The Archived
By Victoria Schwab
Hyperion, 2013

The Archived is a young adult fantasy novel, although its premise is sufficiently odd that you can't really say that it is or is not science fiction. Victoria Schwab is perhaps better known by her recent fantasy books written under the name V.E. Schwab; while she uses this pseudonym for writing books for adults, The Archived shares some of the same tone, although it is set in a completely different world -- nominally, our own.

Mackenzie Bishop has an odd job; she hunts down the ghosts of the dead, and returns them to the Archive. Well, not ghosts, exactly. Recordings. But they don't know that, and they are scared and lost, and sometimes murderous. She's pretty good at it, but she's also learning as she goes; her sponsor, her grandfather, died when she was just 12, and while she is officially a 'Keeper', she isn't getting any official training.

The story starts shortly after the death of Mackenzie's little brother. The family is having a hard time adjusting, and in hopes of making a new start her parents have moved them to a new town, to an old hotel that has been remade into apartments. It turns out that this is a hotel with a history, one with lots of doors leading to the hidden world that connects us to the Archive, and, unexpectedly, one that is in another Keeper's territory.

This is a YA novel, so the other Keeper is another teenager about Mackenzie's age, and he is both handsome and charming (yes, there will be another handsome, charming, and mysterious boy along shortly to compete for her affections; it's how these books work). But more importantly, it seems that someone in the Archive has been hiding things from Mackenzie, the Archive librarians, and even from history itself.

The story takes some time to get into. The Archive is odd, and it's never entirely clear who built it or why or how the Histories are escaping or what they want. Large portions of the story are told as flashbacks told in the second person -- Mackenzie talking to her deceased grandfather. And despite taking place in a very unusual world, there is a strong formulaic skeleton to the book; Girl with tragic past meets cute good-guy boy and then another cute troublemaker boy and etc. But once it picks up it is well crafted and engaging, and even the confusing, under-explained Archive is a feature, not a bug.

I would recommend this to anyone who likes the popular YA novels with a strong female lead and a science fiction setting, but is in the mood for something a bit more mysterious and spooky. This stops well short of being horror, but certainly has a dark and brooding feel to it.

The Archived is followed by The Unbound, and then The Returned.

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