YA Review: THE UNBOUND by Victoria Schwab

I reviewed the first book in this series, THE ARCHIVED, after meeting Victoria Schwab at an event last year. I loved the book and so picked up the sequel as soon as it became available. I think I might have loved this one even more!

If you haven’t read THE ARCHIVED and intend to, the following review will have spoilers for the first book, including the description below. Ok, you’ve been warned.

The Unbound by Victoria SchwabImagine 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.

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. When her nightmares begin to creep into her waking hours, she starts to wonder if she’s truly 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. 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?

Here are the five things I loved most about this book:

1. The use of flashbacks – This might be colored by the fact that I recently read another book that played with time in a disorienting way, but I really liked how Ms. Schwab used flashbacks in order to explain encounters that happened in the time between the first and second books. It enabled her to jump ahead to the real start of this story and still show what we missed in the time gap.

2. How self-contained it is – While set in the same world and with some of the same themes, this book has a very different focus than THE ARCHIVED and also a self-contained story arc. Often I read a series and think it’s really just one long book broken into three or four. That’s not the case with THE UNBOUND. The funny thing is, when I looked back at my review of THE ARCHIVED, I asked: How could things get any worse? Well, now I know. This book went places I never could have anticipated. I was saddened to hear that the publisher hasn’t signed a third book, but more on that at the end of the review.

3. The new characters – Another nice side benefit of this story being so different from the first is that a whole new cast of characters was introduced. I loved Mac’s new friends at The Court (does this remind anyone else of “Never Been Kissed”?), particularly Cash and Amber.

4. Wesley Ayers – Oh, Wes, I still love you. He surprised me in the first book by not being what I expected, and he surprised me even more in this book. The more I learned about him, the more I wanted to solve the whole mystery. Unfortunately, Wesley’s history is one of the few things left hanging at the end of the book. Even more reason to want a third installment!

5. Mac’s emotional journey – I’m going to repeat one of my points from the first book here. THE ARCHIVED was about Mac learning to open up to others, and for the most part, she demonstrates in THE UNBOUND that she is more enlightened in this area. However, she has a whole new struggle to overcome in this book. I still experienced moments of frustration where I just wanted her to tell someone what was going on, but I completely understood why she didn’t. It reminded me that just because a character drives you crazy, you’ll stick with them as long as you believe it’s what they’d do.

If you can’t tell, I really want more of this series! Ms. Schwab said on Twitter that she plans to write a third installment with or without publisher support, but she has many other contracted books in the works, so it may be a while. In the meantime, go read THE ARCHIVED and THE UNBOUND!


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