Book Review: THE UNBOUND by V.E. Schwab

Genre: Fantasy
Age Range: YA
Star Rating: 4.5/5 stars
Series: yes - book 2

Why doesn’t the cover match the title? I read this book in the bind up THE DARK VAULT, and wanted to include that cover. However, as there would be major spoilers if I talked about both books together, I’m splitting them into two separate reviews.


the dark vault

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?


This book sunk its claws into me more than the previous book did, mainly because of its skilful handling of Mac’s trauma.

This book kicks off a few weeks after the events of THE ARCHIVED, sucking you into the fear and disorientating world that Mac’s now in. Owen is haunting her, invading her days and filling her nights with nightmares. Mac’s sleeplessness and fear is also causing blackouts, which were so unsettling to read.

The books should probably have a mild trigger warning for self harm because, trapped in a hallucination that Owen’s there and torturing her, Mac sends up injuring herself. It’s shown as Owen injuring her, which makes the realisation that it was her even more shocking.

The introduction of school was brilliant, giving Mac more people her own age to interact with. The subtle flirtations of Cash and the camaraderie between all the members of Court (the lovely group of friends she falls into) was an element missing from the first book. The does of normality against the breaking pieces of Mac’s life and mind was so jarring, but also hopeful as it showed there was a world and friends ready for her to join.

Of course, Wes goes to the school and their meeting at the gym and sparring is brilliant. The romance between this subtle but engaging as they flirt and Mac tries to hold him away to protect him. They have some truly touching scenes, soft and understanding.

The tensions between Mac and her parents are even stronger, their worry really coming through as well as their fear and helplessness. While their actions do get in Mac’s way, they’re not presented as negative – but rather the reasonable actions of loving parents. The demands made of Mac that mean her parents are an obstacle are obviously shown to be the unreasonable thing. It was a subtle distinction, but could have easily gone the other way – which would have been worrying. As it is written, it’s such a good portrayal of family struggling in a crisis.

Once again, I found the ending slightly disorientating. I think it’s because of the pacing change from the slower rest of the book to the action packed – and setting-switching – finale.

There is talk that, maybe one day, Schwab will write a third book. I really hope so – I loved this one.

Interested in reading this book? Add it to your Goodreads Shelves here:

Read my reviews of other books by V.E./Victoria Schwab:

Young Adult:

The Archived (this series):


Middle Grade:

Cassidy Blake:

Everyday Angel:

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