by the color of your blood.

In Norta and the surrounding areas, the color of your blood determines your class status. Silvers are the elite, the rich, the powerful, the ones with special skills. They rule the country and oppress the Reds, who are poor and possess no special abilities beyond their determination. Mare Barrow is a seventeen year old Red on the eve of conscription into the Silver war with the Lakelanders that has been waged for years. While her younger sister, Gisa, is an apprentice seamstress, Mare has no valuable skills to speak of – other than her quick footedness and thievery.

One day, she meets a mysterious young man named Cal who, after speaking with Mare, gets her a job at the palace serving the king. Mare soon learns that Cal is the crown prince, but the job will keep her family fed and will keep her out of the wars. When Mare is accidentally forced into the Queenstrial – a battle of powers between Silver girls, the winner of which will marry the crown prince – she learns that she has powers of her own. Powers unlike any the Silvers possess, powers that Mare shouldn’t have as a Red.

Soon, Mare finds herself in the role of fictious Mareena Titanos, the daughter of a Silver general supposedly raised by Reds. She must pretend to be a Silver and the betrothed of Cal’s younger brother, Maven. Living with the royal family is the only way Mare can keep her family safe and learn to master her powers, but the world of the Silvers is not easy for a lone Red. It’s dangerous and deadly, made more complicated by the Scarlet Guard, a group of Reds intent on liberating the oppressed.

Will Mare be able to keep her secret safe, and help the Guard and her people without getting caught?

Victoria Aveyard’s writing is phenomenal, and I really liked the concept. However, the storyline is very similar to others I have read before.

Girl lives in poverty.
Girl meets boy, boy gets girl a job.
Girl discovers powers she never knew she had, ends up a princess (or pretending to be one).
Girl falls in love with boy, boy’s brother, boy’s friend, girl’s friend, or all at once.
Girl joins rebellious group, and gets caught.
Girl ends up on the run (maybe with boy).
To be continued in next book.

Now normally storylines don’t bother me as I’m usually more interested in character development; there could be plot holes or the world may not be perfect, as long as the characters draw me in. While I really liked the characters, none of them really drew me in. With the exception of Mare’s brother Shade, who is physically in the book all of two pages. I’m tempted to continue on just to read more about Shade, but I don’t know if one minor character will be enough to hold my interest.  I suppose I’ll decide later and see if the soon to be released King’s Crown will be worth continuing with as I’ve read mixed reviews for Glass Sword.

My rating: 3/5