Sarilla is half Memoria. At once a gift and a curse, her power allows her to manipulate memories, making her as useful as she is feared. The novel opens with Sarilla, using gloves and a cloak to hide her distinctive features, begrudgingly escaping the Palace and Renford, the captor who she sees as a father, with her brother Rysen. As she struggles to mask her identity, she must also take control of the memories that stain her once clean hands before she’s unable to tell the past from reality.
Falon has a six-month gap in his memories, and he needs a Memori to help him get them back. When he and his friends, Cedral and Havrick, happen upon Sarilla, they take her hostage, hoping she might lead them to answers.
Everyone deserves a chance at redemption.
The first half of Last Memoria is in Sarilla’s perspective, while the second is in Falon’s. Even as she drowns in self-hatred, in a surprising feat, Sarilla manages to remain an interesting and endearing character. Despite being reviled by the people around her for being who she is, and turning that hatred on herself, she staunchly holds the view that people can be redeemed. This bizarre dichotomy that she holds within herself baffles me but is also the best evidence of her warped self-image I can give.
For the most part, she’s dragged from place to place by the various men in her life. Now, normally I despise passive protagonists, but all is explained in the end! That’s the case for much of the book, actually, which makes it difficult to meaningfully review as I’m desperately avoiding any spoilers! It also makes for one of the most original fantasy novels I’ve read in a long time.
Falon’s perspective is, shall we say, revealing. I enjoyed it, but I found him to be a less appealing anti-hero than Sarilla. It might have something to do with his hatred of her… that got a little old, since even in the end I felt for her. I never felt invested in him as a character, but of course, he’s essential to the plot and Sarilla’s development, so I wouldn’t change a thing. I can appreciate a character that gets on my nerves more than one that’s utterly bland yet nice if there’s some kind of intent there. Luckily, there is. Their relationship (if we can call it that) is brutal.
Forgetting is freedom.
The setting of Last Memoria is hazy, and the lore is sparse. It works.
A major issue with many fantasy novel is infodumps. In Last Memoria, despite the multitude of inner monologues, information of the Memori, the character’s pasts, their current relationships, are slowly fed to the reader. The slight, yet constant undertone of confusion adds to the tension weaved throughout the short novel.
The lore of the Memori, while, as I said, rather sparse, is a great addition to the story. The Memori as a people grow more and more important throughout the book until they take center stage, in a way, which complicates who the reader should be rooting for just that much more.
The only major issue I had with the novel was some of the location shifts. I was confused (this time not in a good way) about where the travelers were and why they were headed there. I also couldn’t get much of a sense of where they were in general, just because there wasn’t much description, but Sarilla’s communication with nature is a really interesting touch that grounds the reader in those moments,
Remembering weighs heavier than chains.
Last Memoria by Rachel Emma Shaw is a story about identity. It’s a rumination on what it means to be a monster, what it means to be human, and what it means to be both. A fresh take on the age-old debate of nature vs. nurture. It’s a discourse on the value of memory, and that of ignorance in the face of devastating truths.
It is about flawed, morally grey characters doing their best, and their worst, in an equally flawed, morally grey world, and anyone who loves dark fantasy and doesn’t pick up this book ASAP has made an equally flawed, morally grey decision.