Monday, March 10, 2014

Review: The Unbound


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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?

With stunning prose and a captivating mixture of action, romance, and horror, The Unbound delves into a richly imagined world where no choice is easy and love and loss feel like two sides of the same coin.

I honestly don't think I've ever read a book with a more intriguing premise. The Archived introduced me to a world where the dead are collected and shelved like books. Their life memories can be read librarians, but most of the time these "histories" are left alone. When a history escapes, it's up to Keepers like Mackenzie Bishop to return them to the Archive.

The sequel, The Unbound, reminded me of how much I loved the first book. And I dare say this book is even better. Now that the world is established, I feel like I could enjoy the story without having to understand the technicalities of Mackenzie's world.

The Unbound begins soon after The Archived ends. Mackenzie is being haunted by a certain history, and she's filled with doubt about whether or not her life would be better as a normal girl. The only thing that's keeping her going, is that normal means erasing any memory relating to The Archived. Mackenzie's struggle is palpable, real, and you can honestly feel her exhaustion seeping from the pages.

But there is no rest for a Keeper, especially when people around her turn up missing. And people begin to suspect she's behind their disappearances.

Victoria's writing is also addictive as ever. It's not overly detailed, or filled with unnecessary metaphors and similes. It's straightforward, but Schwab's writing still manages to be lyrical and filled with purpose.  The Unbound is also paced exceptionally well--I just couldn't put the book down.

Let's be honest, though: a huge reason why I loved this book is Wesley Ayers. I truly do not remember loving Wesley this much in The Archived, but this sequel has cemented my love. He's perfect. And makes guyliner cool. I also appreciate that Mackenzie and Wesley's relationship is not instalove, and that Schwab stayed away from developing a full-fledged love triangle. It's such a rare treasure in young adult literature. There's not doubt that Mackenzie likes Wesley, and that she's attracted to him. But their situation is complicated by the lives they lead. It takes two books for their relationship to develop, and even then, they still don't even categorize themselves as a boyfriend and girlfriend. This is both impressive AND frustrating (because these two just belong together).

If you haven't read any of Victoria's books, you honestly don't know what you're missing. Schwab is a smart and imaginative writer, and I look forward to reading any book she publishes in the future.

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