Overall, I enjoyed Kornher-Stace’s tale about a girl with claw marks on her face who traps and studies ghosts because she’s a priestess of a goddess who lives in the stars. I felt like Archivist Wasp was a combination of The Last Apprentice/Wardstone Chronicles by Joseph Delaney and What Dreams May Come by Richard Matheson. There’s also some dystopian and survival elements to it. There’s a few moments of rough language in here and some quick, brutal violence, but nothing worse than what a young adult would read in The Hunger Games.
Kornher-Stace throws the reader into an alien world with zero explanation or background info and it’s a lot of fun to pick out the story from the details. Take this passage describing a ritualistic painting in Wasp’s home:“The bones of the painting were nails, hammered straight into the wall to pick out the stars of Catchkeep’s constellation. And around them She had been outlined in thick black paint, all teeth and legs, Her back curved like a rainbow, caught in mid-leap over a shadowy abyss. … Catchkeep Herself was black and red. Stepping close to Her you could make out the outlines of handprints, darker where they overlapped. Wasp’s first day as Archivist, they’d rushed her here before the blood of the fallen Archivist could dry on her palms, and to the painting she had added the shape of her hand, which was the shape of her predecessor’s death.” pgs 14-15 ebook. Dark, eerie, awesome.
Wasp feels trapped in her role as priestess and lacks the confidence in herself to do anything else. Her personal development and stepping into her power is one of the main arcs of this story: “…beneath all her talk, she knew that what she was about to try would fail, as everything else she tried had failed, and then her life would go on as it had always done, pacing out the length of its leash, smashing into empty air at either end like a bird against a window. Take the knife out of the doorframe. Sweep the dust from the little house. Restock its jars with the useless dead.” pg 67 ebook. She’s a very strong, and believable, female main character. Think Buffy the Vampire Slayer… but with ghosts.
Kornher-Stace’s description of the afterlife was just like what is portrayed in What Dreams May Come or Otherwhere by Kurt Leland, the deceased shape their surroundings with the energy from their thoughts and emotions. In the ghost’s world, Wasp sees demon-like dogs that attack her again and again: “Still don’t believe the hunt is real?” Wasp shouted. She was having trouble modulating her voice. Her teeth were chattering too hard. She had never been so tired. “We bring our own monsters with us,” said the ghost. “It looks like these are yours.” pg 123 ebook. Goosebumps!
I liked the author’s description of what a ghost is: “You’re a ghost. You need answers. You need closure. You need them like the living need air to breathe. You think it’s just you, but from what I’ve seen, most of us die without getting either. And maybe that’s all a ghost is, in the end. Regret, grown legs, gone walking.” pg 155, ebook.
My favorite parts of the book are Kornher-Stace’s varied descriptions of the worlds through which Wasp travels with the ghosts. They are beautiful, desolate, bizarre, and, sometimes, scary:“They tromped through the snowfield for ages. They passed things that, to Wasp’s eye, might have been waypoints. A wind-shredded orange plastic tent. A cave hung with icicles that were mottled gray with ash. A distant huddle of dark birds circling and alighting on an unseen mass. A tiny pond, perfectly round, frozen into a mirror upon which no snow settled. The metal skeleton of something that had fallen from the sky and smashed there, its nose plowed deep into the earth. They walked on.” pg 172, ebook.
If you enjoyed Archivist Wasp and are looking for young adult read-alikes, you may want to try Fray by Joss Whedon (a graphic novel) or Revenge of the Witch (The Last Apprentice/Wardstone Chronicles, #1) by Joseph Delaney. If you’re looking for an adult read-alike, try The Library at Mount Char by Scott Hawking.
Thanks for reading!