Blog Tour Review: The Unbound by Victoria Schwab

I am very happy today to be part of the blog tour for Victoria Schwab's new release, The Unbound, which is the sequel to The Archived. I absolutely adored both books and want to say a big thanks to Victoria and Hyperion for including me on the tour!

The Unbound by Victoria Schwab.

The Archived #2.
Published: January 28, 2014.
Published by: Hyperion.
Source: e-ARC received from the publisher for the blog tour. Thank you, Hyperion (and Victoria).

Goodreads Synopsis:
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.

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.

My Review:

In my opinion, a strong sequel raises the stakes of the overarching story that was started in the first book and wow, does The Unbound ever raise those stakes. I thoroughly enjoyed The Archived and this sequel gives readers more of the characters I adore, the imaginative and increasingly dangerous conflict stemming from the Archive, and Schwab's fantastic writing. A successful sequel? Without a doubt.

Mackenzie faced a lot over the course of The Archived, but not even that could have prepared her for what she'd be up against in The Unbound. From the beginning of the novel she is trying to pretend her life is going on as normal as she starts at a new school, but she is barely sleeping because of terrible, painful nightmares. She can't seem to let go of Owen, the history that almost got her and Wesley killed. So she's in rough shape and having trouble keeping up with clearing the histories from her list. But when she notices someone who seems to be following her and a personal connection to some local disappearances, she knows she has to figure out what's going on and that not only brings up some unwelcome surprises but also pushes Mackenzie to her limits.

Mackenzie is quite a character. On the one hand, you have to admire her strength and the power of her love for her family. She survives so much just through sheer will and determination. She is also unwilling to let her family see how much she is struggling and seeing them lose their trust in her is so painful for her. On the other, her strength comes with an incredible stubbornness that not only deteriorates her but also gets her in quite a bit of trouble. She certainly has her faults, but so much of what she does comes from a genuinely caring place. She stubbornly refuses to accept Wesley's help consistently throughout the novel, but only because she is set on not getting him involved and putting his life at risk again. She is a girl that at times I just wanted to shake and say "Let them help you!", but mostly I wanted to just find some way to grant her some peace. I can't help but respect her and a lot of that comes from admiration of her resilience, despite her often self-destructive ways.

There are, of course, other characters that truly captured me in The Unbound. It goes without saying that Wesley deserves unlimited recognition for his smirk, his charm, his heart, and his unfailing support for Mac. He is one of the biggest emotional investments in these books for me and he only gets better in this installment. A new face that I also thoroughly enjoyed, though, is Cash. A Hyde School senior and Mac's welcoming committee, Cash shows incredible heart and dedication as well, and helps at least one aspect of Mackenzie's life have some inexhaustible light in it. Roland the Archive librarian is back and proves that there is always someone who believes and trusts, which is severely lacking in much of the rest of Mackenzie's life. Finally, Mackenzie's relationship with her parents gets infinitely more strained and tested from both sides, but the wonderful thing about watching it unfold is the way Schwab shows both sides. Her parents are not evil overlords trying to run her life. They're simply people who have lost one child and are terrified that the behaviour of the other will lead to a second loss. That's one of the strongest things about these books, in my opinion. Schwab wants you to understand each character in their own right, not just as Mackenzie sees them, and that leads to a much deeper and more complex emotional connection.

One of the things I consistently notice when I'm reading books by Schwab is her writing. Her prose is strong and evocative without being overly flowery. It brings the story alive without being a distraction in itself. She makes important points and distinctions to help the reader along without hand-holding. She invests in each character so the reader can't help but do the same. She is well on her way to being a true word master and that, among so many other things, makes this novel delicious to devour.

The Unbound is so many things. It is a dark story, and a very emotional one, but it is also a story of human resilience, friendship, trust, and love. It is a story with characters that worry you, but also that grow on you and tug at your heart (or, in Wesley's case, run away with it altogether). It is well-imagined and well-told, and deserves to be well-loved. Well done, Victoria Schwab. Well done.

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