Latchkey by Nicole Kornher-Stace. ★★★★
Have you read Archivist Wasp? If you haven’t, you really should. It’s a striking, post-apocalyptic, ghost-hunting body novel that tells a deeply intense story without even a hint of romance. Latchkey is a follow-up, taking place three years later. I strongly suggest reading Archivist Wasp first, and this review will contain spoilers for Archivist Wasp.
The girl once known as Wasp has reclaimed her given name of Isabel, and she’s become a leader of the former upstarts. What was a group of individuals at odds with each other has become a community. But when raiders from the Waste arrive, the entire town of Sweetwater is under threat. Isabel comes up with the idea of hiding supplies and townspeople in the ancient tunnels beneath the town… but it turns out there’s a lot still lingering in those very same tunnels.
I don’t know if I love Latchkey quite as much as Archivist Wasp — I think Archivist Wasp may have had a stronger pacing and structure. Still, I really enjoyed Latchkey, and I’m glad to have read it.
One of my biggest fears was that Nicole Kornher-Stace would introduce a romantic relationship for Isabel in Latchkey. The lack of romance was one of my favorite things about Archivist Wasp, and I’ve been burned so many times by series that have gloriously non-romantic first books before introducing it in the second. This does not happen. As with Archivist Wasp, the important relationships in Latchkey are entirely platonic, and they are no means any less deep or committed for it. Man, I’m getting emotional thinking about how much I love the friendships in these books. It’s just… in the vast majority of stories, friendship is second-tier to romance. Our entire culture tells us that friendships are not as important or significant as romantic relationships, and these books defy that whole notion. This is so incredibly meaningful and important to me, I can’t even express how much. I legit feel myself tearing up thinking about this.
Urgh, okay, enough of me being emotional. On to a thematic difference I noticed between Archivist Wasp and Latchkey: individual relationships vs. community. Archivist Wasp has a small cast, and it’s focused on individual friendships. Latchkey dramatically enlarges the cast. Not only does Isabel have a friend, she now has multiple friends and has become something of a community leader. Much like friendship, community is something she’s never had before. And now it’s in danger. If Archivist Wasp was a Power of Friendship story, Latchkey is a Power of Community one. I think it’s a lovely growth from Archivist Wasp‘s original themes and shows growth in Isabel’s character. Namely, I think it’s the right move.
As you could probably guess from the title Latchkey, shows us more about the Latchkey Project, the program that created super soldiers such as Catherine Foster. As fitting with Latchkey‘s thematic material, the story looks beyond the relationship between the nameless ghost and Catherine to the other children in the program. What was their collective experience? What do Catherine and the ghost owe to them?
I think Latchkey relies a lot on you already having bonded with the central characters (although there was one new addition who I loved too), which is part of why I recommend it only to people who’ve already read Archivist Wasp. I don’t know if Latchkey is as strong a book as Archivist Wasp, but it’s still well worth reading.
I received an ARC in exchange for a free and honest review.