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The Archived by Victoria Schwab

The Archived by Victoria SchwabThe Archived by Victoria Schwab
Series: The Archived #1
Published by Disney Hyperion on January 7th, 2014
Genres: Young Adult, Urban Fantasy
Pages: 321
Goodreads

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.

Da first brought Mackenzie Bishop here four years ago, when she was twelve years old, frightened but determined to prove herself. Now Da 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.

Being a Keeper isn't just dangerous—it's a constant reminder of those Mac has lost, Da's death was hard enough, but now that her little brother is gone too, Mac starts to wonder about the boundary between living and dying, sleeping and waking. In the Archive, the dead must never be disturbed. And yet, someone is deliberately altering Histories, erasing essential chapters. Unless Mac can piece together what remains, the Archive itself may crumble and fall.

In this haunting, richly imagined novel, Victoria Schwab reveals the thin lines between past and present, love and pain, trust and deceit, unbearable loss and hard-won redemption.

4 Stars

Though published prior to her bestselling Darker Shade of Magic series, I picked up The Archived a lot later. It stands in the shadow of Schwab’s more popular releases, and though it is far less hyped, The Archived has no reason to hide. The Archived is – as are all of Schwab’s novels – an imaginative, surprisingly moving urban fantasy which builds on the concept of the dead, their histories, and their memories being shelved in an archive. Schwab has quickly become one of my auto-buy authors. And save for This Savage Song, which was a little out of her familiar comfort zone, her works have never failed to impress me.

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A Thousand Nights by E.K. Johnston

A Thousand Nights by E.K. JohnstonA Thousand Nights Published by Disney Hyperion on October 6th 2015
Genres: Fantasy, Retelling, Young Adult
Pages: 328
Goodreads

Lo-Melkhiin killed three hundred girls before he came to her village, looking for a wife. When she sees the dust cloud on the horizon, she knows he has arrived. She knows he will want the loveliest girl: her sister. She vows she will not let her be next.

And so she is taken in her sister’s place, and she believes death will soon follow. Lo-Melkhiin’s court is a dangerous palace filled with pretty things: intricate statues with wretched eyes, exquisite threads to weave the most beautiful garments. She sees everything as if for the last time. But the first sun rises and sets, and she is not dead. Night after night, Lo-Melkhiin comes to her and listens to the stories she tells, and day after day she is awoken by the sunrise. Exploring the palace, she begins to unlock years of fear that have tormented and silenced a kingdom. Lo-Melkhiin was not always a cruel ruler. Something went wrong.

Far away, in their village, her sister is mourning. Through her pain, she calls upon the desert winds, conjuring a subtle unseen magic, and something besides death stirs the air.

Back at the palace, the words she speaks to Lo-Melkhiin every night are given a strange life of their own. Little things, at first: a dress from home, a vision of her sister. With each tale she spins, her power grows. Soon she dreams of bigger, more terrible magic: power enough to save a king, if she can put an end to the rule of a monster.

4 Stars

Always, it seemed, men would overlook unpleasant things for the sake of those that went well. The statues’ eyes for the melodious sounds of the fountain. The deaths of their daughters for the bounty of their trade.

There was great beauty in this qasr, but there was also great ugliness and fear. I would not be like those men who turned their eyes from one to see the other. I would remember what those things cost.

Amidst the dozens of YA fairy tale retellings, A Thousand Nights stands out. It will immediately be compared to The Wrath and the Dawn, even if the two could not be more different from one another. If you go into this one expecting it to be like TWatD, you will be disappointed. The two books attempt completely different things, though in my opinion both succeed in what they are trying to achieve.

A Thousand Nights has gotten a mixed reception and it only takes a few pages to realize why. The writing style does not have the same easy readability and accessibility that people expect from YA books. It’s quite dense and the whole book is very literary; a fast-paced adventure is not what you will find in these pages. There were times where I struggled with this: I would have to reread paragraphs because my mind drifted elsewhere or had to go back a few pages because I had missed one of the subtle hints. So this book wasn’t always enjoyable, and yet I really liked it.

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Passenger by Alexandra Bracken

Passenger by Alexandra BrackenPassenger by Alexandra Bracken
Series: Passenger #1
Published by Disney Hyperion on January 5th 2016
Genres: Young Adult, Urban Fantasy
Pages: 486
Goodreads

Passage, n.
i. A brief section of music composed of a series of notes and flourishes.
ii. A journey by water; a voyage.
iii. The transition from one place to another, across space and time.

In one devastating night, violin prodigy Etta Spencer loses everything she knows and loves. Thrust into an unfamiliar world by a stranger with a dangerous agenda, Etta is certain of only one thing: she has traveled not just miles but years from home. And she’s inherited a legacy she knows nothing about from a family whose existence she’s never heard of. Until now.

Nicholas Carter is content with his life at sea, free from the Ironwoods—a powerful family in the colonies—and the servitude he’s known at their hands. But with the arrival of an unusual passenger on his ship comes the insistent pull of the past that he can’t escape and the family that won’t let him go so easily. Now the Ironwoods are searching for a stolen object of untold value, one they believe only Etta, Nicholas’ passenger, can find. In order to protect her, he must ensure she brings it back to them—whether she wants to or not.

Together, Etta and Nicholas embark on a perilous journey across centuries and continents, piecing together clues left behind by the traveler who will do anything to keep the object out of the Ironwoods’ grasp. But as they get closer to the truth of their search, and the deadly game the Ironwoods are playing, treacherous forces threaten to separate Etta not only from Nicholas but from her path home... forever.

2.5 Stars

Though Passenger has a mixed-race romance and ancient, exotic settings to offer, the plot and pace were no match for the epic premise. A wonderfully imagined fantasy but its execution was rather lacking. This was only my second audiobook as I’m extremely picky with narrator voices but Saskia Maarleveld did a brilliant job at breathing life into this story and creating distinct characters.

Told from two POVs, the storyline follows Etta Spencer and Nicholas Carter on their search for a lost artefact, jumping through passages of time to other centuries and faraway continents – to WWII London, ancient Angkor Wat, revolutionary Paris, and historical Damascus – on a run against time.

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In the Afterlight by Alexandra Bracken

In the Afterlight by Alexandra BrackenIn the Afterlight by Alexandra Bracken
Series: The Darkest Minds #3
Published by Disney Hyperion on October 28th, 2014
Genres: Young Adult, Paranormal, Dystopian
Pages: 535
Goodreads

Ruby can't look back. Fractured by an unbearable loss, she and the kids who survived the government's attack on Los Angeles travel north to regroup. With them is a prisoner: Clancy Gray, son of the president, and one of the few people Ruby has encountered with abilities like hers. Only Ruby has any power over him, and just one slip could lead to Clancy wreaking havoc on their minds.

They are armed only with a volatile secret: proof of a government conspiracy to cover up the real cause of IAAN, the disease that has killed most of America's children and left Ruby and others like her with powers the government will kill to keep contained. But internal strife may destroy their only chance to free the "rehabilitation camps" housing thousands of other Psi kids.

Meanwhile, reunited with Liam, the boy she would-and did-sacrifice everything for to keep alive, Ruby must face the painful repercussions of having tampered with his memories of her. She turns to Cole, his older brother, to provide the intense training she knows she will need to take down Gray and the government. But Cole has demons of his own, and one fatal mistake may be the spark that sets the world on fire.

3.5 Stars

The darkest minds never fade in the afterlight. This series was one hell of a ride (and when I say hell, I mean a there-goes-my-sanity kind of hell). Final instalments are often tricky to rate, as expectations are highest for the book in the series that’s supposed to tie up all the loose ends. While In the Afterlight did provide sufficient explanations for me to look back on the older books and go “Ahhh, so that’s why”, I thought the actual plot was somewhat disappointing after the rollercoaster that was Never Fade

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Never Fade by Alexandra Bracken

Never Fade by Alexandra BrackenNever Fade by Alexandra Bracken
Series: The Darkest Minds #2
Published by Disney Hyperion on October 15th 2013
Genres: Young Adult, Paranormal, Dystopian
Pages: 512
Goodreads

Ruby never asked for the abilities that almost cost her her life. Now she must call upon them on a daily basis, leading dangerous missions to bring down a corrupt government and breaking into the minds of her enemies. Other kids in the Children’s League call Ruby “Leader”, but she knows what she really is: a monster.

When Ruby is entrusted with an explosive secret, she must embark on her most dangerous mission yet: leaving the Children’s League behind. Crucial information about the disease that killed most of America’s children—and turned Ruby and the others who lived into feared and hated outcasts—has survived every attempt to destroy it. But the truth is only saved in one place: a flashdrive in the hands of Liam Stewart, the boy Ruby once believed was her future—and who now wouldn’t recognize her.

As Ruby sets out across a desperate, lawless country to find Liam—and answers about the catastrophe that has ripped both her life and America apart—she is torn between old friends and the promise she made to serve the League. Ruby will do anything to protect the people she loves. But what if winning the war means losing herself?

4.5 Stars

Never Fade is a lot darker and grittier than its tame predecessor The Darkest Minds, which means we get a tougher Ruby, violence, guilt, and an overall action-packed plot where no one holds back. And with the Children’s League, a powerful new player has entered the field, wanting to claim it as its own. Prepare to be amazed, people.

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The Darkest Minds by Alexandra Bracken

The Darkest Minds by Alexandra BrackenThe Darkest Minds by Alexandra Bracken
Series: The Darkest Minds #1
Published by Disney Hyperion on December 18th, 2012
Genres: Young Adult, Paranormal, Dystopian
Pages: 488
Goodreads

When Ruby woke up on her tenth birthday, something about her had changed. Something frightening enough to make her parents lock her in the garage and call the police. Something that got her sent to Thurmond, a brutal government “rehabilitation camp.” She might have survived the mysterious disease that had killed most of America’s children, but she and the others emerged with something far worse: frightening abilities they could not control.

Now sixteen, Ruby is one of the dangerous ones. When the truth comes out, Ruby barely escapes Thurmond with her life. She is on the run, desperate to find the only safe haven left for kids like her—East River. She joins a group of kids who have escaped their own camp. Liam, their brave leader, is falling hard for Ruby. But no matter how much she aches for him, Ruby can’t risk getting close. Not after what happened to her parents. When they arrive at East River, nothing is as it seems, least of all its mysterious leader. But there are other forces at work, people who will stop at nothing to use Ruby in their fight against the government. Ruby will be faced with a terrible choice, one that may mean giving up her only chance at having a life worth living.

3.5 Stars

For me, the dystopian genre usually involves at least one of three things: 1) The world as we know it has ceased to exist and now resembles a wasteland where humans fight for their life, or 2) A virus has spread across civilization and wrecked the hell out of the human species, or 3) Children run the world.

In that sense, The Darkest Minds is your stereotypical dystopian read with points 2) and partly 3) fulfilled. This book is a debut and it reads like one. The writing needs a polish, the pace sometimes stutters, and half the characters aren’t fleshed out. And yet, The Darkest Minds is enjoyable from start to finish, because we’re talking camp breakouts, car chases, supernatural abilities, and an ending that will tear your heart out and eat it in front of you. 

“The Darkest Minds tend to hide behind the most unlikely faces.”

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