Title: The Dark Vault
Author: Victoria Schwab
Date Published: August 14th 2018
Star Rating: 4.75 out of 5 stars
This is a bind up of sorts that includes two separate novels (The Archived and The Unbound) as well as a short story following the events in The Unbound.
We follow Mackenzie Bishop into an alternate world, one where physical copies of the dead are stacked up in drawers like books in a library. These copies are known as Histories, capable of being read by Librarians, pictures of their lives playing out like a film with a simple touch of the hand. On occasion, these Histories “wake up” and it is up to the Keepers to keep them from getting out. Since Mackenzie is a Keeper, she must juggle this part of her life, a job of keeping these copies of the dead from getting into our world. The other part of her life, her life in the Outer, is not so easy, having to move and tiptoe around a family stricken with grief.
It took me so long to finish this, because I was dreading having to put this book down. There was so much attention to detail when it came to the world-building in this, it wasn’t hard to get lost in the story. When I imagined the Narrows, I imagined those horror movies where they are in a hotel/motel and the halls are dark with threadbare carpet, smelly walls and lined with doors with no escape.
The author is a genius when it comes to creating this dark ominous tone to a story. From the very beginning, learning what had befallen Mackenzie’s family and what led them to abandoned their family home in favor of an old hotel converted into apartments, I was hooked. Though I liked the second book better, I needed the first book to be able to envision the Archive and learn more about Mackenzie and Wes, who is the first Keeper she’s met since being initiated into that world.
As for the second book, I was in love! I couldn’t tell if my heart was going to pound right out of my chest from the constant excitement (to use her favorite Librarian, Roland, words, “[she] makes everything inifitly more exciting”). By this time, we’ve seen growth in her character, and we are completely immersed in her life as she starts a new semester at Hyde, a swanky school for the rich.
From the beginning of the first novel, Mac had this sense of being a loner, of cringing when being touched. It was almost a relief to see her have to interact with “normal” teenagers, including Wes, who had done quite a bit of growing himself. No longer was he the gothic boy with metal studs in his ears. With the dress code at Hyde, he was a bit of a looker, if not a complete and utterly adorable flirt. (In case this is your first time reading one of my reviews, yes…I am a romance fanatic.)
There is a bit of a love triangle in this. I know that might come as an eye roll to some, but I was all for it! This was a love triangle done right. Seeing two boys vying for her attention in their own way was so damn cute, especially given her akwardness at signs of affection. I couldn’t help but smile a slightly fawn all over that part of the plot when it came up.
Would I recommend this?
I would be stupid not to. This is a completely original tale, following a girl who has had her life turned upside down and trampled on, but still manages to come out on top. Dark, ominous, and seeping with friendship, I needed this in my life without even knowing it.