I read "superhero" in a blurb about this book somewhere, and I highly recommend keeping that word in mind when you read this book. It isn't a superher...moreI read "superhero" in a blurb about this book somewhere, and I highly recommend keeping that word in mind when you read this book. It isn't a superhero book, but it is a precursor to a lot of superhero mythology. The book is really a collection of three stories that blend together rather well, involving several characters with extraordinary abilities who become more than the sum of their parts. The best features of this book include the writing style, memorable characters, and refreshing take on people with unique abilities. (less)
As many others have said, this book is original and eerie in places. I also found it somewhat formulaic in others (the mystery is somewhat straightfor...moreAs many others have said, this book is original and eerie in places. I also found it somewhat formulaic in others (the mystery is somewhat straightforward, for example). What I liked best about the book was the world-building. It's tough to come up with a new target for a supernatural story. Zombies, ghosts, vampires, and werewolves have all been done. This is just something else, which is refreshing because then you can't compare it to all the other books analyzing the same kind of supernatural element. I sympathized with the main character, and I thought some of the side characters (especially Wes and his unique humor) were able to stand well on their own. The main character is grieving from the loss of her brother, and all of that felt very real, even her difficult relationship with her mother as a result. The reveal of the final villain (view spoiler)[ relieved me because I was so worried it was Roland all along. If it had been, I would have hated the book (hide spoiler)].
There are a few things that bugged me, also. There isn't quite a love triangle here, but there are still two competing love interests. It boggles my mind why YA with a female protagonist must always have two choices. Why not three or four? Or one? It's a little cookie-cutter. Additionally, it took me ages to figure out the family relationships. MacKenzie was trained by her "Da", who it turns out is her grandfather, not her father. It would be nice for this to have been spelled out earlier on, although there's something to be said for the "showing not telling" method that Schwab uses.
I also didn't mind that not everything about The Archive was explained in this book, such was where Returns doors goes, who is Agatha, and how the Keeper powers are passed down. There is one aspect of The Archive that does bothers me, however. The entire system - Outer, Narrows, and Archive - are controlled by doors and keys. That's such a very human-centric way of thinking about supernatural things and doesn't hint at a particularly sophisticated metaphysics. On the one hand, I should be happy that gods don't appear anywhere. But on the other, the Archive doesn't make sense without something more powerful than humans getting involved. But then I might be the only one bothered in that way.
Overall, this is the first book by Schwab I read, and I'd love to read more. It was quick-paced with original world-building and some likable characters. I think it would be easy for some people to dislike it, as the lower reviews on Goodreads reveal. You might be irritated by the overly powerful main character or the basic mystery narrative. You might find the first half too slow (I didn't). For most, this book is highly recommended.["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>(less)
I had a lot of trouble with this book. Every time I picked it up after a few days of not having time to read, I'd find I had no idea who any of the ch...moreI had a lot of trouble with this book. Every time I picked it up after a few days of not having time to read, I'd find I had no idea who any of the characters were. It took a concerted push to finish it, and I'm definitely glad I did. About 10 years ago, I would have loved this book. As it is, it's a bit too slow and superficial despite its attempts at deep philosophies for me to give it all out 5 stars. At the same time, I missed the epic fantasy's genre and similar attempts to make sense of the world through fiction and an ensemble of POV characters.
The best things about this book include its scope, world building, and action scenes. I think the fights in particular were carefully choreographed in a way that I could easily follow in my own imagination. Some things that didn't quite work for me include the characters' voices, which didn't seem unique to me at all (and thus my original trouble finishing the book). Although the characters are not cardboard cut-outs exactly, they seem to think, react, and speak in very similar ways. I also lost patience with the plot, which seemed either divinely preordained or predictable, with the exception of one event. I also wished for more dialogue and humor to help relieve tension.
For fans of classic epic fantasy with a splash of gray, I think this is a must-read. All others might want to look elsewhere.(less)