I put off reading this for a long time because it didn't look like something I'd be interested in. It looked pretty creepy, and for some reason I just bypassed it pretty easily and didn't give it a second look until a short while ago. This changed because I saw the blurb for Schwab's upcoming novel, Vicious, and thought it looked awesome. Before I bought it, though, I wanted to see if I would enjoy her writing style, so I would have an idea of what to expect when it finally came out. I'm ecstatic that I did, because I ended up liking The Archived more than I ever thought I would, despite the numerous glowing reviews I've seen. The cover is simply stunning, and the actual book is really soft. I loved how they added the wallpaper in the beginning and the end; this added touch makes everything combined perfect for the story. And after having seen similar art done on the sequel, The Unbound, this is definitely a series I hope they don't touch with a stupid redesign.
The only reason I'm subtracting half a star from my overall rating is that I had a difficult time getting into the story at first. Schwab had a lot of explaining to do with this elaborate world she created, so I constantly had questions and was confused a lot in the first half. This made the story a bit difficult to go back to after I set it down. However, once everything came together and all the pieces fell into place, I was in awe. The author really does a spectacular job in all the different aspects of the Archive, the Narrows and the Outer. In comparison to everything else I've read, this novel feels like a breath of fresh air. It honestly felt different in a good way. I've seen a few people say that they thought the villain was a bit predictable, and maybe I did have an inkling of who it would turn out to be, but at the same time there's a lot of characters so it was difficult at times to narrow it down.
Beside the marvelous world, you have the excellent writing. It flows so beautifully it's hard to stop once you've started. The atmosphere of the entire story felt somewhat relaxed . . . but not. Like this undertone of creepiness created this ominous feel like something really bad was just around the corner. For the narrator, Mackenzie, this is a literal thing, because she never really knew when the Histories were going to come peacefully or when they were going to be crazies and attack her. Again, I must go back to how original this concept is. I was intrigued by the ideas of Keepers tasked with Returning Histories after they've woken up, and the fact that the Histories themselves are "records" of the people they once were. Stranger than that, they actually sleep in the Archive; loud noises wake them up. The words Schwab used evoked a lot of emotion in me, and I was surprised to find that I actually got a little choked up during certain scenes. Caring to that extent really makes me love a book.
It took be a while to get used to the frequent flashbacks between Mackenzie and her grandfather (who, confusingly at first, is referred to as "Da"), but eventually I quite liked them. I could feel the strong bond between them since at the time they were the only two people who knew about the Archive, and naturally having to hide something that big from everyone else they know isolates them a bit. Normally, I would question how often Mackenzie lies to her parents to get away and and attend her Keeper duties, but as they were distracted by their new home and combined with their unspoken sadness in trying to move on from their youngest child's death (Ben), it was easy enough to ignore.
Mackenzie was not hard to emphasize with. She was a perfectly lovely character, and I loved seeing the story through her eyes. Her emotions felt so raw, and she deals with so much, but she remains very strong. I didn't think I would like Wesley at first, but I actually really did. He was there for Mackenzie when she needed him to be, while remaining charming and funny. I was really rooting for them to end up together. The other interest, Owen, was dead - a History, rather. I could see why Mackenzie used him for comfort since touching him was noiseless and painless, but that's all I ever saw it as - using. She wanted to escape the crazy outside world for a bit, but I never really saw a future between them, and honestly I didn't want to. The rest of the side characters were awesome - Roland, in particular, was pretty cool. I'm pretty happy with how The Archived ended, but there's definitely room for a sequel, which I will be checking out for sure when it comes out next year.