Dungeons & Dragons: Spelljammer: Memory’s Wake | Review

The next Dungeons & Dragons novel returns to Shatterspace with Spelljammer: Memory’s Wake, delivering a fun space fantasy that anyone can enjoy regardless of your familiarity with D&D in general.

Dungeons & Dragons: Spelljammer: Memory’s Wake
Written By: Django Wexler
Published By: Random House Worlds
Release Date: June 4, 2024
Purchase [Affiliate]: Amazon

When people talk about Dungeons & Dragons, most people immediately think of the high fantasy, medieval-esque setting. For decades, however, players have also been able to have spacefarring adventures with Spelljammer. Introduced in D&D‘s second edition in the ’80s, Spelljammer took players into the depths of space, while maintaining the fantasy element. Seriously, this is about as far from sci-fi as it can get.

Despite its popularity, little has been done with the off-shoot over the past several decades. Long-time fans have been asking Wizards of the Coast to do something new with it for years, while casual audiences likely have no idea about it’s existence. The newest D&D novel from Random House Worlds, Memory’s Wake by Django Wexler, is looking to change that.

Its arrival marks the first Spelljammer novel since The Ultimate Helm (by Russ T. Howard), which released all the way back in 1993. Best of all, it works as an excellent starting point for newcomers. Even for someone like me, who’s general D&D knowledge is admittedly limited, I had no difficulty getting into and understanding this new world.

Memory’s Wake puts the focus on a Axia, a young woman living on a backwater asteroid where nothing interesting really happens. Having been there since she awoke three years prior, with no memory of who she was, or how she got there. She escapes from her dull life by reading adventure books about pirates while fantasizing about who she used to be.

When an assassination attempt, followed by a pair of pirates (ostensibly) rescuing her, disturbing questions about her past begin to arise. Thanks to looking exactly like the infamous pirate, Blacktongue, Axia finds herself thrust in the middle of pirate society and on the hunt for an ancient treasure. Facing threats from multiple fronts and confronted with a past she may no longer want, Axia discovers the life isn’t what she expected from her adventure novels. Perhaps, however, it could be something even better…as long as she doesn’t get killed in the process.

Keeping things vague, as always, in the interest of avoiding spoilers. Suffice it to say, Memory’s Wake feels exactly like the kind of swashbuckling pirate adventures they even mention in the book. It has all those fun elements with quirky characters, a MacGuffin they’re chasing after, nebulous loyalties from other characters, and oodles of riveting action. All of it combining together for a story that sets a blistering pace that’s tough to put down.

My favorite aspect, however, is how easy it is to get into. About the only complaint I had with the last D&D novel, The Fallbacks, dealt with this aspect. While I enjoyed the characters and action, it was so steeped in the D&D mythos that I felt I was missing something and couldn’t connect with it. It was more something for existing fans.

Memory’s Wake strikes an excellent balance. Being from Axia’s perspective, having no memory of things, audiences are able to learn the various rules of the world alongside her. They’re cleverly sprinkled about too, introduced naturally through the story and Axia’s journey, so there isn’t one massive exposition dump at the beginning. And yet, there are mentions of various creatures, locations, and other lore that long-time fans will notice and deepen their own experience. These mentions never took me out of the reading experience, or made me feel out of the loop, but added to the overall worldbuilding.

So if you’re a D&D fan, especially one who remembers/enjoyed Spelljammer before, you’ll find plenty to make you feel right at home. For everyone else, it’s still a damn fun space/fantasy adventure book and you’ll be hard pressed to stop turning the pages.

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Jordan Maison
Jordan Maison
Lover of all things nerdy, Jordan's passion for books began at an early age and simply never stopped.