The Unbound: Not your typical high school drama

The Unbound by Victoria Schwab science fiction and fantasy book and audiobook reviewsThe Unbound by Victoria Schwab

The Unbound by Victoria Schwab science fiction and fantasy book and audiobook reviewsThe Unbound is the sequel to Victoria Schwab’s The Archived, which you should read before starting this book. There will be some spoilers for The Archived in this review, so beware.

Summer is over for Mackenzie Bishop, the Keeper whose secret job is to escort the “Histories” of dead people back to their resting place in the Archive. When we met Mac in The Archived, she had just moved into an old hotel in a new town and solved some murders that had occurred there decades ago. Also, she met Wesley, a spiky-haired eyeliner-wearing boy who turned out to have a lot more in common with her than she ever could have guessed.

Now Mac is starting school at an elite private institution chosen by her father, a college professor. She’s worried that it will be hard to fit in there, especially with all her secrets and clandestine activities. It’s not helping that she’s starting to have nightmares during class because she hasn’t been sleeping and she’s haunted by the frightening events that happened at the end of the previous book. She’s got some serious PTSD.

To make matters worse, Mac gradually starts to realize that people she has recently interacted with are disappearing without a trace and, as the clues accumulate, Mac comes under suspicion. It seems that her nightmares and the disappearances may be related.

From her parents’ perspective, it looks like Mac is becoming rebellious, untrustworthy, and mentally unstable, which leads them to try to curtail her activities and keep her under watch. It’ll be difficult for Mac to solve the mystery before she’s either grounded for life, in an asylum, in jail, or dead.

The Archived by Victoria Schwab science fiction and fantasy book and audiobook reviewsThankfully, The Unbound (2014) is not your typical high school drama. There is some of that, as well as the requisite (but short-lived) love triangle, but mostly the kids at Mac’s new private school are amiable, mature, and willing to help Mac assimilate. As I mentioned in my review of The Archived, I like Schwab’s characters, especially Wesley (though I liked him better in the first book).

The part of the plot involving Mac’s nightmares and flashbacks goes on a little long, making this book move slower than The Archived, at least during the first half. I was ready for Mac’s pity-party to end and for the ass-kicking to start.

I had the same trouble with the plot of The Unbound that I had with The Archived. I just find it really hard to believe in the whole set-up of the Archive and the Library. It doesn’t make sense to me that the Archive so heartlessly requires Mac to do her Keeper job when it’s taking such a physical and emotional toll on her. I don’t understand why Mac is willing to comply when (1) her superiors at the Archive are not very trusting or helpful and (2) it’s so harmful to her relationship with her parents and (3) the whole Archive thing seems pointless. I was hoping that I’d feel different about the Archive in this second book, but I don’t. A third book, The Returned, is expected some time, but I don’t know when. I can take it or leave it.

Piper Goodeve, again, does a fabulous job with the narration of this series. Tantor Audio is the producer and The Unbound is 11 hours long.

Published in June 2014. Audiobook published in 2019. 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.

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KAT HOOPER, who started this site in June 2007, earned a Ph.D. in neuroscience and psychology at Indiana University (Bloomington) and now teaches and conducts brain research at the University of North Florida. When she reads fiction, she wants to encounter new ideas and lots of imagination. She wants to view the world in a different way. She wants to have her mind blown. She loves beautiful language and has no patience for dull prose, vapid romance, or cheesy dialogue. She prefers complex characterization, intriguing plots, and plenty of action. Favorite authors are Jack Vance, Robin Hobb, Kage Baker, William Gibson, Gene Wolfe, Richard Matheson, and C.S. Lewis.

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