Release Date: January 22, 2013
(Thanks to ATWT for allowing me to participate on this tour!)
Published by: Disney Hyperion
Imagine a place where the dead rest on shelves like books.
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.
Da first brought Mackenzie Bishop here four years ago, when she was twelve years old, frightened but determined to prove herself. Now Da is dead, and Mac has grown into what he once was, a ruthless Keeper, tasked with stopping often-violent Histories from waking up and getting out. Because of her job, she lies to the people she loves, and she knows fear for what it is: a useful tool for staying alive.
Being a Keeper isn't just dangerous-it's a constant reminder of those Mac has lost. Da's death was hard enough, but now her little brother is gone too. Mac starts to wonder about the boundary between living and dying, sleeping and waking. In the Archive, the dead must never be disturbed. And yet, someone is deliberately altering Histories, erasing essential chapters. Unless Mac can piece together what remains, the Archive itself might crumble and fall.
In this haunting, richly imagined novel, Victoria Schwab reveals the thin lines between past and present, love and pain, trust and deceit, unbearable loss and hard-won redemption.
1. (+) Mackenzie, the protagonist - Mac's got a rough life. Her brother Ben died, and her parents refuse to speak about him; her Mom, in particular, keeps herself busy, which means that they've moved to a kind of creepy building where she can renovate the cafe on the bottom floor, and which means Mac's plate is quite full with her job and everything else. Mac is also a Keeper, courtesy of her grandfather Da, and needs to not only lie to her parents about what she's doing with her life, but also make sure to not get killed in the process by the murderous Histories. She's hard, strong, smart, fierce, but also sentimental. Also vulnerable, her grief palpable and nostalgia apparent. She and her situation are easy to relate to.
2. (+/-) World-building - Normally, I love it when a world is so detailed, so organized and thought out that it's easy to visualize. Except, for me, the problem was visualizing it. The way in which we learn about the world felt a bit overwhelming for me, and I couldn't always picture all the hallways and whatnot. I really do like the concept of Histories in their drawers, their engraved placards, and Librarians with the knowledge of a select few and the Narrow and the Archives and Crew vs. Keepers and doors leading places you'd never think and the ways in which we think about death. I really do--it was just a bit much for me. Also, this is a small detail, but jeez, I was so annoyed in the beginning when I didn't know who Da was. I've only ever read Da in books as the father, so when Mac kept talking about him and her parents, I kept feeling confused; so did Mac's mom remarry? etc. etc.. It took way too long for her to just say he was her grandfather, especially considering their relationship. Maybe I was just dim-witted when I was reading this, but it seems like such a small detail that could have been fixed. Also strange is that no one but her seemed to mention him. They were all suffering over their grief for Ben; wouldn't they too have been reminded of Da? (Another reason why I was confused, because surely death of the son is a reminder of the death of the father?)
3. (+) Romance - it's really sweet, on both ends, and funny. The dialogue. Becoming friends before anything else really happens. Learning to trust each other. They had nice chemistry and I was rooting for them. Also, the primary romantic interest is just plain adorable. I don't usually like reading about the arrogant type, but his struck me as a goofy kind of arrogance.
4. (+) Themes - I really loved the way this book dealt with grief. I'm not really sure I need to write much else, other than to refer you to the last sentence of the Goodreads summary above.
5. (+) Standalone? - I'm not really sure if this book is a stand-alone, because I thought I read somewhere else that it was a part of a series, but I loved that it stood on its own anyways. It had a clear character and plot arc, and even if there are some loose threads, it still felt complete.
6. (--) Villain - I saw the villain coming from a mile away, which could very well have been a part of the book's intent, but I saw the villain, and I thought, "meh." Okay, there are some twists in the villain's story, and there are some equally surprising twists about villain's crony, but ... did I care? I couldn't get into the danger the villain represented. There was a definite linearity to what was going to happen, and because of that, I think there was no anticipation on my end..
7. (--) Missing Factor - When I finished this book, my first thoughts were, well, this book should be rated really high... but why don't I feel more for it? It's missing that "oomph" factor. Why? I'm not really sure. Yeah, Mac was easy to relate to, yeah, I loved the themes, yeah, the world was detailed, yeah, their dialogue was nice, yeah, the writing was beautiful. But the villain didn't compel me, and maybe I wasn't as attached to Mac as I should have been. I just couldn't get over the sense that this book could have been so much more than what it actually was. And that very well could just be me.
8. (+) Writing - So I hadn't read The Near Witch, though I'd certainly heard good things about it, and now I can see why! Victoria Schwab is one of the few authors I've read who can create such fantastic atmosphere with her writing. Reminds me of Maggie Stiefvater and Lauren DeStefano, though her writing is not as lyrical or poetic as theirs. It's beautiful nonetheless.
9. (+/-) Pacing - It was pretty uneven. In the beginning, Mac is getting acclimated to her new home, and yeah, there is that going on, and Mac's job. But in the back of my mind, there was a so what? What now, now that Mac's moved to this new place? What will this place provide that wasn't present elsewhere? The book was a bit slower to answer those questions than I had hoped.
10. (+) Cover - love how the colors really capture the mood + the importance of the keys!
I'm looking forward to reading more from Victoria Schwab in the future.