The Unbound – (An Archived Novel) – Victoria Schwab – Review
(This will be a review for a sequel in a series. Spoilers may be present for the first book).
Mackenzie is having trouble sleeping, which is understandable after her fight with Owen. She can’t close her eyes without seeing the man’s twisted smile, hear his grating voice and be stalked by him. But she can’t show anyone that pain. She has to prove to the Archive that she is whole and capable. But that becomes even harder when people begin to go missing around her. Who is out to get her? Is she losing her mind? Can she keep herself and the Archive together or will Owen win in the end?
I was worried about reading this series at first. I know that Schwab can’t currently write anymore books for this series, due to her contact and current publisher. She has talked about this on her Twitter and Instagram before. So I was worried that this was going to end in a cliffhanger and leave me wanting more. In reality it ended with a final moment that left room for more but also was one I can live with being the final end.
As for a sequel this improved so much on the first. It is so hard to write a sequel to a book because you have to live up to the first, keep the story threads moving and not lose speed. Schwab did a great job at this. While the first one was kind of predictable this one was anything but. I didn’t see so much of this coming and wanted to keep reading in order to know where the whole story was going. It took the first one and expanded the characters, the world while also centering on a common theme and picking up from the first book.
I thought the best part of this book as how it dealt with trauma and how people are forced to handle what has happened to them. Too many times we try to force people to handle trauma how we think it is best for them. We try to help but we are trying to make people be okay too fast. Usually people are given small finite amount of time to be affected then they are forced to pretend they are okay. If they let it go onto long they are seen as too damaged and thus need to be removed from society or their lives.
This was explored well because we see Mackenzie trying to hold herself together. In the book we are only about a month out from the incidents in the first book. She was forced to fight a man she thought was her friend, throw him into a void of nothinginess, learned secrets were being hid from her and watched a boy she cared about being nearly fatally stabbed. Anyone would have severe PTSD after that. But she is told she has to show she is capable. She can be strong and manage her life and job.
In reality she is breaking and she knows it but she can’t tell anyone. She has to clear her list, keep her mask on for her family and deal with the reality of her nightmares in order to keep her job as Keeper. She has to pretend she is okay when in reality she is anything but. The way this was all handled was done really well, I thought. We see her pain, feel her fright and understand her choices. She is one of those characters I had no trouble emphasizing with. I wanted her to be able to break and not worry about losing everything in the process.
I liked the additional characters in this book too. I thought Cash was a nice addition to the cast and Amber had potential. They were every much side characters in this book but I saw where their potential could be.
While I loved most of this book it does use one of my least favorite type of storylines, which I have done a whole post about, so I will keep this brief. Mackenzie keeps too many secrets from Wesley, because she is trying to protect him. I hate that idea. It never works. It only creates confusion, and danger for the other person.
Now this book didn’t use it in a way that angered me too much. I was annoyed for sure but I wasn’t as annoyed as I usually am. I understood her choice. Mackenzie wanted this all to be her fight, wanted to show she was alone capable of taking care of herself.
But Wesley was the one person she could have told. He would not only understand but he could have done so much to help her. He would know how to be separate when necessary. Instead she pushed him away. I thought if she had told him their relationship could have deepened. We also could have explored the idea of having those around you to help yourself heal. I thought we could have seen how important support is to helping someone handle trauma.
I also wished we had gotten a bit more about Wesley in this book. There is so much mystery around him. I would love a book from his POV. I want to know who his family is, what truly happened and why he hides his name. I know that was probably planned for a further book but I would love to have that information.
There was nothing that made me want to stop reading this book. There was nothing I had to try to be okay with to finish. It was fun and exciting and pulled me along the whole time.
I gave this book 4 stars mostly because of the whole secret keeping issue I had. Other than that this is a great sequel and leaves sparks for so much more.
“Maybe I just can’t stand our home-turned-house.” (pg. 15) (I love the way these simple words sum up so much, such a vivid image and idea).
“But the fact is, dreams catch us with our armor off.” (pg. 70)
“It doesn’t all boil down to with or against. Some of us just want to stay alive.” (pg. 98)
“Treat all the bad things like dreams, Kenzie. That way, no matter how scary or dark they get, you just have to survive until you wake up.” (pg. 177)
“We stand out in the minds of others more than in our own.” (pg. 275)