The Archived by Victoria Schwab

The basics

Title: The Archived


Series: The Archived #1

- The Archived (January 2013)
- The Unbound (January 2014)

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Goodreads Summary:

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.

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 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 might 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.

Read a full summary of The Archived by Victoria Schwab below. If you can’t remember what happened in The Archived and you need a refresher, then you’re in the right place.

in short

Mac moves to a new apartment in a converted hotel after her brother, Ben, is killed in a hit and run. Mac has been trained as a Keeper, someone who goes and hunts for Histories and takes them back to the Archive. For some reason, Histories are escaping this local Archive like crazy, and Mac is working overtime. So on top of trying to figure out what’s going on, Mac also has to juggle her feelings for Wesley – also a Keeper – and Owen – a History who doesn’t seem to know it. Spoiler: He does. He’s faking.

what happened in the archived?

  • Mac’s brother, Ben, is killed in a hit and run while he’s on his way to school. Mac’s parents decide to move to a converted hotel and start up a coffee shop. The Coronado is an old building, and so Mac is kept on her toes when it comes to hunting for Histories. The Coronado also has a bunch of doors.
  • Mac has a ring that shields her and blocks her ability to read things. She got this from her grandfather, who she calls Da, as well as a key that lets her unlock doors to the Narrows, and doors within the Narrows so she can return the escaped Histories. She also has a bit of paper that lets her communicate with the Librarians in the Archive.
  • Mac goes to the Narrows to find a History, and returns her. Her best friend Lyndsey calls her, and after that Mac goes through some of Ben’s things. Apparently her parents had no idea what stuff was meaningful, and they’ve just given Mac a load of junk. Mac can’t read many memories from Ben’s things – which she shouldn’t be doing anyway because reading things outside of the job isn’t really recommended.
  • There are several flashbacks throughout that show Da training Mac to be a Keeper, and what the rules are and things. Da chose Mac to be his replacement – every Keeper gets to choose one – and while the Librarians are initially hesitant because Mac was so young at the time, Roland speaks for her.
  • Mac reads her bedroom floor, where she finds a memory of a teen covered in blood that isn’t his. Mac doesn’t know what year this happened, but is thoroughly creeped out. There’s also a memory of a dead girl.
  • Mac sneaks into the Archive and Roland takes her to see Ben’s shelf, although she’s not allowed to see Ben’s History.
  • Mac goes to find a History named Jackson, who fights her. Mac manages to open a door to the Archive, and they both fall through it. One of the Librarians manages to subdue Jackson and take him away.
  • Mac meets Wesley, a Keeper who wears sexy guyliner. Captain Hook, anyone?
  • Mac looks into the history of the Coronado and finds that several years of resident records – from 1951 to 1954 – are missing. She asks Ms. Angelli, a neighbour, about it. Ms. Angelli doesn’t really help. Mac goes to Roland for help, and he promises to try to look into who the dead girl and the bloody guy are from the memory in the apartment.
  • Hooper, a History who isn’t on Mac’s list, attacks Mac and demands her key. They fight for a bit, but then a guy called Owen comes to help her. Owen is a History. Mac gives him a day to try to remember what happened to him, because she feels sorry – and possibly attracted – to him.
  • Roland calls Mac in. It turns out that he’s come across a History that doesn’t have a record of its death.
  • It is revealed that when Keepers or Crew quit, their memories of the Archive and everything related to it are erased.
  • Owen used to live in 3F, Mac’s apartment. His sister, Regina, is the girl that was killed there. Regina left lots of pieces of a story around the Coronado for Owen to find, but he never managed to find them all. He asks Mac for her help with that. Mac does so, and she also keeps Owen a secret from the Librarians.
  • Roland tells Mac that one of the Librarians must be waking up the Histories. It’s the only way to explain the increased traffic.
  • Wesley helps Mac as she learns to control her reading. Previously, when people have touched her, she’s found it overwhelming, but with Wesley’s help she gets it under control.
  • When Owen was living in the Coronado – after Regina’s death – three people died. A guy called Marcus hanged himself, a girl called Eileen tripped down the stairs, and a guy called Lionel was stabbed to death. An old guy called Nix tells Mac all of this.
  • Mac goes to see Ben again and this time she opens his shelf and wakes him up. He starts to slip and lose control because he’s confused, but luckily Roland turns up and puts Ben back to sleep. Mac won’t be able to visit Ben’s shelf again because it’s moved.
  • Roland pairs Mac up with Wesley since there are so many Histories escaping. He also gives Mac her grandfather’s old Crew key, which can open shortcuts to the Archive. It can also open up to the Returns.
  • Mac and Wesley are just leaving the Narrows after doing some hunting together when Jackson slips by them and into the Outer. After some struggle, they manage to get Jackson to the Returns. They have no idea why he woke up again so soon after being put to sleep. Since Keepers aren’t supposed to hunt for Histories in the Outer, Mac and Wes get into a bit of trouble for it. But luckily there are more important things to worry about.
  • Mac finds all the pieces of Regina’s story and gives them – along with the pieces of metal they were found with – to Owen.
  • It turns out that Owen is behind all the chaos. Mac reads a memory from Ms. Angelli’s floor, which shows Regina in the apartment after her death, meaning she’s a History. Owen got her out, since he was a Keeper. Unfortunately, Regina started to slip. He also killed all of those people – Marcus, Eileen, Lionel – since they saw Regina when she was meant to be dead. Owen has let a load of Histories out into the Outer. Oh no.
  • The bits of metal that Mac gave to Owen join together to form a Crew key. Owen turns on Mac and shoves her through one of the doors that leads to the Returns. Luckily she manages to escape.
  • Wesley fights with Owen, and Owen stabs Wesley in the stomach.
  • It turns out that when members of the Archive die, they’re put in Special Collections. If those Histories wake up, they’re not confused and they don’t slip. That’s why Owen hasn’t gone crazy. Or crazier than he already is, anyway.

how did it end?

Mac opens a door to nowhere using her Crew key, and Owen is sucked through it. Woohoo! However it’s not over because when Mac returns to the Archive with a bleeding Wesley, it turns out that Carmen, a Librarian, was working with Owen. It’s okay, though, because the other Librarians get rid of her.

Mac has a chat with Agatha, an important member of the Archive, and convinces her that she’s cool with keeping her memories and that she wants to stick with being a Keeper.

Wesley recovers from his knife wound. He and Mac are officially a thing now.

anything else

Keeper – What Mac is. These guys hunt for escaped Histories around the Narrows and turn them in.
Crew – One step up from Keepers. Work in pairs to find Histories that have escaped into the Outer.
Librarian – Histories who work in the Archive and help shelve and organise the Histories.
History – Records of a person’s life in human form. They look like the person does when they die.
Archive – Where the Histories are kept. Like a library.
Narrows – Corridors that join the Outer to the Returns and the Archive. Where the Keepers work.
Returns – Where Keepers put the Histories once they’ve been caught. There’s a lot of bright white light.
Outer – The human/normal world.

This is a full plot summary of what happened in The Archived by Victoria Schwab. Check out our recap list for more recaps. If you can’t find what you need, you can request a recap from us!


  • Stephanie says:

    THIS SAVED MY LIFE OH MY GOD. I had to read this book for school and turn in annotations about it and a summary. I only got halfway through it and it was all due the next day. Thank you so so so much. Never stop doing these book summaries

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