It had been a while since I read a good-old dystopian YA fiction. Books like The Hunger Games series and Kiera Cass’s The Selection series are some of my favourite examples of stories that I will keep coming back to, even as I continue into my 30s. I’ve mentioned before that YA doesn’t really only apply to those young readers and that I often find the stories much more compelling. This is why I was so excited to read The Memory Thief by Lauren Mansy (in stores now!). The synopsis had me sucked in, and I was so ready to go into the world and join Etta on her adventure.
In the city of Craewick, memories reign. The power-obsessed ruler of the city, Madame, has cultivated a society in which memories are currency, citizens are divided by ability, and Gifted individuals can take memories from others through touch as they please.
Seventeen-year-old Etta Lark is desperate to live outside of the corrupt culture, but grapples with the guilt of an accident that has left her mother bedridden in the city’s asylum. When Madame threatens to put her mother up for auction, a Craewick practice in which a “criminal’s” memories are sold to the highest bidder before being killed, Etta will do whatever it takes to save her. Even if it means rejoining the Shadows, the rebel group she swore off in the wake of the accident years earlier.
To prove her allegiance to the Shadows and rescue her mother, Etta must steal a memorized map of the Maze, a formidable prison created by the bloodthirsty ruler of a neighboring Realm. So she sets out on a journey in which she faces startling attacks, unexpected romance, and, above all, her own past in order to set things right in her world.
The premise of this book is something I had never seen before, and the concept was really well developed by Mansy. Right from the first chapter, I understood the dynamics of the world-building and how the characters interacted with their gifts. I felt I could picture in my head, which is always cool.
I really enjoyed the premise and the adventure part of the story, especially in the beginning, but, without giving too much away, I did think everything came to Etta and Reid (her travel companion) much easier than it should have. At every stop, they ended up getting a lot of help, and it felt a little bit too…convenient…for me. Now, all that to say that these conveniences really did add to the world and how everyone was connected in the story, but I wish Etta had to do more of the adventure on her own, if you know what I mean. And sometimes I wasn’t sure where the characters were. It jumped around maybe too much? I’m not sure what the issue was there, though it could have just been me missing something.
My only other criticism was with the main antagonist, Madame. Not only is that not a great name for a villain (everyone else had an actual first name, so she could have had some really cool made-up name) and it really makes me think of more of a person who runs a brothel than a leader. I also didn’t really get a good sense of her character. I understood her motivations and we got bits and pieces of what made her the way she was, but I still didn’t understand who she was.
Despite those criticisms, I did really enjoy the book and think Mansy did a great job as a first-time author. I’m looking forward to seeing how she builds other worlds for future novels, as that is truly one of her strengths.
“The way I see it now, the good and bad memories are like a rope, completely intertwined. Pull one strand and the entire thing unravels” —Lauren Mansy, The Memory Thief
Thank you to NetGalley and Blink YA Books for the advanced copy, and to Jon Tyson on Unsplash for the featured photo of memories.