Book Review: The Unbound by Victoria Schwab (The Archived, book 2)

I loved this book even more than The Archived (the first book in the series)! Plot, characters, writing style–everything was incredible.

5/5 stars

Series: The Archived, book 2

As always, this review won’t have spoilers for The Unbound, but it will have spoilers for The Archived (book 1), so if you haven’t read that book yet, beware! (My review for book one is here.)

The Archived, book 2
The Archived, book 2

Amazon description of The Unbound:

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.

Last summer, Mackenzie Bishop, a Keeper tasked with stopping violent Histories from escaping the Archive, almost lost her life to one. Now, as she starts her junior year at Hyde School, she’s struggling to get her life back. But moving on isn’t easy — not when her dreams are haunted by what happened. She knows the past is past, knows it cannot hurt her, but it feels so real, and when her nightmares begin to creep into her waking hours, she starts to wonder if she’s really safe.

Meanwhile, people are vanishing without a trace,and the only thing they seem to have in common is Mackenzie. She’s sure the Archive knows more than they are letting on, but before she can prove it, she becomes the prime suspect. And unless Mac can track down the real culprit, she’ll lose everything, not only her role as Keeper, but her memories, and even her life. Can Mackenzie untangle the mystery before she herself unravels?

From the first pages, I loved this book. For one thing, we get to see Mac at a preppy private school, and if you’ve read book one, you know why this is equal parts hilarious and terrifying. The school introduces new characters (namely Cash, who I loved) and helped to broaden Mac’s character.

Then there is the actual plot. It could have been way too dramatic, but somehow, it wasn’t. I honestly didn’t think I’d like this book that much, because it contains two of my least favorite plot devices: the main character losing her mind and the main character being framed for murder. But Schwab pulled it off–and I LOVED IT. The plot’s pacing was great, starting off subtle and then building and building, never lulling or slowing down. Throughout the book, the trials of the plot exposed Mac’s character even more, building off of components we only caught glimpses of in book one.

And Wesley. Wesley is still hot in this book. I can’t say much about his involvement in the plot (spoilers), but it was great. The dynamic between the two Keepers developed well during this plot. The romance remained subtle, as it had in book one, but still emotionally powerful. Even with the addition of Cash (I might be remembering his name wrong–please don’t hurt me), who could have dominated the plot with LOVE TRIANGLE-ness, the romance remained second to the major plot of the book, something I really appreciate from a YA author, especially one who has crafted such a powerful plot to begin with.

The writing is still amazing. Schwab did a fantastic job writing Mac’s voice as she physically and mentally fell apart. The flashback scenes, no longer about Da, still added to the plot, and quantifiably linked books one and two. What strikes me about Schwab’s writing is that she knows exactly what to add to her plot to test her characters. She has a powerful understanding of each of her character’s minds, and knows how to affect them–whether she is making them hopeful, or crushing their spirits.

To anyone who read book one and is wondering if they should read the second one, the answer is YES. I left The Unbound on my TBR shelf for at least six months before I got around to reading it, and I can’t believe I was that stupid. It is even better than The Archived, which was amazing as well.


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