Book Review: THE UNBOUND by Victoria Schwab

Exactly one year ago today, I started reading The Archived for the first time. It was one of my very first reviews on TWBI, and it has remained one of my all-time favorites since then. And today, one year after reading The Archived, I am so excited to be a part of Victoria Schwab’s blog tour for its sequel, The Unbound♥ I could not be more excited, and not just because of that lovely coincidence, but also because this book delivered on so many levels.

If you haven’t read The Archived, don’t worry — there are no major spoilers in this review! And there’s an extra-special giveaway at the end! So check it out…

Book Review: THE UNBOUND by Victoria Schwab
The Unbound
The Archived #2

Written by: Victoria Schwab
Published by: Disney Hyperion
Release date: January 28th 2014
Genres: Paranormal, Suspense, Thriller
Pages: 368
Source: Author
Buy: B&N, Amazon, Book Depository
Add on: Goodreads

Imagine a place where the dead rest on shelves like books. Each body has a story to tell, a life seen in pictures that only Librarians can read. The dead are called Histories, and the vast realm in which they rest is the Archive.

Last summer, Mackenzie Bishop, a Keeper tasked with stopping violent Histories from escaping the Archive, almost lost her life to one. Now, as she starts her junior year at Hyde School, she's struggling to get her life back. But moving on isn't easy -- not when her dreams are haunted by what happened. She knows the past is past, knows it cannot hurt her, but it feels so real, and when her nightmares begin to creep into her waking hours, she starts to wonder if she's really safe.

Meanwhile, people are vanishing without a trace, and the only thing they seem to have in common is Mackenzie. She's sure the Archive knows more than they are letting on, but before she can prove it, she becomes the prime suspect. And unless Mac can track down the real culprit, she'll lose everything, not only her role as Keeper, but her memories, and even her life. Can Mackenzie untangle the mystery before she herself unravels?

With stunning prose and a captivating mixture of action, romance, and horror, The Unbound delves into a richly imagined world where no choice is easy and love and loss feel like two sides of the same coin.


There is something about Victoria Schwab’s Archived series that moves me on so many levels. The Archived and The Unbound are both incredibly, beautifully written, and they effortlessly pull on your emotions. They’re exciting, heart-wrenching, intense, and completely un-put-down-able, and they will give you feels like crazy. They’re just… utterly wonderful.

In this latest installment, Our Heroine, Mackenzie Bishop, is desperately trying to recover from the events that took place at the end of The Archived, but she’s suffering from horrible nightmares about the History she faced. This leads to long periods of time without sleep, which lead to blackouts… and worse. Mackenzie feels like her reality is starting to unravel. Add to that, the fact that people around her are disappearing, and Mac isn’t sure if she’s making connections where there are none, if she’s somehow the causes of these disappearances, of if there’s actually something sinister going on… and that people at the Archive may be responsible.

The Worldbuilding

Other than the beautiful writing, and the emotions these books evoke from the reader, another major reason I adore this series is because of its world. The world and “mythology” of The Archived and The Unbound are wholly original and extraordinary and believable. The Archive as an institution (“where the dead rest on shelves like books…”) is absolutely fascinating. And we get to see so much more of it in The Unbound. It’s sometimes scary, and oftentimes beautiful, and always fascinating. The mythology of the Archive has a weight to it which is just stunning.

The Pacing

To talk about the pacing, I have to first explain that I think of both The Archived and The Unbound as “thrillers”, in a sense. And for me, my favorite kind of thriller is not a constantly action-packed “thrill-ride”, but one that keeps you glued to the plot and different threads of the mystery by slowly building tension. (Many people like slow-building romance… I like slow-building suspense.)

This series may not be full of explosions, chases, and constant action from beginning to end; but it’s full of suspense and potential, which keep building up and up and up, while all the while you know something huge has to happen to resolve things. So for me, the pacing in The Unbound is absolutely flawless, starting out slow (but never feeling slow — the characters are more than enough to carry the story), and then steadily building that tension, until the truly explosive conclusion. (No, literally — it’s explosive. Just read it. You’ll see.) ;)

The Characters

The characters in The Unbound are strikingly human. They are very much not perfect, and they make mistakes (lots of mistakes), and most of all, they are complicated. They are made of many, many layers. We all have different sides to our personality — some we show to the world, some we show to specific people at specific times, and some we keep hidden away. And I cannot get over the ease with which Schwab portrays this complexity in her characters. We are made of many pieces, but ultimately those pieces form a whole, and this is so beautifully realized in The Archived and The Unbound.

Mackenzie Bishop

There is so much going on in this girl’s head, and all of it is so raw and believable. Mac is faced with so much hardship, so many hard truths, and yet even when she’s given the chance to basically start over with a clean slate, she knows the importance of remembering those hardships. Our scars make us who we are. We are our successes and failures, we’ve lived through good times and bad. This is yet another reason why The Unbound is such a beautiful book, to me…

Every life is a pile of good things and bad things.
The good things don’t always soften the bad things, but vice-versa,
the bad things don’t necessarily spoil the good things or make them unimportant.
– The Doctor, Doctor Who, “Vincent and the Doctor”

I would argue that Mackenzie takes this one step further. The bad things not only “don’t spoil” the good things, they are just as important. We are strong. We survive them. And that means something incredibly important.

Wesley Ayers

Wes continues to be his 110% awesome self in The Unbound. I seriously don’t even know how to describe his level of awesome… He is an amazing friend to Mac, and their growing relationship (not necessarily romantic, but definitely something strong and real) is one of my favorite things about this book. Wes is often wonderfully flippant and flirty, but he’s also so incredibly loyal, and he wants to be so open with Mackenzie, even when she can’t be open with him. She has so much to work on and so much growth to do, but she makes such huge strides in The Unbound that I just… Oh, we’re back to talking about Mackenzie again. Sorry. Wesley. Wesley is wonderful. ;) We learn so much about him in The Unbound, but he still remains a mystery in so many ways… I just love him to death.

The New Guy(s)

The Unbound also introduces us to a few new characters, thanks to a new group of friends Mac meets at Hyde School. Most notable among them is a new guy-friend, Cash, who is kiiiind of awesome, and I loved him so much more than I expected to. Being completely honest here — I was expecting a bit of a competition between Cash and Wes, over Mackenzie. And… well, I don’t want to give anything away, but I was really happy with how this dynamic played out. Everything that did happen still felt completely in-character for everyone. I just… I hate to be vague. But that whole dynamic was excellently handled, and I could not be happier with it. Love Cash. Love Wes. Love all the rest of Mac’s friends at Hyde. Just. Love.


In conclusion…

Everything about this series is perfect to me. It takes all of my favorite things and throws them all together and it is perfect. The library-based atmosphere of the Archive, the suspense of a slow-burning thriller, complex and believable characters, heart-wrenching emotions, beautifully-developed relationships… I could go on. This series is wonderful, and this sequel, The Unbound, could not have been better. It’s everything wonderful about The Archived, plus so much more. Seriously, guys, if you haven’t started this series, I implore you. Start it. You will not regret it.

The Giveaway

[US only]

I’m super, suuuuuuuper excited that, next Saturday (February 15th), Victoria Schwab is going to be visiting my local bookstore! And I just so happen to have an extra hardcover of The Unbound lying around… So I think it’s fate that I go ahead and give it away… after getting it signed and personalized for the winner!! :D

Please be sure to read the giveaway guidelines below the widget. The winner will need to respond ASAP for personalization!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

  • The giveaway will run until 12am EST on February 14th, 2014.
  • The winner will have 48 hours to respond, but ***must respond within 24 hours for personalization, with a valid US mailing address and a name for the personalization. If the winner responds later than 24 hours after I notify them, I can’t guarantee a personalized book; but it will, at least, be signed.
  • If the original winner doesn’t respond, another winner will be chosen, and will receive the signed (not personalized) book.
  • I’m not responsible for any prize lost in the mail; Void where prohibited; etc.

46 thoughts on “Book Review: THE UNBOUND by Victoria Schwab

  1. FOREVER FLAILING MY ARMS BECAUSE THIS BOOK GIVES ME ALL THE ~FEELS. (And that’s kind of rare.) I LOVE EVERYTHING ABOUT THIS BOOK AND VICTORIA SCHWAB. <3<3<3 AND EVERYBODY SHOULD READ THIS BOOK. I will shove it into their faces. I don’t even care if I get sued. (Okay, maybe I will care a little. ;D)

    Wesley Ayers (and Mackenzie Bishop) totally own my heart. I was making (dinosaur) noises whenever Wes entered the scene. I just need to know what is his real you-know-what. ;)

    I need a copy of The Unbound in my life! *crossing my fingers*

    • I KNOW RIGHT??? I love love love Wes so much. I can’t even understand why EVERYONE hasn’t read this series yet. It makes me sad. WE NEED ANOTHER BOOK JUST SO WE CAN FIND OUT THAT UNKNOWN FACT.

      Good luck in the giveaway, Cee!!!

  2. I loved this series! Wesley was just so… so… *squeals* Well, you know what I mean.

    I wasn’t a big fan of Mac in this one, but the overall plot and the new characters were totally awesome. AND SO JEALOUS THAT YOU’LL MEET KENDARE BLAKE AND VICTORIA SCHWAB. Damn the fact that authors need a lot of money to come to the Philippines. :/

    • Gah, WESLEYYYYYYYY. He really is the greatest, isn’t he? *swoons*

      Mac destroyed my heart in this one, but in a good way. I just have so many feels for her. AND YES I AM SO EXCITE TO MEET THEM. I still haven’t read the Anna series but still, I’ve heard amazing things.

      Thanks for stopping by Aimee!!

  3. I just bought The Archived last week at a book fair for my daughter’s school. I have heard nothing but good things about it and can’t wait to read it! I would love to win The Unbound so I can read it immediately after.

    • Aw, that’s so fantastic that you bought it for your daughter, I hope you both love it!! Thanks so much for stopping by, and good luck in the giveaway! :)

    • I hope you’re able to read them, and love them! (The Archived is on sale for 99c in the US/Canada today, too, if you need a copy! (: ) Thanks for stopping by, and good luck in the giveaway!

  4. I loved this one too. Victoria’s writing is so smooth and just crawls under your skin. I love how it grabs you and is addicting. Her books always make me think and consider the world/characters she’s created. I really believe that each of her novels gets even stronger and she is on the list of authors I’ll read anything from. So excited you loved this one so much!

  5. I still need to get started on the first book, but I’m so intrigued and convinced and determined to get cracking on all Victoria Schwab’s books! :D

  6. I haven’t read this series yet but do look forward to reading it soon. Your review does make me want to read it more! Love the enthusiasm! Thanks!

  7. Ive read the Archived and really enjoyed it! I met Victoria during her book tour and she is so cool! Thanks for the great giveaway!

  8. I love love loved The Archived!! I haven’t had a chance to pick up a copy of The Unbound because I’m poor!! But I cannot wait to read it!! It sounds just as good as the first one, and I’m so glad that you loved it!!GREAT REVIEW!!!!

  9. I’m halfway through The Archived and I’m really enjoying it. I had to put it down midway through though since I’m not really in the “thinking” mood. (Reading The Archived requires a lot of thinking because of the complicated world-building.)
    I can’t wait to finish The Archived though! (:

  10. Hello! Lovely review. I haven’t read these books, but they have been on my TBR list. It’s just my TBR is so long and I go in the order I put them on the list. This review just reconfirms the fact that I NEED to read these books! :]

  11. I loved the archived. It had an amazing storyline that kept me captivated! I really want to start Unbound soon, I wish I could meet Victoria Schwab one day :)

  12. I did read and enjoy the Archived! I was really surprised. I hadn’t expected to enjoy it as much as I did. Now I’m extremely eager to read The Unbound. It sounds like an excellent sequel!

  13. I just bought The Archived during the kindle supersale yesterday, after seeing all the flailing on twitter. This series has been on my radar since the first 4 chapters of The Archived were released on Netgalley (and I forgot to read them), but seeing how much everyone loves them makes me think these books are right up my alley!

  14. Your review has definitely made me want to read this series! I admit, I haven’t read The Archived yet BUT I definitely will now. I like the characters are believable and “heart-wrenching emotions”? Count me in! Great review!

    • Thanks Angela! I hope you LOVE The Archived, I’m so glad my review piqued your interest. :D (And btw, if you don’t already have it, the ebook of The Archived is on sale for 99c everywhere!) ;) Thanks for stopping by!

  15. I have the Archived but haven’t read it yet!! I know, I am a horrible person, especially considering I actually really love Victoria’s writing – she is brilliant! I loved VICIOUS and The Near Witch, so I should probably be picking up this series sometime soon!

    Lovely review, I absolutely love how thorough and eloquent it is :) Not to mention that you got me super excited for this series!! I love when authors introduce new characters in second and third books, it keeps things fresh and interesting :) Thank you for sharing your thoughts!

    Evie @Bookish

    • Oh man, if you loved Vicious AND The Near Witch, there’s no way you should wait to read The Archived!! I’m glad my review piqued your interest! :D Thanks for stopping by, Evie!

  16. I have been trying not to look at spoilers for the series all day! I am really excited to start The Archived, I just bought it for my nook this afternoon. Can’t wait to get started!

  17. Thanks so much for the giveaway. I recently stumbled upon this series over at goodreads and I can’t wait to read it. The story sounds fascinating and completely different then anything I’ve read so far. The book covers also look amazing!

  18. I’m sooooo excited for the unbound!!! EVERYONE and i mean EVERYONE LOVED IT so i really need to have it ASAP!!!! and it would be even great if i win this signed personalized copy because i have never win such a prize before :( !!!!

  19. Awesome giveaway! I’ve borrowed The Archived from a friend but I haven’t gotten around to reading yet. I’m definitely looking forward to reading this series!!

  20. Yes! I’ve read The Archived….and adored everything about it. I loved Schwabs rich descriptions, imagination, and, of course, WES! I can’t wait to nab Vicious at one point too- I’ve heard TONS of great things.

  21. I have yet to start reading this series but looking forward to reading it. I have The Archived and it’s the next book I’m going to read after I finish the current book I’m reading. Your review makes me want to read the books even more. I like how you explained the pacing of both books. It gives me an idea what to expect from both books. Thank you for no spoilers in your review.

  22. Pingback: Q&A Review: The Unbound by Victoria Schwab

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