Book Review – The Dark Vault by VE Schwab – Titan Books

Book Review – The Dark Vault by VE Schwab – Titan Books

Every once in a while an email drops into my inbox and I have to re-read it several times because I can’t believe I’m that lucky.  As a YA fan, I’m rather ashamed to admit that I haven’t read any of author VE Schwab’s bestselling novels before.  But serendipitously, the chance to read (and review) some of her earlier works in Titan Books’ recently published The Dark Vault has given me the happy opportunity to correct that anomaly.

The Dark Vault

Blurb

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

Mackenzie Bishop’s grandfather first brought her here four years ago, when she was twelve years old, frightened but determined to prove herself.  Now her grandfather 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.”

Binding together The Archived and The Unbound novels, alongside a bonus short story, The Dark Vault is the collection of VE Schwab’s captivating tales about the custodians of the dead.  Hugely inventive and beautifully realised, The Dark Vault invites readers into a world below the surface of our own.  Fusing together Buffy the Vampire Slayer style action with Gaiman-esque imaginings, the collection is an earlier example of Schwab’s creative force, presented here for the first time to the UK and Irish markets.

The Dark Vault is available in paperback from Amazon UK.

About the author

I feel VE Schwab probably needs no introduction but, just in case you live in a cave…  She’s the #1 New York Times bestselling author of more than a dozen books, including the acclaimed Shades of Magic series, This Savage Song, Our Dark Duet, Vicious and Vengeful.

Her work has received critical acclaim, been featured in The Guardian, The Telegraph, Financial Times, and more.  It’s been translated into more than a dozen languages, and has been optioned for television and film.  When she’s not haunting Paris streets or trudging up English hillsides, she splits her time between Nashville, TN and Edinburgh, Scotland.  And can usually be found tucked in the corner of a coffee shop, dreaming up monsters.

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First impressions

MacKenzie and her parents have moved to a building in the city called the Coronado for a fresh start after the death of her younger brother, Ben.  She’s having a hard time coming to terms with Ben’s loss and knows that as a Keeper, she could find his “History” and wake him up, even though that’s forbidden.  In the meantime, the Librarians of the Archive send her notes telling her which Histories have already “slipped” and need to be caught.  Under no circumstances can Histories be allowed to escape into the outside world.

After a fight with a particularly violent History, she meets Owen Chris Clarke, who for me was the literary equivalent of Spike from Buffy the Vampire Slayer.  A bad boy who holds a fascination for Mac and whose ulterior motives only become clear in the second book.  The other side of the triangle is Wesley Ayers, her fellow Keeper who also has hidden secrets which are revealed as the novels progress.  I’ve always had a soft spot for a boy in eyeliner, although sadly none of my teenage boyfriends were as intelligent or as sexy as Wesley.

The narrative is told in the present tense which, I’ll be honest, is not something I usually like.  But after a while it stopped grating as the story developed and took hold of me.  I loved the concept that a Keeper needs to wear a ring to muffle the “noise” of other people.  So Mac sounds like summer storms, Wesley sounds like a rock band, and so on.  VE Schwab has done a fabulous job of ascribing the right sounds to her characters.

The blurb talks about parallels with Buffy and Mac is a great role model: strong, brave, compassionate, and loyal.  Her instinct is always to protect those she loves from her truths and realities, even when her mother betrays her.  I think there are similarities with Katniss Everdeen too although I much prefer Mac.  Her decision, and the rationale behind it, at the end of the second book is intriguing and one that shows what a worthy heroine she has become.

Would I recommend it?

As one of the (probably very few) YA enthusiasts who hadn’t read any VE Schwab before, I had no expectations.  The Archive deals with Mac’s acceptance of and challenges to her role as a Keeper.  The Unbound expands on this with both her journey, Wesley’s and Owen’s.  And an exploration of the masks that we all wear, both to protect ourselves and others.  Of the two books, I preferred the second, which has more plot and character development.  And a good teaser at the end because what Mac decides to do with her acquired knowledge is left open, but not in an unsatisfying way.

I’ve said it before, I think YA writing often tackles issues in a far more accessible, imaginative, and immediate way than a lot of adult fiction.  This collection of stories is no exception and I think any YA fan would love them, whether or not you’re a VE Schwab afficianado.

Thank you so much to Titan Books for organising a copy of The Dark Vault for me to review.  As you can probably guess, I loved my introduction to VE Schwab, and I’m definitely going to be reading all of her other novels now!

This post contains affiliate links, which means I receive a small commission at no cost to you if you make any book purchases using these links.  Please do feel free to check out my other book reviews too.

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Cordelia Moor
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I had (shockingly) never heard of these books before, but oh my god they sound so good. There’s nothing I love more than a gritty YA and this just sounds right up my alley. I love your book reviews because 90% of the time I discover something that I’m surprised I’ve never read before!

Cordelia || cordeliamoor.com

Tiffany
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I’ve actually not heard of VE Schwab before but her books sound brilliant! I love a book like this where you can really get stuck into the story and delve into a whole new world. I know you shouldn’t judge a book by it’s cover but the one for this book is great, really does stand out and I’d definitely spot it in a shop. I’ll have to add this to my current reading list for the future 🙊Brilliant review Lisa, thanks so much for sharing your thoughts on this! xx

Tiffany x http://www.foodandotherloves.co.uk

Bexa
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This sounds like a very unusual and intriguing story! I’ve never heard of VE Schwab before, but I always love discovering new authors and new books. I love that there is a character similar to Spike from Buffy the Vampire Slayer, I’ve always had a thing for bad boys in eyeliner too! Mac sounds like a cool character and I’d be interested to find out about her decision at the end of the second book. I haven’t read many books this year but I’m going to make it a resolution to read more next year from different genres, so thank… Read more »

what corinne did
Guest

I don’t think I had ever heard of this author but as a YA fan and someone always looking for new reads, I could defo give it a go! Thanks for the introduction!

Amie
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I’ve never heard of these books before but they have definitely caught my attention! I’m loving your book reviews right now my lovely!

Love, Amie ❤
The Curvaceous Vegan

Alisha Valerie
Guest

This book sounds great! I’ve added it to my book wishlist, thanks for sharing! 💜

With love, Alisha Valerie x | http://www.alishavalerie.com

melissa major
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I haven’t heard of this book before or the author but the book does sound very interesting! I will have to read it soon.

Mel 🌙 | Moonlight Mel

Susanne
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I am also a big YA fan and I must admit that I have not read anything of VE Schwab either but this could be the first novel of her that I am going to try!

Lupe
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Lupe

I’ve never heard of these books, but I love the premise of them. Young adult books are also my favorite, I’m picky with what I chose to read. This is interesting, I might look into this series.

Jenny in Neverland
Guest

I’ve never read any of this authors books either but I’ve head countless good things about them! This sounds REALLY good. Definitely my cup of tea. I might look into seeing if the library has this next time I go! 🙂 xxx

Lindsey
Guest

This is a great review! Sounds like a great read.

Eena
Guest

This novel sounds really interesting! I love the idea of the dead being displayed on shelves like books, it gives a whole new meaning to the afterlife, ha! Thanks for reviewing this book, Lisa. Hopefully I find time to read it!

cabin twenty-four

Sophie
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This sounds really interesting! The histories sound particularly intriguing. I think it’s great that you enjoyed the second one more. A lot of books can fall flat when they become a series and I love that the second built on the character development x

Sophie
http://www.glowsteady.co.uk

Mariya Zafirova
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I’ve never heard of these books before but they sound amazing!

Mariya | http://www.brunetteondemand.com

New Lune
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Sounds amazing! I only read thriller genre and this just sounds right up my alley. I’ve never heard of VE Schwab before, I’ll definitely check out her books. And the book cover is so beautiful! Great review x

http://new-lune.com

Kim
Guest

You had me at ” imagine a place where the dead rest on the shelves like books”! This book sounds right up my ally and im shocked that I’ve never heard of the series (or the author!) before. Great review Lisa.