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Last Memoria by Rachel Emma Shaw – SPFBO #6 Finals Review
 

Last Memoria

SPFBO #6 Finals Review

 

Last Memoria by Rachel Emma Shaw – SPFBO #6 Finals Review

Last Memoria by Rachel Emma Shaw – SPFBO #6 Finals Review
3.5
Book Name: Last Memoria
Author: Rachel Emma Shaw
Publisher(s): Self-Published
Formatt: Paperback / Ebook
Genre(s): Fantasy
Release Date: May 10, 2020

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, just so he can 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 someone she would much rather forget.

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 what was stolen from him and isn’t interested in why she’s so desperate to escape. She will help him get back what he’s lost, whether she wants to or not. Join Sarilla and Falon in this twisted tale about how sometimes good intentions aren’t enough to keep the darkness at bay.

Last Memoria is built around a brilliant and intriguing fantasy concept: a race of telepaths—the Memori—with the ability to not only read minds but take memories (and restore them), and a king who uses these abilities as a tool of oppression. The first half of the novel is told through Sarilla’s point of view, delivered to us in limited third person. Sarilla has Memori heritage, and as the novel opens, she has just recently escaped captivity in the royal palace. She hates what she’s been forced to do for the king and wants to find refuge in another city. Unfortunately, Memori have unique physical features that makes it nearly impossible for Sarilla to hide who and what she is.

While on the lam, she soon falls into the hands of Falon, a rebel who is missing six months’ worth of memories. Falon seizes on Sarilla as his chance to not only restore his memories and take down the king but possibly also find a way to stop the incursion of Blackvine, a lethal, memory-stealing plant that is rapidly overgrowing the countryside—like a deadly psychic kudzu. Falon takes over as narrator for the second half of the novel, and events unfold through the narrow lens of his first-person point of view. Complicating both narratives is the fact that Sarilla and Falon were once lovers, and this is one of Falon’s lost memories.

Our Thoughts

On the whole, our judges enjoyed Last Memoria, but none felt it lived up to the promise of its unique and intriguing premise. Several thought Sarilla’s apparent Stockholm syndrome was underdeveloped and more scenes between her and the king prior to her escape would have established a better foundation for her conflicting emotions and actions. Others said they enjoyed the characters but found the frequent bickering between them annoying. There was some debate about the value of the mid-point POV switch. Whereas some judges enjoyed seeing events and learning ultimate truths through Falon’s eyes, others thought Sarilla’s point of view during key scenes in the second half would have served the story better. Several judges also complained about implausibilities, inconsistencies, and plot holes that were small and inconsequential on an individual basis but which collectively diminished our enjoyment.

Selected comments from judges include:

A. M.

This was a fast read with a compelling primary protagonist (Sarilla), lots of romantic tension, and a great fantasy concept that intrigued me from page one and held my interest to the end—in fact, I had trouble putting this book down. The writing was also good, although like many finalists this year, the text would have benefited from another round of editing to clean up typos and prune some excess prepositional phrases (and fix all the sentences ending with prepositions!). Despite these positives, however, this turned out to be another finalist I wanted to love, but only liked because the overall execution was disappointing.

Many fantasy novels suffer from bloat; this short novel needed more fleshing out. In particular, I wish more of Sarilla’s relationship and interactions with the king had been in the book. We’re told the king used psychological abuse to manipulate Sarilla and her family into being his tools of oppression, but we’re not shown much of this, even though Sarilla’s Stockholm syndrome seems to be a major motivating factor. The lack of a deeper exploration into Sarilla’s motivations and feelings about the king made it hard for me to understand her choices, especially after we lose her point of view at the novel’s mid-point.

By the end of the book, Sarilla’s actions seemed more plot-convenient than character-driven. I also didn’t find Falon as compelling as Sarilla, and his lack of emotional investment in the actions taken at the end further weakened the impact of the conclusion. My final complaint is the novel is rife with minor implausibilities such as problems/challenges that are mentioned once or twice but then discarded as soon as they’re no longer needed for the plot (e.g., Sarilla’s sore feet, which were debilitating one moment and forgotten the next).

Kerry

I enjoyed the ideas behind the book—how memories could be taken just by touch and kept by or put into someone else, often as a form of torture. When we first meet Sarilla she seems to be the tragic heroine of the story, but I found her to be very annoying. I don’t know whether or not she has a case of Stockholm syndrome, but for all the dislike for what she does and the power she wields in her hands, she still does horrible things for the king and is quite selfish. I did like Falon’s character and found him empathetic and caring. The book ends with a good twist, but I was left wondering how a few details added up, which irked me, and so I didn’t enjoy the book as much as I could have. I had trouble with trusting the entire narration of the story. Memories are fickle and change with time—so are we hearing the truth, and if so whose?

Lynn

There’s a highly unique premise in this story, presented in a way not often seen. It’s obvious the author wanted to write “a book they wanted to read” and it works on many levels. The reader is tossed into fast paced action from the start that doesn’t let up right to the last page. The initial hook impressed me, but there were some plot holes that weren’t explained, and the characters could have benefited from some depth. There’s little information on past events, but plenty of dialogue within the narrative. A richer history could have helped. What we do learn is revealed in snippets that will keep you guessing at a nice twist of an ending.

– – –

Our judges are A. M. Justice, Julia Kitvaria Sarene, Kartik Narayanan, Kerry Smith, Lynn Kempner, and Mariëlle Ooms-Voges. If you’d like to learn more about us, including our likes and dislikes, you can read about them here.

Any queries should be directed to A. M. Justice via DM (Facebook/Twitter).

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