Review: Last Memoria - Rachel Emma Shaw
Independently published by author, may 2020
Rating: 5/5 stars
At the start of this year, I made a mental note to myself that I would be extremely picky on the ARCs I’d request and/or except, in order not to overwhelm myself in this busy time. Unless I was already highly anticipating a release, I wasn’t going to let myself be tempted… Yet something about the synopsis of Last Memoria made me break my own rule. When the author approached me, offering an ARC in exchange for an honest review, I was intrigued enough to dive in blind. And I came out with one of the best indie-fantasy works I’ve ever read…
Last Memoria is a dark fantasy novel about a young woman, cursed with the magical ability to steal memories by touching others, making her what’s known as a “Memoria”. As any other Memoria before her, she is feared, shunned and labelled a monster by society. After all; stealing a memory is the most heinous crime imaginable: taking away a piece of someone’s identity and leaving a hole behind. No one knows this better than Falon, who has had his memories taken by Sarilla, and will do anything to do to get them back. When their paths cross, the stakes for both of them are higher than they could have ever imagined.
Last Memoria is in many ways quite different from your standard high fantasy novel. First of all: it’s one of those character-focussed, slower paced stories that I adore, yet the characters might not be what you typically expect in a fantasy novel. There are no hero’s or villains; only morally grey people trying to do the best they can in the circumstances they’re trapped in. Even though there is a high-stake plotline involved, all of the protagonists struggles feel deeply personal to them. The only reason this works so well is how wonderfully authentic they are written. Secondly, the worldbuilding, magic system and atmosphere are wonderful, but also different from what many of us are used to in traditional fantasy. Despite being very different, it gave me the same vibes that The Witcher did: the world feel foreign and often hostile towards our protagonists, and it’s magic is drenched with dark consequences and is anything but desirable. For some reason, to me, that made it feel more real. Third- and lastly, it’s that dark shadow that permeates throughout everything that makes this book unique. When we talk about “dark fantasy”, we think of books like Nevernight or Game of Thrones, showing off their darkness with flashy battles and bloody murder scenes. Last Memoria on the other hand is “quietly dark”. Focussing on themes of identity, memories and loneliness, it has it’s roots firmly in very real terrifying matters like dementia and mental health. This bleak and almost existential undertone will put of some readers who are looking for a nice escapist fantasy read. On the other hand, it will make for a very memorable (pardon the pun) experience for anyone open to it.
One of the massive benefits of independent publishing is the freedom to create something authentic and original, outside the constraints of what a publisher thinks will “sell”. Last Memoria makes perfect use of that by creating a world and story that feel unique and unlike anything I’ve read before. One of the downsides of indie-publishing, however, is that it’s harder to get your book to be noticed by the masses, no matter how much it deserves to. I’d be delighted if this review can help even a little bit to change that. If you’re looking to support a lovely indie-author or if you’re just in the mood for an original fantasy, this is one I’d highly recommend.
Many thanks to Rachel Emma Shaw for providing me with an ARC in exchange for an honest review.