Dungeons & Dragons Spelljammer: Memory’s Wake by Django Wexler is a pirate’s tale set in the DnD universe, specifically Shatterspace. It’s a story about finding yourself, righting wrongs, and of course, pirating and adventure.

Typical Fantasy Opening

As a lot of fantasy stories start, the main character, Axia, is on some isolated place in a far corner of the universe. In this case, a small tidally locked asteroid in Shatterspace. She’s a scrapper who works for a man named Tsorik who found her 3 years ago with no memory of the past. She likes reading about pirates and adventure, but can’t remember what she was like before being found.

While this sounds cliche and is to some extent, Django Wexler does a good job at moving the plot forward while filling in details about the characters. Axia is likable enough, especially with her pet giant hamster Flotsam, that you almost immediately find yourself caring for her.

Very quickly, Axia gets thrown into some Dungeons & Dragons-style danger, surviving an assassination attempt, before meeting two pirates, Kori, a half-elf, and Nia, a tiefling. They are looking for her because Axia is the spitting image of the legendary pirate captain Blacktongue, and they want her to play the role for a heist they’re planning.

The Three Partners

Axia, Kori, and Nia are the best parts of Spelljammer: Memory’s Wake. As the story unfolds, you learn about the relationship between Kori and Nia, and their beliefs in the world at large. Kori is basically a rogue who believes in the Lord of Thieves, while Nia is a warlock who hates the gods. They play off each other well and I found myself loving the pair and every piece of backstory that is dropped about them.

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Axia quickly forms a friendship with the two and the many moments the three of them are together in the story are the best parts of the story. Axia also learns a little about herself as she fills the role of the Blacktongue. She has a kind heart and cares for people, but is also a very capable fighter.

Blacktongue

Axia has to act as the Captain and finds herself with some big boots to fill. The whole story of the books is trying to figure out the mystery of where Captain Blacktongue went, and who Axia was before being found. Turns out that Blacktongue went missing 3 years before and so we are left with the mystery and obvious assumption that Axia is the Blacktongue.

Continuing this narrative, Axia finds Blacktongue’s diary and as she reads, she gets the feeling that they are almost her own memories. This is one of the more intriguing parts of the story, and it’s hugely unfortunate that we only get two scenes regarding this journal. It partially makes sense story-wise, but the journal entries are so well-written I wanted more of them. This of course plays into what you’re supposed to think about the overarching mystery of Axia’s past.

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Without spoiling the book, the mystery is solved at the end in a satisfying way that makes sense in the DnD universe without being as obvious as you think when you start reading.

Adventures in Shatterspace

Axia and her new crew have multiple adventures including facing off against the Neogi, a Beholder, and other DnD characters. The space battles are fun and help develop Axia as a character, but they often end disappointing. In fact, the whole plotline is a little disappointing. It never culminates in an ending that feels good to the readers. Even the final reveal is a bit of a letdown.

Note: The next two paragraphs are going to contain some spoilers, so skip if you want to read the book.

The story starts itself as if it’s going to be about Axia finding who she is on this grand heist her two new friends have planned. It ends with a story being boiled down to basically the real treasure were the friends we made along the way. While that’s not necessarily a bad lesson by any means, it feels like a big letdown in a story that sets itself up as this pirate adventure for treasure.

The Axia reveal feels almost like a gut punch, but that actually works for the story. She’s not technically Blacktongue, but she’s not not Blacktongue. It makes sense in the DnD universe and I liked how the ending fits with the theme of the story.

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Pacing

The first half of the book sees Axia, Kori, and Nia together and chatting or adventuring quite a bit. These are the best parts of the book. Later, as the plot moves towards the climax, and the characters are put on the back burner and the story becomes less interesting.

Axia’s story reaches it’s conclusion in a mostly interesting way, but Kori and Nia are definitely pushed to the sides and that hurt some of my enjoyment of the second half.

Overall, Dungeons & Dragons Spelljammer: Memory’s Wake is a fun time in a section of the DnD universe that I haven’t spent much time in. The book feels like a DnD adventure which is what you’d want from a DnD book. The characters and mystery is interesting and keeps you reading. The plot, however, is hit or miss. That being said, there’s enough to like that if you enjoy Dungeons & Dragons you’ll enjoy this book. And Django Wexler also left himself room for a sequel that I would pick up as I want more time with the best part of the book, the characters.

THE GOOD
Good Characters
Interesting Mystery
THE BAD
Plot is Hit and Miss
Adventure Segments are Unfulfilling
6.5
Fair

Review Summary

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