The story follows Mackenzie three weeks after the events of ‘The Archived’ and Owen’s defeat, but all is not well with Mackenzie. Everytime she closes her eyes she sees Owen and dreams of all the ways he can come back to kill her time and time again. Constantly exhausted, Mackenzie must navigate a new school, her strained relationship with Wes and also her doubt over The Archive. ‘The Unbound’ by Victoria Schwab is the second book in ‘The Archived’ series and currently has an average rating of 4.25 on Goodreads.
“Everything that rises will fall. Empires, societies, governments. None of them lasts forever. Why? Because even though they are the products of change, they become resistant to change.”
I am a little unsure how to structure this review as my thoughts on this are truly very conflicting. It’s also very difficult to comment on character arcs or plot progression in the series, as this was set only three weeks after the plot of ‘The Archived’ – which is not enough time for anything to develop. So instead I’m going to split my review by things I liked and then things I didn’t like. I’m sorry if you don’t enjoy that format, but I can’t comment on character arcs like I normally would because it’s unfair to expect any within a three week timespan.
The first thing I picked up on within this sequel and was really pleased to see was the exploration of Mackenzie’s mental health. Even though it wasn’t stated it was clear Mackenzie suffered from post-traumatic stress, and had common symptoms such as nightmares etc. It was nice Schwab included this as anyone who went through the same events Mackenzie did in ‘The Archived’ would suffer from trauma, and it was never brushed under the rug, nor did Mackenzie have any miraculous recovery from it – it wasn’t forgotten by Schwab at any point.
Another great thing about this book was we finally got some development regarding Mackenzie and Wes’s relationship by the end of the novel – and it was about time! I’m glad their relationship moved forwards in this sequel and I’m looking forward to where it may potentially go – hopefully to The Crew. I also really enjoyed Wes in this, as I did in the first book. Unfortunately, there wasn’t enough of him in this instalment but it was great when he was there and I will forgive Schwab so long as she writes a third book and he features more heavily in that.
I believe this is a slightly controversial point, and probably one that is due to my own personal tastes, but I really enjoyed seeing the return of Owen as an antagonist. I thought it was a nice twist and the things he did to get back to Mackenzie only highlighted how ruthless he is. I however didn’t enjoy how easily Mackenzie was able to manipulate and trick him. Owen from ‘The Archived’ was a very smart character and Mackenzie only really beat him due to a stroke of good luck, so I find it hard to believe Owen decided he could trust her that quickly in the second instalment. Regardless, it was nice to have him back and I still enjoy him as an antagonist.
I am also thrilled at the questions and discussions this book raises about institutions and revolutions, and how no movement or empire can survive forever. I thought it was really interesting and a topic I haven’t seen a lot of in YA – but an important one nonetheless. It also fed really well into the discourse about the Archive and it’s role and purpose and how it functioned, and whether it needed reform – as a Brit, it reminded me of Brexit a little bit (but lets not go there).
I didn’t enjoy the setting as much in this book as I think it didn’t suit the book as well. The Archive and Coronado in the first book really created an air of mystery and added this almost creepiness to the narrative, a school in comparison felt too ordinary and too normal for Mackenzie to spend most of her time at, and took something away from the mysterious atmosphere. I think it also impacted the pacing a little and this book felt a little slower to me than ‘The Archive’.
The plot also annoyed me in this one because it only existed due to miscommunication. Whilst I understand Mackenzie might have a hard time communicating due to post-traumatic stress, I believe it went beyond that. She appeared to not communicate with people because she didn’t believe it was ‘their fight’ and only her’s which was infuriating. A lot of the plot points in here wouldn’t have happened if she had communicated with people, and whilst I am fine with a little bit of miscommunication between characters, it can’t be the main driving force of the plot – as it was here.
I remember mentioning in my ‘The Archive’ review grief played a very heavy part in the book and narrative, but it doesn’t in this one. Which is very strange considering this takes place only three weeks after the plot of ‘The Archive’ – so really grief should play some kind of part in this too, but it doesn’t. I couldn’t quite understand why Mackenzie’s grief wasn’t as prominent in this book and whilst I would have understand it being featured less, it was barely featured at all. It was a disappointment as I felt it made the characters feel more real and readers could relate to it, instead if felt like Schwab brushed that grief under a rug somewhere.
Also, I was a little disappointed we learnt nothing more about the Archive and that world in this sequel, there wasn’t much advancement to the world building and I would have liked to have seen more honestly.
Unfortunately this book fall into the same trap many second books in trilogies also stumble into: it’s a filler book. The plot and characters aren’t advanced meaningfully in this and whilst there’s action, relationships, and new characters there isn’t a lot of development. Hopefully we will one day see the third book in this trilogy as it could be amazing and this book could act as a great stepping stone to it. I just wonder if this would have been better served as a novella.
Have you read this? If so let me know what you thought of it!