Review of Last Memoria by Rachel Emma Shaw

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.

I’m so grateful to the author for reaching out and providing me with a copy of Last Memoria for review, it is an accomplished and highly polished book which focuses on the complexities of lies and the truths contained within memories. It’s hard to blow me away with an opening line, but the prologue was such a strong start point and utterly set the tone that this wasn’t some lavish fantasy frolic – as regular readers of my reviews will know, I do love a good prologue!

Last Memoria’s main protagonist, Sarilla may initially seem like your usual “born into superpower she didn’t ask for” character but what stands her apart is that she uses her self loathing as a shield, she knows what she is and what she can do, her slow descent into resignation is heartbreaking to read. She’s everybody’s monster, a half breed with neither home seeing her as anything other than an abomination. The world is bleak as she runs for her life, almost like a fog is settling around the pages which I felt really resonated with the story and the kind of fog that must appear with memory loss. It’s not all just Sarilla though and she does eventually find herself with a face from the past, those she has taken memories from and then the secrets and lies truly begin. I have to admit where I immediately connected with Sarilla, out of the other players it was only really Havric, the joker of the piece, that I felt was likeable. Don’t get me wrong, they are all pretty morally grey, but Ced and Falon were just so cruel. Whilst the reasons behind this eventually become clear , Ced’s relentless bullying of her just made me connect with her even more. There is also an “almost” love triangle going on which is home to one of the most explosive revelations of the book and one which I didn’t see coming at all.

Last Memoria is very reserved with its action and if you’re after gory battles and large set pieces, you’re not going to find them but again the author takes the reality of the situation, The group are on the run, with little in the way of supplies and also dodging the fearsome Blackvine, a weapon, a legacy of the memoria and far worse to consider a fate from than any sword fight. I really enjoyed how the Blackvine became almost a character in itself and when we reach the last third of the story the impact upon one of the characters was such a phenomenal plot twist and it was these pages that I found most enjoyable as there was finally a true purpose to their nomadic journey.

One sticking point for me was the POV switch halfway through, I had got settled and so used to reading in Sarilla’s voice that I struggled to make the flip in my mind, often I found myself reading as Sarilla when I shouldn’t have been, I would have liked a name at the start of each chapter just to bring some focus, but maybe that’s just me.

I realise that I have painted Last Memoria as a dour read but that is not the case at all, whist there’s no escaping the bleakness of the story, there are some wonderful moments as Sarilla discovers new ways to use her abilities, becoming one with the nature around her to move her story forward, Havric is a delight and just the kind of lovable rogue sidekick the story needed and an unconventional star crossed lovers story brings a shocking twist. The writing is also brilliantly done, really delving into the impact of lies, both the lies we tell ourselves and the lies we tell others. This is alongside of how easy it can be to  manipulate the memories of people with those lies, when they are desperate to regain that which is lost.

A somewhat sad ending has been made intriguing by the discovery that this is going to be part of a duology and I’m really interested to see where the story goes from here. I found Last Memoria an interesting introspective piece, which left me with lots to think about and I give this 4*

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