SERIES: Memoria Duology (#1)
PUBLISHED: May 10, 2020 (Self-published)
GENRE: Dark Fantasy
A heartbreaking dark fantasy thriller about flawed people making flawed decisions. Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind meets Joe Abercrombie.
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.
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She was a child of two opposing worlds. The embodiment of black and white, but rather than mixing to grey, the two halves divided her with their territories and battlegrounds, leaving her an extreme in every way possible.
Last Memoria by Rachel Emma Shaw is a dark and tragic tale illustrating the journey of a memory thief attempting to right the wrongs she has wrought. At its core it analyzes the controversial debate of nature versus nurture, and ultimately details the somber realities associated with redemption and acceptance. Alongside Sarilla and Falon, readers are reminded of both the burden of memories, as well as the concept of how past experiences, regardless of how painful they may have been to bear, define who we are. A recurring theme of extremes–love and hate, good and evil, guilty and innocent–meticulously portrays the idea that nothing is ever as black and white as it appears. This story is a wonderful exploration of what it means to be human, and a sobering, yet vastly enjoyable read.
The strongest aspect of this book is its poignancy, beautifully demonstrated through the emotional responses to the hardships Shaw’s characters endure. Sarilla, a half-breed memoria, yearns to find her place in a world that rejects her. Her self-hatred and and shame are only eclipsed by her suffering of an almost Stockholm Syndrome-type condition. Her king, who also happens to be her uncle, punishes her in the most atrocious of ways, and Sarilla’s spiral into the abyss is absolutely heart-wrenching to witness. Falon, so very determined to prove himself to his noble father, inevitably loses pieces of himself in the process. A drive to fill the gaps in his memory causes him to make rash decisions, leaving a trail of emotional destruction in his wake. Death, loathing, loss – all concepts each are far too familiar with.
Shaw presents us with an abundance delicately crafted elements in stunning detail, including the mysterious Deadwood Forest and its twilight blackvine plague, the rope bridge-laden vertical city of Arvendon, and the serpentine midnight tunnels of Oresa. She does a remarkable job of establishing various races, ignorant prejudices and fears, and the effects of curious magics, all adding a beautiful depth and richness to the tale she spins. While there are insights into the histories that shaped the current state of the world we’re submerged in, I was craving more in order to gain a deeper understanding of the politics and religions that are often referred to.
Well-written with simple, flowing prose allows for more focus on character development, which genuinely shines. Dialogue feels organic, accurately portraying the emotions attempting to be conveyed, and careful introspection grants readers entry into the minds those telling this tale. However, my biggest issue with this story is its murky plot definition; the plot doesn’t truly establish itself until relatively late in the book. The focal point seemed a bit skewed, and I wasn’t sure which thread to be following and focus on regarding overall concept. It does come together in the second half of the book, so remain patient – the payoff is definitely worth it.
Last Memoria ties up nicely, leaving plenty of room for expansion, which I’m very much looking forward to in book two. Shaw heaves readers into a rich, enthralling world, proposing complex ideas that linger in the mind. If you’re looking for a dark tale of deceit and intrigue, then this may be the one for you. The magical setting of Valrora houses many buried secrets waiting to be unearthed by those brave enough to venture beneath the dense canopy of the Darkwood. I recommend giving this one a try.
Note: A huge thank you to Rachel Emma Shaw for providing me with a complementary advance copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.
Rachel has been writing novels for over five years. Although born in Manchester, she moved to London and is now too firmly rooted to leave any time soon. Say hi if you ever see her out and about writing in north London’s cafes.
She’s particularly interested in meeting with other creatives and collaborating on new works, so get in contact if you would like to work with her!