Book Review: Archivist Wasp

Archivist Wasp, Nicole Kornher-Stace

5star

Title:  Archivist Wasp

Author:  Nicole Kornher-Stace

Series? No.

Ratings: 5/5

Goodreads


August has been a fantastic reading month for me thus far! Archivist Wasp was purchased because I saw The Book Smugglers, some of my most trusted book bloggers, gushing over it on their site. Equipped with a unique setting, beautiful writing and compelling characters, this book was sure to steal my heart.

Archivist Wasp

A LAYERED & DEEPLY FLAWED PROTAGONIST

I am the Archivist.  Catchkeep’s emissary, ambassador, and avatar on earth.  Her bones and stars my flesh; my flesh and bones Her stars.  Mine is the mouth through which the dead world speaks.  Mine are the hands that record what the dead world left behind.  Mine are the eyes that hold vigil, so that the old world’s death does not return to kill the world anew.

Archivist Wasp has been serving as the Catchkeep’s mortal emissary for three years.  She was not born into the role, Wasp had to kill the previous Archivist to attain this position.  Every year, Wasp has to fight and eliminate younger upstarts to keep her spot as Archivist.  It’s kill or die, though Wasp has tried in vain to spare the upstarts who challenged her.

As Archivist, Wasp’s primary function is to seek out, contain and record information on the many ghosts that inhabit her post-apocalyptic world.  None of the ghosts can speak, so many generations of Archivist have searched in vain for an answer to why The Before world has perished.  At the beginning of the book, Wasp encounters the first ghost in recorded history who can speak – and together they embark on a quest to the underworld.

As mentioned in my discussion posts this week, though I don’t mind the occasional Mary Sue, my heart belongs to the morally ambiguous protagonists.  Wasp is a great character, though she is made cynical by her world, she is still ultimately compassionate and good.  Told that she was chosen to be Archivist, Wasp has been denied an identity and companionship all her life.  I loved seeing her struggles with her self-loathing, her crisis of faith, and her yearning to trust and connect to another person.

COMPELLING PARTNERSHIPS

[The Ghost] had her back, and hadn’t stabbed her in it. It was, to her, impossibly bizarre and impossibly beautiful in equal measure that such an arrangement could exist in the world.

When I realised the Ghost that Wasp discovers is male, I rolled my eyes a little.  However, what I got wasn’t a senseless romance, it was a beautiful partnership between two people who have deep rooted trust issues.  The road to their partnership was no easy one, The Ghost has his own secrets – but more than that, his memories of his past life is fast fading and he tells an unreliable narrative. As much as this is Wasp’s story of self-discovery, it also details the Ghost’s quest for redemption.  I also loved that the Ghost’s uncertain memories guided most of the story’s development, because it allowed the book to surprise me multiple times.  It reminds me a bit of Code Name Verity in this way.

The whole mess made her think of stories, of Carrion Boy and his ally-enemy Ember Girl.  Each quested across a hundred songs and stories searching for the other, but the reasons for these searches- to trick, to slay, to rescue, or something in between – depended on the story.  The only constant was that each time They met, The met in collision that broke one against the other.

The partnership that stole my heart in this book is one that’s never directly takes place in the present narrative: the one between The Ghost and Kit Foster, the companion he’s been searching for.  I don’t want to give too much away, because I think their story is one that is best discovered as you read through the book.  However, my favourite kind of relationships are the ones where two people takes turn to save one another – also to reaffirm and ground each other in reality.  This relationship definitely has that in the spades, the Ghost could not quite remember what made Kit so special to him – seeing their story through Wasp’s eyes was heartbreaking.  Their story is part friendship, part betrayal, and deliciously bittersweet.

She had one eyebrow lifted, one corner of her mouth quirked, as though issuing a challenge to Wasp across the centuries: Find me, little-girl-with-a-knife. Find me if you can.

I also really enjoyed seeing how intrigue Wasp was by Kit Foster.  Though they have never met in person, in a lot of ways, Kit is the one character Wasp instinctively understands the most.  The two women believe in the same ideals, struggle with the same issues (again, the idea of keeping your identity, that crops up a lot in this book), and they dare to challenge a large, deep rooted system and ideas.  I thought among these two women, this book offers some of the most complex female protagonists I’ve read this year.

HAUNTING, GRITTY, DARK SETTING AND ATMOSPHERE

Close up, the bridge was made of trash.  Coins.  Stones. Shells. Keys. Birdskulls. Bits of glass. Bits of plastic. Bits of driftwood. Broken weapons. Dried flowers. Trinkets. Bullets. Leaves. Rings. And a thousand things Wasp didn’t recognise.

“The dead build it together,” said the ghost.  “From their pockets, from their coffin.  From their mouths and eyes.”

The beautiful writing is evocative, from the way the bleak post-apocalyptic landscape – to the gorgeous haunted sceneries of the underworld.  The book also feature some unflinchingly dark scenes, I will not elaborate too much because this is the kind of book that is best enjoyed with as little information as possible.  There is plenty of cruelty in this fictional world, but also plenty of longing and beauty as well.


Archivist Wasp definitely needs more love, I have only seen two blogs reviewed it, and I am forever grateful they put the book onto my radar!  If you are looking for a unique, genre-defying, dark fantasy with complex characters, get this now!

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29 thoughts on “Book Review: Archivist Wasp

  1. This sounds like something I could really love. Why are all the amazing SFF books out now? *Frets over wallet.* Definitely on my to-buy list. Amazing review + nightscape graphic. I also like stories where there is a sense of equal partnership. Ditto morally ambiguous protagonists.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yay! I really do think you’ll love this one Glaiza. Catherynne Valente also blurbed it, her words are law! The relationships are great and no overt romance which is a nice change of pace 😀

      Liked by 1 person

    1. “…unique, genre-defying, dark fantasy with complex characters” mORE REASONS TO LOVE THIS BOOK oh my gosh this might be one of my most favourite reviews from you Aentee! Fantastic view, I’m just so intrigued by your writing, your choice of quotes and your thoughts on the books! You find the most interesting details and you analyse them well. Your graphics? Spectacular! In love with it! So going to make this my number 1 TBR! (If only I can put Uprooted beside it)

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      1. Thank you Nurul ❤ !! I am SO HAPPY you liked this review and that I've managed to add this book to your TBR. You can definitely put both this one next to Uprooted in the awesome pile 😉 I can't wait to hear what you think of it ❤ ❤ THANKS FOR YOUR LOVELY COMMENT ❤

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  2. I am still slightly in love with your graphics.
    (yes, I needed to put that on there XD)
    Obviously, great review! You had me at “gorgeous haunted sceneries of the underworld” ❤

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  3. I have honestly never even heard of this book before, but it sounds amazingly well-done. If you say it is evocative, then I’m pretty certain it will be a 5 star read for me, too (which, honestly, I am in need of one…). Plus, it’s a standalone! No more waiting for a year for the next book! PLus, I’m curious about the partnership betwen the Ghost and Kit Foster. I don’t read a lot of well-written and thought-out partnerships often. Last time I read one it was Dreamfire by Kit Alloway (oh look, another Kit!). Can’t wait to check this out.

    Faye at The Social Potato

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    1. The relationship between the Ghost and Foster is quite well done, and the rest of the book is gorgeous! I hope you’ll enjoy this one and get your much needed give stars read, Faye!

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  4. Oh wow! How have I never heard of this book before today, Aentee? It sounds amazing! I especially like the sound of that main character who is flawed but also very compassionate. I love it!
    Also a partnership you say? Well, I’m in!
    Beautiful review!

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    1. Yes no overt romance but still several relationships you can root for 😀 I loved it!! Hope you’ll enjoy it if you do end up reading it, Nick!

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    1. Definitely, the protagonist is scarred, bitter, cynical, physically worn from her years as Archivist – but she had a large heart! I loved it so much!

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  5. I’m not gonna lie that the reason I’m sort of interested is the graphic. Then I read “unreliable narrator” and about the partnership and the fact that the mood and setting feels so good.. def reading. Fantastic review! I feel like this is one of those dark novels that I’d end up liking a lot!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I am always attracted by covers so totally a valid reason to be enticed by graphics haha. But the plot and the relationships are definitely worth reading!! I hope you enjoy it 😀

      Liked by 1 person

  6. Wasp’s role reminds me a little of The Giver, but much, much more engaging. I love the premise, and the unconventional relationship. I’m so sick of instant love and horrid triangles, but this sounds deliciously complex are really something out of the ordinary. I haven’t actually heard Archivist Wasp before, wonderful review Aentee and thanks for putting in on my radar ❤

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    1. Oh there is no obvious romantic elements in this, just one budding friendship with tons of trust issues and afshfjs Ghost & Kit are amazing. I hope you’ll enjoy it once you read it, if you have enough room on that skyhigh TBR XD

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  7. I thought your graphic design was the cover!! Hahaha. If that’s the case, I will buy this book just because of that. Anyway, I’m not much of a sci-fi reader but for some reason the blurb is appealing to me. Your review helps too. Thanks Aentee!! 🙂

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