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“Maybe Owen was right. Maybe I am a bringer of change. But I’ll decide what kind,” -Mackenzie Bishop. The Unbound

The Unbound

Archived #2

by Victoria Schwab
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In the sequel to Victoria Schwab’s The Archived, Mackenzie Bishop’s adventures as a Keeper of the Archive continue. At the same time, she must balance going back to school and figure out her relationship with Wes, her best friend, and fellow Keeper. But Mackenzie is still haunted by Owen Chris Clarke, the History who almost killed her and nearly brought the end of the Archive. Owen frequently visits her all-too-realistic dreams, and Mackenzie starts to question her sanity as the Archive’s other mysteries close in around her.

But her dreams aren’t the only things haunting Mackenzie. A string of disappearances follows her path, where she was the last person to interact with each of the missing persons. Plus a mysterious man keeps watching her while she’s traveling to and from school. As if that wasn’t enough, she keeps blacking out and waking up with no recollection of what happened. Is a lack of sleep, or something more sinister haunting Mackenzie?

The Unbound is shades darker than The Archived both in atmosphere and content, which helps to enhance the mystery of the Archive and its employees. As the stakes rise, it becomes clear that the reader knows little more than Mackenzie, who struggles with the trauma of almost dying and being manipulated by Owen in the last installment. Some plot points revolve around Mackenzie’s parents, who fear that Mackenzie is depressed, self-harming, and acting out. However, much of the trouble that Mackenzie encounters is because of the Archive and her nightmares. By the end of the novel, Mackenzie is ready to heal her relationships with her parents, Wes, and, most importantly, herself.

The back-to-school setting helps balance the darkness of the Archive and Mackenzie’s nightmares. Although school is not a completely safe location for Mackenzie, school is the one truly normal place that she and Wes experience. At times, their friends provide comic relief and tell Mackenzie more about Wes, who is notoriously secretive.

School also helps bring Mackenzie out of her inner world and the world of the Archive. In many ways, having friends and going to school pulls Mackenzie back into the realm of the living. In both The Archived and The Unbound, Mackenzie spends her time straddling the line between living and dead, between the real and imagined. But in this installment, Mackenzie becomes a more seasoned Keeper while also learning how to live her life.

The Unbound is an exciting follow-up to the darkly magical The Archived. The end neatly wraps up this book and provides a bridge to a potential third book. This book does continue the adventures from The Archived, so The Archived needs to be read first. This book is a must-read because Schwab’s creative prose wonderfully captures the world of the Archive and Mackenzie’s journey, through interesting discussions about grief, trauma, and the scars that we all carry. The dead never truly leave us, but as Mackenzie learns, sometimes it’s necessary to let go and embrace the living as tightly as we can.

Sexual Content

  • Mackenzie and another Keeper, Wes, are friends who spend a lot of time haplessly flirting, though Mackenzie insists that they aren’t dating. However, they do act like they’re dating and Wes sleeps in Mackenzie’s bed. Mackenzie narrates, “I catch his hand, music flaring through me as I draw him to the bed.” They do not have sex.
  • Since Mackenzie and other Keepers have the power to “read” people and objects, another person’s touch tends to be really noisy and overwhelming for Mackenzie. Wes kisses her regardless, and she describes, “The way his lips smiled against my jaw, his now-familiar noise—that cacophony of drum and bass—pressing through me with his touch before I could find the strength to tell him no.”
  • Cash kisses Mackenzie. She says, “His lips are warm and soft, and my head fills with jazz and laughter; for an instant, it feels sweet and safe and simple. But my life is none of those things, and I realize as the kiss ends that I don’t want to pretend it is, and that there is only one person I want to kiss me like this.”
  • Wes and Mackenzie kiss again. Mackenzie describes, “I kiss him, not gently but desperately.” The description lasts for a page.


  • Mackenzie has frequent nightmares about Owen, the History who tried to kill her in the previous novel. Mackenzie says, “I dream of him dragging the jagged side of his blade across my skin as he murmurs that the ‘real’ Mackenzie Bishop must be hidden somewhere under all that flesh.” This nightmare happens often, and he usually stabs her in the dream, “[driving] the knife forward into [her] chest.”
  • Mackenzie’s little brother Ben “was killed last year on his way to school” in a hit-and-run. His death plagues the family.
  • Wes has a rough home life, and Cash describes Wes’ parents’ divorce as “brutal.” When Wes retreated for a year, not contacting his friends at all, and then returned, Cash gave him a “black eye” for abandoning them. They are still good friends.
  • Mackenzie dislikes the family therapist because she assumes incorrect things about Mackenzie and she convinced Mackenzie’s mother to throw out Ben’s stuff after he died. Mackenzie recalls once that “the one time we met face-to-face, she saw a scratch on my wrist from a pissed-off History and was convinced I did it to myself to feel things.”
  • On her way home from school, two guys attack Mackenzie with a pipe and a knife. She blacks out and wakes up to the two men laying on the ground, “covered in blood.” Mackenzie has no recollection of what she’s done. She notes that one man’s “nose is broken. Blood is gushing down his face, and one of his legs looks like it’s bent at the wrong angle.”
  • Mackenzie runs over a jogger with her bike by accident. “The collision is a tangle of handles and wheels and limbs, and we both go down hard on the concrete.” Other than scrapes and scratches, both are ok.
  • A girl named Bethany goes missing, and Mackenzie learns from her classmates that Bethany’s home life was rough. Her mom had remarried and the situation was turbulent. One girl notes that “sleazy dude [the stepfather] has been there all of a week when he’s home alone with Bethany and takes a go at her . . . She did what any self-respecting Hyde schoolgirl would do. She punched him in the face. But when she tried to tell her mom what happened, she said it was Bethany’s fault.”
  • Someone attacked Cash, and he shows up to school with a “cut beside his eye [and] a bruise darkening his jaw.”
  • Owen, the History that tried to kill Mackenzie in the previous novel, is back, though Mackenzie doesn’t know how. He attacks her at school and kills a passerby. Mackenzie describes, “I hit the ground and roll over and up onto my feet again as he lunges forward and I lunge back. Or at least I mean to, but I misjudge the distance and the toppled shelves come up against my shoulders an instant before he forces the bat beneath my chin.” This continues for several pages.
  • Owen kills one of the Crew, another Archive employee, at the dance. The Crew “crumples, and before he can recover, Owen takes his head in his hands and snaps his neck.” A fight scene with Owen, Wes, Mackenzie, and several other Crew continues for several pages after this death.

Drugs and Alcohol

  • Mackenzie takes medication for her headache and then promptly blacks out. When she wakes, “the drinking glass is lying in glittering pieces on the counter, my hand wrapped around the largest shard. Blood runs between my fingers where I’ve gripped it and down my other arm where I’ve carved a single deep line.” She has no recollection of what happened.
  • Mackenzie’s mother drugs Mackenzie to make her sleep. Mackenzie describes the moment when she realizes that her mom slipped a sleeping pill into her drink. She says, “At first I think I’m about to have another blackout, but those happen fast, and this is slow like syrup.”


  • Dallas, the therapist, says to one Crew member, “I’d tell you not to be such an ass, Zachary, but it would be a waste of my breath.”


  • Mackenzie is a Keeper who returns wandering Histories, or ghosts, back to the Archive. The Archive is “a library of the dead, vast and warm, wood and stone and colored glass, and all throughout, a sense of peace.” Mackenzie travels between worlds and encounters quite a few dead people.

Spiritual Content

  • none

by Alli Kestler

Other books by Victoria Schwab
Other books you may enjoy

“Maybe Owen was right. Maybe I am a bringer of change. But I’ll decide what kind,” -Mackenzie Bishop. The Unbound

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