Review Plus: Unnamed Memory, Vol. 1 (light novel)

This is more than just a review: it’s a Review Plus! There’ll be a review, and at the end I’ll throw in a short extra takeaway for Christians to think about.

The Book

Title: Unnamed Memory, Vol. 1: The Witch of the Azure Moon and the Cursed Prince
Author: Kuji Furumiya
Illustrator: chibi
Translator: Sarah Tangney
Review copy provided by English publisher: Yen Press

Synopsis:

“My wish as champion is for you to descend the tower and be my wife.”

Climbing a deadly tower, Oscar seeks the power of its master, the Witch of the Azure
Moon. He hopes her incredible magic can break a curse that will kill any woman he
takes for a wife. When the prince sees how beautiful Tinasha is, though, he has a better
idea-since she’s surely strong enough to survive his curse, she should just marry
him instead! Tinasha isn’t keen on the idea, but agrees to live with Oscar in the royal
castle for a year while researching the spell placed on the prince. The witch’s pretty
face hides several lifetimes of dark secrets, however-secrets that begin resurfacing…

Purchase links: Physical / Digital

The Review

Why is this book titled Unnamed Memory?

That was a question that was on my mind ever since I heard about it, all the way up until I finished this volume. After all, most light novel titles are straightforward: They either name some important person, place, or thing in the story, or just outright describe the plot of the story (with some exclamation marks for kicks). Seeing a light novel with such an abstract title is fairly unusual; why would the author choose such a title over something like “The Witch of the Tower” or “I Tried To Marry The Most Powerful Witch To Break My Curse”?

As I continued to read this volume, though, I think I see what the author was going for with this name. The core of this story lies in the numerous “unnamed” memories of the characters, especially the leading witch, Tinasha. Despite her youthful looks, she’s lived a very long time, and has accumulated tons of memories… many of which are quite painful. We only get a glimpse into some of these in this volume, but as each chapter unveils just a bit more of what her past might be like and who might be involved in it, it becomes clear that those memories are also linked to all sorts of dangerous events occuring around Oscar and his kingdom.

It is a good thing, then, that Tinasha is such a great character. She has a lot of good interactions with Oscar, obviously caring about him and his situation even as he teases her about marrying him. While she does constantly rebuff him, it seems to be more because she is convinced that marrying him would cause more problems than it would solve, particularly with the aformentioned events from her past that she has yet to reveal and is afraid will come up. Her own feelings about him are also “unnamed”; as powerful as she is, she is not some “god” figure and is trying to figure herself out as much as anyone else. Overall, Tinasha is the perfect bearer for the “unnamed memories” this story revolves around: She is sharp-witted, kind, powerful, and also quite human despite her witchiness as she struggles with her past.

Oscar is fine as the other protagonist, who mainly serves as someone who treats Tinasha not as a witch but as a beloved person. For someone like Tinasha, who has to deal with being feared and hated as a witch, he is definitely a good force for getting people to accept her. That said, I have never been particularly fond of male characters that constantly try to woo their love interests, even as they keep trying to turn them down, and that definitely annoyed me with Oscar here. It culminates in one particularly troublesome scene where, when he thinks that Tinasha might be getting involved with a different man, Oscar actually physically threatens her in a rather inappropriate way. I know some people might have serious problems with this scene, though Oscar does regret doing it later and it does show a moment of weakness in him that he desperately needed. So while I did not exactly like that it happened, I do appreciate seeing that he has his own issues to deal with.

There are other side characters that are overall quite interesting, including Oscar’s friend Lazar, the knights Als and Meredina, fellow witch Lucrezia, and others. Even the “villains” have motivations behind them that make you curious about why they are doing what they are doing. Beyond the characters, the overall story has a nice “classic fantasy” tone, without the usual video game elements that are common in fantasy light novels. It gives a nice feel of a world that is both fascinating and dangerous, and like with Tinasha’s memories, the worldbuilding is slowly unveiled over time.

So overall, I definitely enjoyed this novel. The idea of uncovering the past of a long-lived witch is done well here and it is a fascinating fantasy story with good character interactions. It does have some issues, but hopefully they got worked out in this starting volume and future ones work in more character development on Oscar’s side. At any rate, I definitely would like to read more of it and see what more remains to be named in Tinasha’s memories.

The Plus: An Unnamed Past

One common misguided bit of “self-help” advice is to “leave the past behind.” Even within Christianity, we often talk about how God can “free us from the past” as if that means we can somehow pretend that past never existed. Likewise, if someone came from a bad past of some sort, we might think it would be loving to ignore that past, treating them as if that past does not affect our present. However, the truth is, our past does affect our present, and is often the source of a lot of issues we might be struggling. If we leave those memories “unnamed,” we only allow that past to continue to cause problems. We can see that with Oscar, who tries to treat Tinasha as if he “doesn’t care” about her past as a witch, not realizing that her past is actually very important to her present and why she does not accept his feelings, which leads to problems in their relationship.

God can “free us from the past,” but only if we “name” that past and expose it to His grace. And ultimately, that “freedom from the past” is not ignoring it entirely, but acknowledging and working through it so that it no longer holds power over us.

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