Archivist Wasp by Nicole Kornher-Stace
Published by Big Mouth House
Genres: YA, Dystopia That’s literally all I know for sure. More on this later.
For Fans of: Original interesting concepts.
My Rating: 2.5 stars out of 5.
Wasp’s job is simple. Hunt ghosts. And every year she has to fight to remain Archivist. Desperate and alone, she strikes a bargain with the ghost of a supersoldier. She will go with him on his underworld hunt for the long-long ghost of his partner and in exchange she will find out more about his pre-apocalyptic world than any Archivist before her. And there is much to know. After all, Archivists are marked from birth to do the holy work of a goddess. They’re chosen. They’re special. Or so they’ve been told for four hundred years.
Archivist Wasp fears she is not the chosen one, that she won’t survive the trip to the underworld, that the brutal life she has escaped might be better than where she is going. There is only one way to find out.
Did I love this? Did I hate this? HECK IF I KNOW.
So, I normally don’t do this because I suck at summarizing books, but I’m going to give you the plot of Archivst Wasp in a nutshell. Why? Because I think it’ll help you guys understand my conflicted feelings a little better.
This book is about Wasp, a ghost hunter, who’s tired to death of being treated like a peace of dirt by her “master” of sorts, the Catchkeep Priest. This dude is an asshole. We don’t like him. Wasp is also tired of being feared by the townspeople who she keeps safe, and of being hated by the Upstarts under the Catchkeep Priest’s thumb. She’s also sick to death of her job, and most of all, she’s sick of being alone.
Now, Wasp’s job isn’t very pretty. I mean, sure, having to deal with ghosts doesn’t sound altogether very pleasant, but Wasp doesn’t mind that so much. She feels like she understands the ghosts, and she’s actually pretty good at dealing with them. The problem is that, in order to keep her job, Wasp has to fight the Upstarts every year. To the death. And, I don’t think I have to say it but I’m going to say it anyway, she’s sick to death of killing. Which I get, really. Killing young girls probably loses its appeal after the first death match.
So, Wasp is, understandably, 8937% done with life. She wants out. But the world she lives in is such that, she can’t even escape this crappy life of hers before she’s hauled back home by the Catachkeep Priest, and brutally punished. She’s tried everything barring suicide, and event that she’s found herself considering from time to time.
And then everything changed when
the fire nation attacked a strange ghost entered the picture. So, this ghost needs Wasp’s help – he needs her to come with him to the underworld and help him locate the ghost of his dead partner.
Sounds compelling, right? Then why the hell was I left feeling so conflicted about it?
Let me show you.
A LIST OF THINGS I LIKED ABOUT ARCHIVIST WASP
1. The Premise –
Kornher-Stace clearly has a gift for ideas. The blurb and early reviews promised me originality, and that’s exactly what I got. Basically, Archivist Wasp is about a girl named, you guessed it, Wasp. Wasp is an Archivist – a person who hunts and studies ghosts before releasing them from limbo so that they can find eternal peace with Goddess Catchkeep. For some absurd reason, Wasp’s dealings with Catchkeep reminded me a little bit of Catherine Fisher’s The Oracle Prophesies, which is why I even picked this book up in the first place. (Well, that and the pretty cover. I am such a shmuck. God.)
Obviously, Archivist Wasp turned out to be nothing at all like The Oracle Prophesies. Not that I was expecting anything otherwise.
2. The (lack of) Romance –
Finally a duo that don’t end up falling into the bottomless insta-love pit! Finally!
The relationship between Wasp and the ghost (we literally never learn his name) is purely platonic. They’re comrades, hesitant buddies; they find a little bit of themselves in each other. The ghost is very clearly in love with friend he wants Wasp to find, and Wasp doesn’t really seem to have given romance much thought. SO REFRESHING.
3. The Writing –
It wasn’t perfect. There were times when it got a little too clunky and a little bit redundant, and I ended up skipping paragraphs. But for the most part, the writing was compelling. I think that’s a big reason why this book didn’t make it onto the DNF pile. The writing was compelling, the premise intrigued me.
A LIST OF THINGS I DIDN’T LIKE ABOUT ARCHIVIST WASP
1. The Characters –
There was nothing wrong with the characters. I think they had a lot of potential. But here’s the thing, we didn’t get to know them very well. Beyond the fact that Wasp is weary and the Ghost is desperate, I knew nothing else about about these characters. Or, at least, nothing that would help me care about them. Kornher-Stace took more pains to explain the state of the world to the readers than she did to make us give a damn. Which, personally, I think was a huge mistake, because this story is carried by these two characters. Wasp and the Ghost. I would have liked this so much better if I’d given a crap.
2.The Pacing/Content –
This is probably the book’s biggest letdown. It moved too fast and too slow at the same time. There were lots of tedious bits, and portions of text that didn’t really matter because some variation of the same exact thing had been mentioned before. If properly paced, this book could have been great. But it’s biggest issue was that 268 pages just wasn’t enough to tell the story that needed to be told. The story felt compressed and lacking, as if there was some important piece of the puzzle Kornher-Stace had decided not to include.
3.The Magic Elements –
The reason why I couldn’t shelf this book according to genre was because, well, I don’t know where to put it. It’s not sci-fi, it’s not supernatural or fantasy. It’s been shelved as Speculative Fiction on goodreads, but since I don’t really have any experience with that genre, I didn’t feel too comfortable shelving it under the SpecFic tag. YA and Dystopian are as categorical as I’m going to get with this one. Sorry.
Magic was alluded at throughout the novel. From the Archivist’s coat, to the dagger, to Catchkeep herself and the other gods. But there was nothing tying any of this to the rest of the book’s sci-fi-ness. Sure, it served as a way to explain how Wasp was able to get into the underworld, etc, etc. but other than that, there was no point to it. Except for The Ghost, all the other souls of the departed seemed like last minute ideas – something the author tacked on towards the end of her planning to make all of the goings-on in the book seem a little more believable. It didn’t work for me. I was disappointed.
WOULD I RECOMMEND THIS TO ANYONE?
If what you’re looking for is a compelling, not necessarily bad, original read? Yes. Definitely. Based on originality and creativity alone, this does not disappoint. But if you’re looking for a book that’ll make you care about its characters, give you solid, structurally sound world-building, and a story that doesn’t confuse the fuck out of you every know and again, then no. I would not recommend it. Pass this one by.