Thursday, January 29, 2015

Review: The Unbound by Victoria Schwab

The Unbound is the sequel to Victoria Schwab's 2013 novel The Archived. This second installment continues the story of Mackenzie Bishop, a Keeper who returns the dead, called Histories, to the post-life library that is the Archive. Incredibly intriguing premise, right? Good, go read The Archived. I'll wait.                                                                                     As this is a sequel, it's impossible to comment too heavily on the plot without immediately falling into spoiler territory. In fact, I can't discuss any of the actual plot points in The Unbound because they are so intricately tied up in Things That Happened in The Archived. Just trust me, they're both ace and brilliantly intricate. (If you've read The Archived, I'll mention some spoilery bits at the end under a read more.) The Unbound kicks off with Mackenzie starting at her new school - and seeing a whole new side of Wesley! Prep school Wesley is not a thing I knew I wanted, but boy am I glad I got it. Of course guyliner Wes is best, but it's fun to explore different aspects of Wes' life and personality that we didn't see in The Archived.

The most powerful and impactful part of The Unbound was Mackenzie's personal struggle. The events that transpire in the first book have left a mark on her - and her mental health and personal well-being suffer for it. She doesn't sleep for fear of nightmares, and an overwhelming onset of too-real hallucinations cause her mental state to deteriorate. Mackenzie struggles to stay on top of her Keeper duties whilst feeling less and less in control. Victoria Schwab brilliantly portrays that tenuous balancing act: that refusal to admit and accept you're not ok, and the even harder task of asking for help. Seeing Mackenzie, and her plan, come together at the end is so triumphant to witness as the reader, because you see her come back together as a person. Her anxiety comes across in a way that is realistic and relatable (or as much as it can be in a world where the dead are like books on a shelf). 

Mackenzie's relationship with Wesley is another personal favorite aspect of the story. Sharing their Keeper lives and "real" lives make them even closer in this second book, and my little shipper heart rejoiced. Actually squealed at one point from feels. #properadult

My only knit-picking thing: Cash. He is Wesley's friend and develops a crush on Mackenzie, but I felt like the resolution of that was just a bit too simple. Maybe that's because it's unfortunately uncommon for a guy to accept rejection with grace and still show respect for the girl afterwards. Sad but true. I hope that Cash is just genuinely that decent of a person, and his "rejection" doesn't cause trouble in a later book. That being said, I really enjoyed him as a character. Did I mention his name is CASH? Bonus points for awesome, Victoria. 

Speaking of a later book! The Unbound is the second book in this series, but I don't know the status of the third. There's no cliff hanger at the end, so you won't be left in the lurch when you read it. But you will want more. You'll want to see if Mackenzie and Wes make Crew, what Mackenzie decides to do with her new ace card. So please, if I've made you at all interested, pick up The Archived. And when you read it and love it, go buy The Unbound, too. Victoria Schwab also writes adult fiction as V.E. Schwab, so I can't wait to read the rest of her novels. 

Recently Victoria posted a short (too short for my adoring heart) story about what happens to Wesley immediately after the end of The Unbound. I'll post a reaction/review of that soon, because dear Wes deserves his own post.

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I was pretty glad to see Owen return in The Unbound, because I always have a bit of a soft spot for the bad guy. This is highly reflective of my spending my early years in love with Draco Malfoy. And Owen has some obvious similarities with ol' Draco. Just saying. But he's a brilliant villain - the way he played Mackenzie in The Archived was brutal but genuinely surprising for the reader, and his reappearance in this second installment was great. Her "hallucinations" with Owen in the bathroom gave me such a fright. I'm so looking forward to reading Vicious soon (waiting for it to be delivered!) because damn Victoria Schwab writes a good villain.

ALSO. Mackenzie having the "All" page - oh my god. The sheer potential of what she could do with that sheet of paper gives me chills. I personally have some hopes for what kind of Keeper Mackenzie becomes...but who knows what Victoria has in mind!

If you've read this, please let me know what you think!

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