Hello Humans! I hope you are ready for quite a long readalong…or perhaps a short one if I end up doing what I always do and reading 600 pages in one go in the bath – nobody’s perfect. But yes, it is finally time, months after release day when my preorder arrived, to read The Dark Vault. At this point, I will buy anything with VE Schwab’s name on it, she could publish a book made out of mushrooms and cats (my two allergies) and I would still buy it (ok maybe not but you see the point). The chance to read The Archived and The Unbound was too good not to miss and I’m delighted to be sharing my reading experience with you.
If you’re not familiar with how my readalongs tend to work (in theory) I read a chunk of the book and then write down how I’m feeling about it, what I’m enjoying, what I think might happen next and so on. I try to keep these ‘spoiler-free’, but you’ll get a general sense of the ups and downs of the story.
I’m thinking about doing a whole separate post on how much readalongs have improved my reading, blogging, and writing – perhaps for my blogoversary in February?
ANYWAY, on with the show.
The two novels from The Archived Series appearing together for the first time.
Imagine a place where the dead rest on shelves like books.
Each body has a story to tell, a life seen in pictures only Librarians can read. The dead are called Histories, and the vast realm in which they rest is the Archive.
Mackenzie Bishop’s grandfather first brought her here four years ago, when she was twelve years old, frightened but determined to prove herself. Now her grandfather 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.Find on Goodreads | Amazon (Affiliate)
Chapter One – Chapter Seven
SO GOOD. Read this while waiting for coffee with a friend and almost wanted the friend to be late so that I could keep reading. The start of this book reminded me a lot of the start of Spirited Away which is one of my favourite films – except it was basically only similar in the sense that the main character doesn’t really want to move house. But I think what felt similar to me was that sense of something so much more about to happen, set against a very mundane, everyday scenario such as moving house. In contrast to the Studio Ghibli film, our main character Mac is aware of the world beyond the norm and has a job of returning Histories to where they belong. I am utterly obsessed with this world and this metaphysic and I’m only just touching on what’s happening in these opening chapters. I am trying out tabbing (sticking index tabs in when you find a bit you like) with this book and honestly the urge to tab every page is strong. So far, this is a very sad book, but I can feel the potential and I am very excited for the plot to shift.
Chapter Eight – Chapter Fourteen
Ahhh. An eyeliner-wearing boy has arrived. Had I read this when it came out (2012/13) I would have been around seventeen and honestly, I would have fallen head over heels for this human. I am less trusting now, though I won’t lie that ‘guyliner’ still kills me every time. I’ve also been thinking, while reading, about how often the ‘I have magic/access to something paranormal but I can’t tell anyone’ is done badly. I’ve read so many books where what starts out as being a way of making the magic more underground (as well as plausible in a realistic setting), soon becomes a massive problem that the author has to work around. In this case, partly because the role Mac plays has been handed down in her family, and partly because her family is so entrenched in their grief for her recently killed brother, so far it is working very well. I don’t know whether Mac will end up going back to school during this book, I often find it’s the school that screws everything over – we shall see. Still, really loving this so far and very interested to see where things go.
Chapter Fifteen – End
Ok. Yes. I love this book. I love Mac with all of my being and I just want her to be happy. The last fifteen or so chapters are utterly amazing. I can’t really say what they remind me of, but there is something, perhaps it’s just other books from that era, they have a certain flavour to them. Possibly the only thing I wasn’t as enamoured with was the way that the romance plot(s?) played out – but I think that’s more a personal thing, that I find it uncomfortable to read a romance that is so clearly born out of grief. But in terms of plot and pace and metaphysic (oh my) this book just ramps up as it goes on. By the end I was desperately hoping no-one would come into the office and interrupt my early morning reading time.
And the beauty of The Dark Vault is that I get to jump right in with The Unbound with just the turn of a page…
Chapter One – Chapter Eleven
All is well with the world. I have switched to purple tabs. Side note: I have decided I quite like tabbing, it’s a bit like giving a book a gold star as you go.
Anyway, The Unbound. So far it is as wonderful as The Archived was, and I particularly like going straight from one to the other, since there’s only a few months gap between the two books, it works and it means I don’t do my usual thing of forgetting everything that has happened but not having the time or energy to re-read.
This book, it would seem, is taking that theme of healing from trauma that was so prevalent in book one, and turning it up to eleven. There are a few scenes (particularly one that I’ve just finished reading at the end of chapter eleven) that some readers may find unsettling. It’s certainly a great story to be reading, and I’ll be interested to see how the metaphysic plays into that very human story as the book goes on.
As I predicted in The Archived, Mac has had to go back to school. This has, so far, managed to not be a giant pain – I always end up bothered when characters who hold the fate of the universe in their hands are still concerned with their biology grade – and she has made friends which I am appreciating.
This chunk of readalong is getting a little long so I’ll pull back a little, but WES. I adore him. How is it possible that both Mac and Wes (and a combination thereof) are me? I am relating to these characters hard and I am excited/scared to read what happens next.
Chapter Twelve – Twenty
Content warning: self-harm
Ok, this is still amazing. I think it’s going to be one of those fast-paced reveal kind of endings as there isn’t too much of the book left, but I’m excited to read it. Mac’s deteriorating mental health is really difficult to read, but it is well written, reader discretion advised. There’s also shirtless football playing and falling asleep next to a fallen comrade – mental note to look for more of these things in books, I like these things. I’m generally enjoying the way this book is flipping the ideas of book one (that the archive is a wholly good thing) on its head, while still keeping Mac as a character with her own problems and concerns. I am absolutely going to finish this today – and I am very excited to do so!
Chapter Twenty One – End
ARGH SO GOOD!!!!!!!!!!!!!
I mean devastating at times.
BUT SO GOOD.
What I want to know is how anyone who read this series back when it was first published survived without the bonus short story at the end? Because I would not have done.
What a great ending, nothing became about ‘oh no my algebra final’, everything made sense, I was hooked, I didn’t want it to end but also I wanted to know how it ended. I’m incoherent with how much fun I had with this book.
All this book (these books?) needed was a little bit more LGBTQIA+ content and I would have called it one of my favourite books of all time. This has cemented my ‘just buy everything V publishes because you will love it’ attitude to things, 10/10 amazing. If you like these kinds of magical stories and you want to read a lovely slow burn teen romance with a hefty dollop of action thrown in for good measure then I absolutely recommend The Dark Vault
My rating: 5/5 stars
I bought this book myself, all opinions are my own.
What will the TBR tea-cup pick next?
It’s the book from December’s Fairyloot box (I have FL books sat on my shelf from maybe August last year…) Fire & Heist. I’ve heard mixed things about this book but it’s got a dragon and the word ‘heist’ on the cover so I’m guessing it can’t be all that bad! Find out in my next readalong, it might be a few days as I’ve got some library books and review copies I need to finish. Follow me on Goodreads or Twitter and you’ll be the first to know when I finish!