Book Reviews

Review: The Archive of the Forgotten by A.J. Hackwith

Ugh I wanted to love this one so much, but it has a serious case of the second book syndrome. Having adored The Library of the Unwritten, I had high expectations for this one. Queer librarians from hell, suspicious ink, and muses? But I had a few crucial issues with this one. Keep reading this book review for my full thoughts.


The Library of the Unwritten in Hell was saved from total devastation, but hundreds of potential books were destroyed. Former librarian Claire and Brevity the muse feel the loss of those stories, and are trying to adjust to their new roles within the Arcane Wing and Library, respectively. But when the remains of those books begin to leak a strange ink, Claire realizes that the Library has kept secrets from Hell and from its own librarians.

Claire and Brevity are immediately at odds in their approach to the ink, and the potential power that it represents has not gone unnoticed. When a representative from the Muses Corps arrives at the Library to advise Brevity, the angel Rami and the erstwhile Hero hunt for answers in other realms. The true nature of the ink could fundamentally alter the afterlife for good or ill, but it entirely depends on who is left to hold the pen.


The Archive of the Forgotten maintains Hackwith’s lyrical writing. Even though this is probably my least favorite of the series so far, I still found plenty of quotes I absolutely love. And Hackwith’s use of the quotes at the beginning of each chapter was absolutely brilliant in this one. They almost told their own story and brought back a sense of high stakes that – for the most part – The Archive of the Forgotten was lacking. Because I felt like the first 2/3 of the story could have been massively edited and the book wouldn’t change much.

Considering the ever present danger to the entire library, The Archive of the Forgotten is lacking that sense of danger. It seems more of an experiment with personal stakes, but it doesn’t have that same sense of scale. And we aren’t sure how it ties into the larger politics of the world, until the very end basically. Because of that, the first 2/3 seemed a bit meandering and while it was still an easy read, I wasn’t sure where we were going. And not in a good way.

There’s certainly an otherworldly whimsy to The Archive of the Forgotten. Not to mention that I still felt like the world building is one of the strongest aspects. But I was pretty confused and frustrated with Claire and especially Brevity. I want to like Brevity so much more than I do, and I have hope for the next one, but damn Brevity you made it so hard this book. However, I will say that Ramiel and Hero ended up being the brightest spots in The Archive of the Forgotten. I feel like the beginning 2/3 was just the adventures of Hero and Ramiel and I’m not mad about that, just like that’s not the same book in the synopsis.


Will I read The God of the Lost Words (the sequel)? Yes. Mostly because the ending 1/3 saved my feelings of the book. It brought me back to why I was drawn to this series in the beginning. I’d genuinely like to see where the book goes. And I’m of course going to keep reading to see how Claire, Ramiel and Hero fare. But yeah, The Archive of the Forgotten was certainly the weakest. Ultimately, you might need to read it still understand the sequel, but just prepare your expectations accordingly (and enjoy Hero and Ramiel storytime!).

Find The Archive of the Forgotten on Goodreads, Amazon, Indiebound, & The Book Depository.


What is your least favorite second book in a series?

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