Now that we are well into the second month of the SPFBO 6 Finals, it’s time to start posting our reviews. Our first up is Last Memoria by Rachel Emma Shaw, chosen by The Weatherwax Report team.
|Series: Memoria Duology #1||Genre: Fantasy, Dark Fantasy|
|Date of Publishing: May 10th 2020||Publisher: self-published|
Sarilla has learnt one thing from stealing memories. Everybody lies.
There’s nothing Sarilla hates more than stealing memories, but the king forces her to take them to keep his subjects in line. She wants to escape to where nobody knows what she is or what she can do, but her plans go awry when she runs into Falon.
Falon has a six month void in his memories that he’s desperate to restore. He doesn’t know why they were taken or what they contained, nor why the man he loves is acting so cagily about what happened during that time. He hopes to use Sarilla to get back his stolen memories and doesn’t care what she wants or why she’s desperate to escape. She will help him get them back, whether she wants to or not.
Jen – 6.8/10
Last Memoria was very different than what I expected and it has taken me a while to wrap my head around my feelings about it.
I didn’t read the summary other than the “Sunshine meets Abercrombie” so I was expecting a slower exploration of memory, and maybe sad cryfest, with a feel-good ending (I haven’t seen Eternal Sunshine or read any Abercrombie). This wasn’t any of that. Well, except maybe the memory exploration but there was certainly nothing feel-good about that ending.
The first half is in Sarilla’s POV. There was more mystery and secrets, and a world to learn about which kept me really involved and wanting to know more. I really enjoyed her section because of that, and I read through it quickly.
The back half in Falon’s POV was slower, less hopeful and darker, as we get filled in on some history and more of the world-building. I didn’t like Falon, which probably didn’t help me to read through his parts any quicker.
I loved the world though, so many things were intriguing to me.
The Blackvine – I thought this sort of seek and destroy living root system was very cool and I liked why it was created. (it made me think of Sleeping Beauty and now I’m wanting someone to write a retelling with rogue bramble bushes).
The graves – I wasn’t sure if they were actual graves or sinkholes the blackvine created as it moved through the land but this was just a neat idea. I would have liked to understand more of why they were there.
And I especially enjoyed the Memoria’s ability to rewire the memories – the memories can be taken, and returned, and how they appear in the form of a tattoo of sorts on the body of the Memoria’s, everything about this kept me reading, wanting to know more.
Other things I liked, were the explorations into memory, how it affects who we are and how we see others, etc.
I thought the relationships were really well done. A little messed up but still true to that self-destructive nature that comes about sometimes from dysfunctional upbringings and/or relationships.
These were characters that were hard to like. I felt sympathy for her and him both, but as the story unfolded, my sympathy level dropped a lot, as I liked them less the more I got to know them. (Other than Havric, whom I shipped with her, over Falon, because he seemed caring and kind, and I wanted her to drop Falon like hot potato for him. lol)
When the focus is narrow like this, and we are seeing them through each other’s eyes with all that emotional baggage; anger and hurt working as a lens, well, it kind of gives us a very skewered viewpoint that is hard to see past.
I actually have to admire the writing for miring us down so much in their emotions as readers that we don’t even notice it’s happening. Though the style doesn’t leave much room for the motivations of the characters outside the two main POVs, it does make for interesting main characters, especially ones who are so tied up in each other’s story.
This is a little bleaker than I usually prefer. Part of me would like to return and see how this story plays out but that dim hopeless feeling ending makes me question whether the characters will triumph or not and I am one who prefers to have a nice shiny hopeful ending at the end of my bleak rainbow. (I did appreciate that all the interesting to me, stuff has mostly been explained so I don’t have any burning questions that will keep me up at night.)
This is one that if I were go on to read the follow-up, I would actually do what I never do, and that’s check the reviews to see how the characters fare.
Nick – 6.5/10
This was a pretty complex fantasy story about a girl named Sarilla who has the unique ability to steal people’s memories. It comes in very handy when she is in the employ of the King, who often asks her to search the memories of his political enemies and others who he wishes to keep one step ahead of. She is often tortured by her ability in that she doesn’t really want her talent per se but as a Memori, she really has no choice in the matter. The second half of the book follows the other POV character named Falon. He is the flip side of the coin in that he is one who was on the other end of a memory wipe and has no recollection of his identity or anything else for that matter. In his pursuit of self-discovery it is quite clear that the two characters’ fates will collide and one may end up worse for it in the end.
I found this book to be interesting at times yet also tough sledding as there are spots where things slow down considerably. There’s lots of explaining in parts and that kind of took me out of the story in certain instances. I enjoyed the moments of raw emotion and that the characters were all flawed and not cookie-cutter perfect. Part of the strength of this story was the fact that each character had their own demons to battle and questions that needed answering to get to a certain point in their lives. I did like the mystery aspect of Falon’s recent life that he was trying to recapture. That may have been my favorite part of this book actually.
Ultimately I thought this was a “thinker’s fantasy” that involved a lot of heavy themes and quite a bit of angst throughout. It didn’t connect with me on a level that made it totally compelling in the ways that I usually like, but it also intrigued me enough to keep me reading until the end. Last Memoria is a solid tale all in all that takes a good amount of chances. Some hit and some, unfortunately, don’t, but I am interested in reading more from this author and possibly revisiting this word again down the road.
Peter – 6/10
Last Memoria really is a dark and tragic tale, telling the story of a memory thief attempting to live a better life and right the wrongs of the past. The book was interesting as it threw up recurring themes of guilty and innocent, Love and Hate and also that nothing is black and white.
I did feel rather sorry for the main character, Sarilla, she has a tough and not very nice life as a memory stealer and is forced to do the will of her Uncle who just happens to be the king. Coupled with the face she is a mistrusted half breed, her life when we meet her has not been the happiest. This leads down the path of trying to right the wrongs she has done, leading her to an encounter with Falon. The man she used to love, and whose memory she stole.
I am going straight away that I did not enjoy this, while there was a poignant note to Sarilla’s quest there was simply not enough story for me to enjoy this. If anything this was too much of a character-driven book, the lack of story in the first half had had me trying to push forward to find it. While the story is there I found it a bit weird, almost murky to follow and while the story does eventually unfold, the many threads tying it all together could sometimes be still tied together.
What I really enjoyed about the book was the writing, Rachel Shaw has a wonderful, accessible flowing style which was at times wonderful to read. Her description of the world, and it is well realised was also wonderful to read. The next biggest aspect I admired was the poignant story of the two main characters, driven by very separate motivations, but still some of the better characters I have read this year. The shape of the story does allow for a character driven story to emerge, dialogue between characters was great as it felt very organic and as a consequence, I found it very easy to immerse myself into the world.
As I mentioned the world is well crafted when it comes together, from the Darkwood Forest and its black vine plague to the stunning sounding rope bridge city of Arvendon. This is a well established world, complete with its own issues and prejudices and Rachel has done a wonderful job of creating it. It is a world rich with lore and you will come to an understanding of why it is where it is, I did find myself craving to know more about it.
So there you, my first review for the final of SPFBO 6. In some ways I did enjoy Last Memoria and in others I didn’t but I tip my hat in respect to Rachel, she is in the final of the SPFBO and the book has really been one of my more interesting reads.
Timy – 6.5/10
It’s been a week since I’ve finished reading Last Memoria, but I still have no idea how I feel about it. On one hand, it was a super fast read, but on the other, I’m not quite sure if I liked anything about it. If that makes any sense. It sure does not for me, but whatever. I might figure it out by the time I finish writing up this review.
So we have this kinda bleak world where the kingdom is plagued by something called the blackvine, stealing people’s life. Created by a race called memoria in answer to an attack on them some time ago. Some of the nobles are rioting against the king who doesn’t want to do anything about it, but at the same time keeping his “pets” around to use for his own ends. His nieces and nephew are descendants or the memoria, having some of their powers such as keeping memories away from others, or giving them others’. With them on his side, looking inside one’s head is not much of a problem. It also comes handy when your nobility tries to assassinate you from time to time.
Sarilla, the king’s favorite “pet” tastes freedom for the first time and though torn between her old life and the possibility of a new one, she can’t quite shake off her identity. The first part of the books tells her story – well, part of it, anyway – in third person. In the second part we switch to Falon’s first person narrative. Which is an interesting choice at first glance, but it’ll make sense at the end. Falon is the bastard son of a high ranking Lord, who is in search of his lost memories along with his two friends. When their path crosses with Sarilla just outside of Arvendon where Sarilla is headed, that’s when Last Memoria gets really interesting.
The writing itself is pretty engaging and Shaw deals with questions such as self-identity, prejudices, and how much memories can define us. Actions have consequences, the characters are neither black nor white, but they probably fall into the darker shades of gray. Then again, it’s a question of your POV. I think my biggest issues with Last Memoria were that I couldn’t make myself like or even care about any of the characters. And that for a long time I couldn’t see where to book was going or what the point of almost anything was. I think it also lacked some worldbuilding and honestly, the ending was somewhat underwhelming. Last Memoria also had one of my pet peeves where characters wander up and down for a long period of time and seemingly nothing happens – which would be fine if I enjoyed spending time with the characters, but I really didn’t all that much. And I usually prefer character-driven books. I only wish Havric got more spotlight, he was the only character whom I actually liked from the beginning.
Last Memoria is a dark novel about hard choices, about coming in terms with our own identity, about betrayal, about consequences to one’s actions. About love and hate and everything in between. Whether the characters will have a happy ending is yet to be seen, though I think it will all depend on whether they come to terms with their own demons.
|Jen: 6.8||Nick: 6.5||Peter: 6||Timy: 6.5|
Our overall rating for Last Memoria: 6.5/10
For more SPFBO content, please visit my SPFBO 6 Finals page!