Archivist Wasp: a novel

by Nicole Kornher-Stace

Paperback, 2015




Big Mouth House (2015), 256 pages


A postapocalyptic ghosthunter escapes her dire fate by joining the ghost of a supersoldier on his quest to the underworld.


½ (136 ratings; 3.8)

User reviews

LibraryThing member bluesalamanders
In a post-apocalyptic world, Wasp is the Archivist, whose responsibility is to capture and destroy ghosts. Then one day, one of the ghosts talks back.

I like stories that dump the reader in the middle of a new world and explain things in bits and pieces as the story progresses, which is exactly what
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happens here. The story starts in the middle of a duel and we learn slowly who Wasp is fighting and why, who Wasp even is, and what her role as Archivist means.

There is a grand sense of worldbuilding and time despite the short length of the novel, bold characters, and a plot that seems to be constantly twisting and changing as Wasp learns new things about her world, her companion, and herself.

A quick read but a satisfying one. Recommended.
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LibraryThing member tacocat
The title character in Archivist Wasp is a girl living in a harsh post-apocalyptic world, bound to a role of bloody ritual and ghost-hunting. Despite her duties to a trickster god and a cruel priest, she decides to take a terrible risk and join the ghost of an ancient super-soldier in a desperate
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search through the land of the dead.

I really wanted to love this book. The setting and premise sounded fascinating, and as I began reading, I found Wasp to be a complex, engaging protagonist, and appreciated that the writing was vivid and fast-paced. But I was disappointed to realize that the majority of the story takes place in the ghost world. The texture and details of the “real” world hinted at a fascinating history and I looking forward to seeing more of it and learning why and how things got this way; so it was frustrating to wind up in the much less substantial ghost world, where it seemed like the author was undecided about how metaphorical or how actual the land of the dead would be.

However, the overall story was still interesting and did a good job of weaving together the ghost’s past life and Wasp’s current experiences. The characters developed nicely, albeit somewhat predictably, culminating in a satisfying (though maybe too tidy) ending.

So while I didn’t love this book, I did enjoy it. Wasp is a compelling character and her adventures provide plenty of excitement. I do wish the setting had been explored more fully, as the “rules” of the world(s) were often unclear, and I would’ve liked more time spent on the circumstances of Wasp’s society. I’d be interested to see if Kornher-Stace will write any other books in this setting.
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LibraryThing member stacypilot
Original, unpredictable, unable to single categorize, this short novel will be highly satisfying to readers who like magic, dystopias, myth, quests, and a strong female character. In an interesting future when our culture is barely remembered Wasp, a young girl is an Archivist whose job is to cull
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and keep ghosts in line. She sets off on a quest to find a particular ghost, Catherine Foster, who is stuck in-between. Without giving away the imaginative plot, the ending was very satisfying to this reader as Wasp finds resolution for her internal conflicts as well as the external conflicts of her society. I am a voracious reader and some books fade in my memory but this one will not! I received a copy for review from LibraryThing's Early Reviewers program.
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LibraryThing member mermaidatheart
I'm always a little leery of books that come in PDF format, especially in this genre, but I found myself pretty quickly invested in this short, wild thrill of a novel. It wasn't technically perfect--it almost seemed unedited in fact--but there was something really captivating about it. It was
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unusual yet quite refreshing to read a YA novel without any romance, and with splatters of violence that weren't wantonly graphic. Wasp is an endearingly bitter little nut of a protagonist, but the underworld that Kornher-Stace imagines for us is the real star.
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LibraryThing member mcdenis
The Archivist, chosen from birth by the goddess Catchkeep, is compelled to capture ghosts and to take notes about them before she disposes of them. To maintain her role as Archivist she must fight to the death up and coming upstarts once a year. But she is tiring of her job and joins a ghost
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soldier to tour the underworld to find his mate. No path is straight. Doors suddenly appear but not where you expect them. Memories are key and can be lost in an instant. In the end, she completes her search, returns to her village and routes the Catchkeep priest. This is a most unusual piece of science fiction. Once you enter into the rhythm of the story, the author captures your emotions and flashes strident ghostly unrealities. A very creative read…well worth the effort.
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LibraryThing member Wosret
I loved this book!

GREAT world building, fantastic characters, and a wonderful magic system. Engrossing, intriguing, and wonderful. I'd love to learn more about the world and its inhabitants.

I'm very happy to hear that a sequel is in the works.
LibraryThing member pwaites
In a way, Archivist Wasp reminds me of Mad Max: Fury Road. In a post apocalyptic world, Wasp is the Archivist, hunter of ghosts. She has to kill to keep her position or be killed herself. When she meets a ghost stronger than the rest, that of a dead solider, she sees a way out. The ghost is looking
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for the ghost of another solider, a woman named Foster. In returning for going down into the underworld, she may receive the key to her freedom. That is, if she’s able to come back out.

Archivist Wasp is a short but striking novel. It’s classified as YA and has a sixteen year old protagonist, but it feels nothing like most YA books. It avoids the normal tropes and is entirely without romance. Seriously, no romance at all. Not even between secondary characters. The most important relationships in the book are Wasp’s tenuous friendship with the ghost, and the ghost’s relationship with Foster, which is highly important but never depicted as romantic.

“She could still see the face of every upstart she’d killed. Still woke from dreams in which they died all over again, woke nauseous and sweaty and scrubbing invisible blood from her hands.

She was sick of it. She was beyond sick of it. There had to be another way.”

The reason I compared Archivist Wasp to Fury Road is that both stories are about dehumanization. Wasp started out as an upstart, a girl whose scars on her face mark her as a servant to the goddess Catchkeep. Every year the upstarts have to draw straws to fight the Archivist. Wasp won the position by killing her predecessor, and for the three years following she’s had to kill or be killed. She’s treated as a tool, not a person, and she’s at least partly internalized that mindset in regards to herself. While their lives were very different, there’s some clear parallels between Wasp and the two ghosts. The two ghosts (the unnamed solider and Foster) were super soldiers, created in a lab to win a war. Yet somehow, Foster was able to retain her humanity. It is this that draws the ghost and through his descriptions and memories, Wasp, to her. Archivist Wasp is the story of people who’ve been used and dehumanized regaining their sense of self.

There’s few to no explanations regarding the world of Archivist Wasp. What led to the apocalypse four hundred years ago? Why are there only now ghosts? What is going on with the strange and often nonsensical realm of the underworld? However, none of these questions ever bothered me, for that’s not what the story is about. Archivist Wasp is not a large story, and the cast is highly limited. It is a story about one girl and her journey, both emotional and physical.

Archivist Wasp deserves far more attention than it’s received. It’s powerful and moving story that I would highly recommend.

Originally posted on The Illustrated Page.
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LibraryThing member zjakkelien
This was very good. If I could, I would give it half a star more. The story is quite intriguing, combining ghosts with ancient (but futuristic) technology. The main character is likeable, even if she is a bit dour at first. She is persistent, kind, and insightful. The ghost characters are likeable
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as well, and the more their story becomes clear, the more links there are to Wasp's world, and the more both Wasp and the ghosts evolve. This was highly charming, with a show of great loyalty,and I have to admit, I'm a sucker for loyalty in any story. It was also gratifyingly romance-free.
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LibraryThing member mizami
Archivist Wasp grabs you from the first line, quickly revealing the harsh, desperate world our antagonist, Wasp, must survive. Her world is built on the ashes of the old world, drastically changed. Kornher-Stace does a superb job of revealing the world as Wasp deals with its mysteries and harsh
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realities. Rather than in long expository passages we’re left to connect the dots as to how the world works and why it might have changed so drastically. Tension builds as Wasp tries to be compassionate, to escape her situation, or to change how things are done, despite the risk to herself.

It’s a classic hero’s tale, in an original setting, told in a style that keeps you thinking and guessing, just like Wasp as she navigates the challenges before her. My advice is simple, read it!

Disclosure: this volume was provided by the publisher for free, for review purposes, with no stipulation as to the contents of the review.
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LibraryThing member Gwendydd
I don't get what all the hype is about.

Archivist Wasp takes place in a very strange world without much internal consistency or logic. It is implied that this world is a distant future of a world much like ours, but the presence of ghosts is never explained, nor is it explained why ghosts are such
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a salient feature of Wasp's present, but apparently absent in the past.

The thing that bothered me the most about this book was the unrelenting violence and abuse. The book opens with teenage girls murdering each other in a blood ritual. Wasp has had to murder several of her fellow teenage girls to get the position of Archivist. On top of that, she is emotionally and physically abused by the priest who oversees her activities. Throughout the book, she is involved in battle after battle. I don't see any reason for this unrelenting violence. Even worse, the violence doesn't seem to have much effect on Wasp or the other girls in the book. Sure, she's tired of the violence and wants to end the cycle, but she doesn't seem to suffer from any type of PTSD or anxiety or other emotional effects from the violence and abuse she has suffered her whole life.

I might be able to stomach the violence if there seemed to be a point to it. But there doesn't seem to be a point, or maybe the problem is that the whole book doesn't seem to have a point. I can't tell what Kornher-Stace was trying to say with this story. There is almost a theme about friendship, but it falls very flat at the end.
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LibraryThing member adamwolf
I really liked this book.
LibraryThing member Liviania
ARCHIVIST WASP has been showing up on a number of Best of lists, so I had very high hopes. It has a great name, a striking cover, and comes from the imminently cool Small Beer Press (founded by Gavin J. Grant and Kelly Link). The opening certainly caught my attention. Wasp, in a fight to the death,
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decides to stop the cycle of violence and spare her opponent.

In the end, however, I didn't really like ARCHIVIST WASP. I thought it meandered too much and combined two stories that didn't really fit together. I kept waiting for an ah-ha moment to bring the story together, but it didn't happen. Wasp shows a lot of personal growth over the novel, but it was hard to connect the event happening to the changes in her character. The prose of the novel flowed smoothly, but how the characters decided to move from point A to point B often seemed more a function of what Nicole Kornher-Stace wanted to happen next than anything to do with actual motive.

The two main characters are Wasp and a ghost who convinces her to go on a journey to the underworld with him, to find a companion he left behind in life and needs to find in death. The ghost is driven to find her for closure. Wasp is driven to find her because once the quest gets going she's invested, mostly. (She helps him at first for medical attention.)

Wasp eventually returns home for her big triumph. ARCHIVIST WASP is yet another novel where a man uses religion to keep a bunch of dangerous girls down. It's a familiar story in feminist science fiction, and one not given enough space to breathe. Too much of the novel is about the quest that has nothing to do with the religion or how people are treated in Wasp's present and it only coincidentally gives her the key to fighting back.

Meanwhile, how did this world get from the ghost's day to Wasp's? In the ghost's day, the big issue was the ethics of human experimentation, not the ways religion is used to oppress. There is a huge commonality about people being used as weapons, and yet that thread never seems to get teased out.

ARCHIVIST WASP is stylish, with an underworld that requires you to travel by means of the things that aren't quite right. For me, it needed another draft to really help the disparate elements cohere. As it is, I think ARCHIVIST WASP is a case of style over substance. If only the characters were as fleshed out as some of the nightmare landscapes.
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LibraryThing member Helena81
Seriously strange. Highly ambitious and not entirely successful. It certainly isn't boring (at least, not after Wasp meets The Ghost), but it is rather joyless. I also wasn't compelled by the geography and world-building, and there are plotholes that simply don't make sense. I didn't love the
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writing, which I found rather glib at times. But, there is a ton going on, and the book certainly felt original. I also found Wasp engaging enough and rather liked The Ghost. But overall, a very strange and oddly unsatisfying read.
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LibraryThing member ladycato
This book is currently nominated for the Norton Award, and I read it as part of my Nebula nominee packet.

Archivist Wasp is a trippy distant-post-apocalyptic What-Dreams-May-Come journey into realms of ghosts and memories. It's one of those rare books where I really wasn't sure how it would end,
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even when I was right at the end. The read, while a bit on the edge of weird for my personal taste, is suspenseful all the way through: Wasp is an Archivist, a role both revered and despised in her wretched society. She hunts ghosts and feels like she understands them pretty well... until she is confronted by an oddly talkative ghost who asks for her help in finding his long-dead comrade. They strike an uneasy alliance as they take on the quest together.

As I said before, I liked how this book surprised me. It's not a romance in the slightest. It defies any traditional ideas of genre--it's set four-hundred years after the apocalypse, in the ruins of society, but also delves into science fiction and superheroes, and it's staunchly young adult by the ages of the protagonists. I did feel like the worldbuilding was off at a few points; it mentions plastics being used, and I also expected language to evolve more over that time.

Still, it made for an intriguing read. I can see why it made the finalist list.
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LibraryThing member Herenya
Wasp’s position is an isolated and difficult one. As Archivist, she captures, studies and destroys ghosts for the Catchkeep-priest, and each year has to kill her would-be successors in order to keep her job -- and stay alive. But then she meets a ghost unlike all the others. A ghost who not only
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can talk to her but wants her help to find another ghost, Foster.

This post-apocalyptic mystery was not what I was expecting -- it spends more time focusing on the ghost and Foster’s past than on Wasp in her role as Archivist. And it was probably not a good choice for an audiobook, not for me and especially not for me on long car trips. (It’s harder to skip back or skim ahead with audiobook, and much harder to do those things when I’m driving.) The story is darker and more violent than I’d prefer and I think if I had been able to read it at my own pace I would have been less uneasy, and would have found some of the transitions between Wasp’s present and the past less confusing too.

But that’s me.

This is an intense, sharply-written story about about trust and teamwork and being caught in a terrible world. I was intrigued as well as horrified by the details about Foster’s life. I liked the connections, both thematic and physical, between Wasp and Foster. By the end, I was much more invested in the story’s few characters.

I am curious about the sequel.

“We’re going to find her. And when we do, if she wants me to walk away, I’ll walk away. But first I need to talk to her. One last time.”
Of course you do, Wasp thought. 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.
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LibraryThing member Gretchening
This book was such an entertaining trip! I'm not completely sure I got the nuance of everything, but it was excellent fun to be on this bizarre ride. The protagonist is wonderfully sensible and worldweary, and her friendship with the ghost soldier is engaging. The worldbuilding is really cool, too.
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This reminded me in a lot of ways of Sabriel, of Tombs of Atuan, of the show Dark Angel, and dealt interestingly with power, control, violence, memory and history through an otherworldly quest narrative.
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LibraryThing member nbmars
When I begin a fantasy novel, the plot has to pull me in pretty much immediately, because I need incentive to begin the hard work of figuring out what the rules are for the alternate world of the story. To be honest, if it doesn’t grab me at once, you probably wouldn’t see it reviewed by me,
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because I would have abandoned it.

This gripping story, set in a time far into the future, is about the latest girl to be marked as “Archivist” by the Catchkeep Priest. The Archivist is someone whose job is trapping the many ghosts that wander through the area, and trying to get information from them on who they were and what happened to the old world. After she is done interrogating them, she is supposed to “dispatch” them. She is trained to be brutal; she becomes Archivist only after killing other “upstarts” wanting the job.

But this is not at all a “ghost story.” The ghosts provide a frame for the picture of life in this post-apocalyptic world, and eventually, answers about how it came about.

Wasp, as the current Archivist is called, has been Archivist for three years, but she is not like the girls who came before her, over a time period extending at least four hundred years, according to the archival records. She doesn’t like all the killing, and she hates the cruel, abusive, and corrupt Catchkeep Priest who controls her life. She knows that while the Catchkeep Priest is full of hate, the ghosts were not similarly evil:

“[They] were just hungry, lonely, lost. Desperate and confused. These were all things she could relate to.”

She is ruefully aware that her compassion is a weakness in her world; she wouldn’t mind if another would-be archivist killed her for the job, except that she isn’t the type to give up so easily. But she hates what she does and has done, and wants to earn redemption, somehow.

That opportunity comes to her with the appeal of the strongest ghost she ever encountered, one who not only speaks to her, but asks her help in finding another ghost. He offers something she wants in return. Thus they make a bargain, and she and the ghost set off on an epic quest on a journey to the Underworld, from which she might not make it back.

Note that in myth, a trip to the Underworld, or “katabasis,” means not only a journey into the depths of the world, but into the depths of oneself. Unlike a “normal” bildungsroman focusing on a character’s spiritual education, a katabasis takes you into a world which has its own geography and rules but which reflects the world of the living in a way you would not have seen otherwise. The protagonist undergoes tests and trials, and meets both allies and enemies, always with survival uncertain. But the reward is enlightenment, and maybe more, from transformation to liberation.

In this case, Wasp learns the truth about her world, and the world that came before hers. The cost may be her life.

Evaluation: This is not at all a YA romance. The ghost and the Archivist have a partnership, built on not only need but mutual respect. And yet as you will see, it does contain a love story. And it is also a story about friendship that lasts through eternity, with a bit of existential flavor added about the meaning of existence. There is a wholly different route for this brave and prickly protagonist to find fulfillment than the usual romantic encounters or "saving the world," and it is outstandingly unique in this genre. Most gratifyingly, the ending is pretty spectacular. This book has garnered a number of awards.
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LibraryThing member erinclark
Intriguing. I really liked it and decided to read it as I have won the second book in the series as an Early Reviewer Snag. Now I can go ahead and start 'Latchkey'. Yeah:)
LibraryThing member VoodooYeager
Archivist Wasp is an interesting read. If you are into paranormal books, this is a good fit. It is a slow build, but halfway through, I couldn't put the book down. I read it in about 2 days.

Some of the characters could be described better. I would have liked to have a name to one of the characters
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instead of simply "the ghost". It was confusing at times.

This book was slightly different than most YA dystopian novels. It still depicted a female "warrior-of-the-wasteland" style character, chock full of self-doubt and flaws, with an evil "overlord" style protagonist. Most protagonists were male, and were crudely described. The storyline and arc, however, were refreshingly new. The idea of "ghosts" constantly disrupting the general life of the town and the fact that there are deep down secrets from these ghosts leads to quite the turn of events.
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LibraryThing member allison_s
GAH. This is exactly what a dystopian novel should be. I was in the mood for something bittersweet and I guess this really hit the spot. Also, the imagery is amazing. I especially loved the early description of the painting of Catchkeep, with hammered-in nails serving as the stars of the
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Not FUN, per se, but so so so good.
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LibraryThing member m_mozeleski
This book defied my expectations. It is not "archivist-as-Librarian" related, as much as "Archivist-as-record-of-the-past-combined-with-protector-of-the-community", assuming the first thing that comes to mind as needing protection frim is ghosts.

Of course, in this world, salt makes ghosts stronger,
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although technically it can bind them.

It took me a little while to buy into the book, but I was intrigued from the start. It truly is a work of art, and the characters are believable and we get to see their growth from stubborn trying-to-rebel-Archivist to a woman who can hold her own against those previously feared.
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LibraryThing member Chris.Bulin
I'm not sure I've ever read something quite like this. The last fifty pages or so pushed it from a strong 3.5 stars to 4 stars for me.
LibraryThing member jdifelice
3.5 stars

This was a very unique book. It was definitely not what I was expecting. The premise was really cool, a ghost hunter who helps a ghost find someone in exchange for a peek into how the world used to be. I enjoyed the characters and how they developed and this book really showcases strong
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friendships and what it really means to care. I enjoyed Wasp's struggles with her occupation and finding out more about herself. The writing was pretty good, and there was some world building, but for the most part it was pretty vague. By the end of the book it becomes clear why this was, but it was a little confusing at the beginning.
Overall, I was immersed in the story and was interested in where it was going (I read most of this in one day) and I liked it :)
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LibraryThing member jennybeast
Excellent writing, and a harsh, abusive, survival story. Wasp is a ghost hunter (sort of) and a tormented shaman figure to her people, desperately seeking a way out of her life and also the history of her apocalypse. Not an easy book, but an intense adventure through death and dreamlands, to find
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one ghost's past. Some superhero actions (peripherally), some Mad Max dystopia. Mostly just an excellently told tale.
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Original language


Original publication date


Physical description

256 p.; 8 inches


1618730975 / 9781618730978
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