YA Review: Archivist Wasp

Title: Archivist Wasp
Author: Nicole Kornher-Stace

I picked up this book because the author described it as ‘zero-romance YA’, and as someone who writes friendship-based YA I wanted to experience someone else’s take on non-romantic relationships. I’m absolutely thrilled to say that I loved it – I loved the story, I loved the characters, and I loved the die-for-each-other friendships.

Archivist Wasp hunts ghosts in a world haunted by a terrible past. A war created the Waste, and destroyed a civilisation. For hundreds of years, an Archivist has protected her town from ghosts – hunting them, catching them, studying them, and destroying them. But every year, the Archivist must fight other girls to retain her title – and it is always a fight to the death.

Wasp has retained her title for the last three years. The book’s Prologue throws the reader directly into high-stakes action, as she fights for her life and a fourth year as Archivist. The danger feels absolutely real, and from the first page we understand what Wasp is fighting for.

Life as an Archivist is hard. The people she is protecting leave offerings to make sure she is fed and clothed, but no one will socialise with her. The only people she can spend time with are the priest, who steals her offerings and hunts her down when she tries to escape, and the upstarts, who spend their lives preparing to defeat her and take her job. When she meets a ghost who needs her help, she sees a way out of her isolated existence. Together they set out on a journey that will change them both.

Wasp is an interesting character. She earned her name in the fight she won to become Archivist, and throughout the story she shows a determination to survive, and to make life better for herself. She’s not always entirely likeable, but she is completely understandable. She has come from a harsh background and a community that relies on her while pushing her to the edges of survival.

Her relationship with the ghost develops during their journey. There is never any hint of romance or attraction – they both have a job to do, and a goal to reach, and they do everything they can to protect each other on the way. This is a relationship of friendship and respect, and of a gradual building of trust for two characters who usually work alone. The friendship feels authentic, and it is wonderful to read the story and live through the development of trust and understanding between Wasp and the ghost.

The world building is subtle and effective. There’s no infodumping, and we know enough about the post-apocalyptic society to understand Wasp’s motivations and decisions without heavy-handed descriptions or back story. Throughout their journey, the reader discovers more about the setting through the experiences of the two travellers, ensuring that we feel fully immersed in the action and the plot.

There’s a place for romance in YA books, but there is also a place for life-changing friendship. I loved this book, and the lives-on-the-line relationship between the characters. More like this, please!

Have you read Archivist Wasp? What did you think of the story? Did you enjoy the emphasis on friendship instead of romance? Click through to the full blog to access the comments section, and share your thoughts! No spoilers, though – you can post those on GoodReads!

Review cross-posted to GoodReads.

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