Way back in the day, TGON read Kristyn Merbeth’s novel Fortuna, the first in a space opera series about a family of smugglers and their interplanetary shenanigans. Since then, she’s written two more in the series, starting with the direct sequel Memoria which picks up near where the first left off and once sees the Kaiser family squabbling their way into more espionage, a jailbreak, and run-ins with alien technology. If spoiler alerts are still a thing, insert spoiler alert here.
In the first book, Scorpia Kaiser’s troubles never seem too far from a joke or at least a funny story. The fun that the characters have with one another, and of course, the nonstop sibling bickering gives the galaxy a distinctive tone. Memoria takes the opportunity to explore the past of the galaxy a little bit further by exploring the aliens who came and left before. As refugees on Nibiru, Scorpia and her siblings are offered a job to take a scientist to the formerly inhabited planet Gaia to examine some alien technology. That scientist turns out to be Scorpia’s crush, Shay. Corvus, Shay, and Scorpia examine the alien artifacts and discover a doomsday device set up on every planet in the galaxy. Just when they’re ready to leave, survivors of Titan ambush them.
The alien version of Mutually Assured Destruction appears to have worked. While this new information seems to dispel most beliefs about the superiority of alien society, Scorpia’s own distaste for them remains a point of contention between her and Shay. Scorpia’s relationship with Shay takes off again, even though she has also reconnected with Orion after a jailbreak, but this time Scorpia and Shay actually commit to making things work. However, a looming war between Titans bent on revenge against Shay’s people after the last book and the Nibirans who shelter the Kaisers upends any stability just as Scorpia sets it up. Scorpia and Corvus apparently can’t wrestle their family into safety due to a clash of egos occurring apparently at the highest echelons of power in the Fortuna galaxy, who fight like, well, siblings.
Following the POVs of Scorpia and Corvus exclusively has limits on how much worldbuilding they can explore. There are only so many planets to reasonably inhabit, and once Nibiru and Titan go to war, the war comes to dominate the Kaisers’ time. It gets brutal quickly, though the Kaisers manage to keep their heads above water. As Corvus and their sister Drom leave for the frontlines, Scorpia gets few chances to leave the planet. There’s a kind of magic to jumping in a spaceship and blasting off, but it’s hard to remember where it is when there’s an island full of grain on fire. This lack of escape builds a tense situation, but it also reminds us the fate of the galaxy rests improbably on the actions of one family – and not a ruling dynasty or a brand of space Kennedys.
Ultimately, Memoria serves up another tale of galactic espionage and adventure, but not without leading its heroes to a dark place. The resulting war that occurs mutes a lot of what gave the first book its charm and draw. But the second act is the darkest in any story, so it’s only going to go up from here in Discordia.
Page count: 464 pages
Three out of five stars.