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Literature / The Memory Wars

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"He must remember the warrior he was, to become the hero he was born to be. His name is Nathan Shepherd, and he remembers."
Locked Within

Paul Anthony Shortt's urban fantasy trilogy, telling the story of Nathan Shepherd, a man who has been reincarnated throughout history, always drawn into conflict with supernatural forces. His journey brings him up against Dorian, the ruler of the supernatural society of New York, and Athamar, an enemy who has hunted Nathan throughout countless lifetimes.

Aiding Nathan in his fight are Cynthia Keller, Cadence Brooke, Sam Kinnon, and the reincarnation of Nathan's lost love, Elena De Santis.

Books in the series:

  1. Locked Within
  2. Silent Oath
  3. Memory War

There are also two short stories:

  1. Taking Sides: Cynthia, set between Locked Within and Silent Oath
  2. Taking Sides: Elena, set between Silent Oath and Memory War

The Memory Wars provides examples of the following tropes:

  • A Form You Are Comfortable With: Gods, such as Athena and Morrigan, do this, having been interpreted as different mythological figures by different cultures throughout history.
  • After Action Patch Up: Several times for Nathan, though not always by a love interest.
  • Archaic Weapon for an Advanced Age: While the reborn and their enemies use firearms, they often favour close combat weapons such as swords and axes.
  • Badass Longcoat: Nathan graduates to this by the end of Locked Within.
  • Band of Brothers: Nathan and his friends.
  • Battle Couple: Nathan and Elena.
  • Better as Friends: Nathan and Cynthia dated briefly in college, but even after breaking up, they remained close friends.
  • Big Applesauce: Although past-life flashbacks show different places, the modern-day setting for the series is New York, and there is a lot of focus on the city's importance in the supernatural world.
    Mike Shepherd: "You'll always have New York, and your old man."
    Cadence Brooke: "The fact is that New York is a vast reservoir of emotional power. That energy can be tapped to fuel large-scale magic. Few cities so young have such power."
  • Big Damn Heroes:
    • Locked Within: Nathan crashes an SUV into a construction site, saving Cadence from the soul eater and taking down several Council agents without taking a scratch.
    • Silent Oath: Nathan and Elena storm Morrigan's ritual, stopping her from creating her demon army, and saving (most of) her prisoners.
  • The Big Rotten Apple: How things are before Nathan begins to remember his past lives and starts to fight back against the Council of Chains.
    Cadence Brooke: "New York is... heavy. Like it's wrapped in chains. Do you know how much strength it takes to change that? To stand up and fight with such force that the city itself, and everyone in it, feels the difference?"
  • The Commissioner Gordon: Lt. Frank Powell
  • Damaged Soul: Athamar, not to mention Nathan and Elena...
  • Dare to Be Badass: Inverted in Locked Within as both Roland and Libby tell Nathan not to bother trying to help the people of New York, because they've already been let down enough. A possible case of reverse psychology, however.
  • Deal with the Devil: Dorian achieved immortality this way, and Nathan cut a similar deal in exchange for a chance to kill Athamar before he came after him and Varia.
  • Earn Your Happy Ending: In the course of the first two books, Nathan loses his job, his girlfriend leaves him for his best friend, his father is killed, he learns that his best friend is the reincarnation of his greatest enemy, Athamar, and the woman he has loved throughout his previous incarnations is so hurt by the things he has done to stop Athamar that she decides she can't be with him. Of course, Elena hasn't had it easy, either, since her lover left her because she can't have children, her friends and family were massacred, and when she finally found Nathan, she remembered that in their most recent incarnations, he ritually murdered a 17 year-old Athamar and allowed her to kill him to trick Morrigan out of a host body.
  • The Epic: Nathan's story begins in ancient Greece, taking him through the fall of Troy, all of human history, culminating in a battle between the people of New York and an army of gods and demons bent on conquering the world.
  • False Soulmate: Nathan and Laura
  • Fights Like a Normal: Although access to past-life memories gives Nathan, and all reborn, knowledge of previously-learned skills, such as fighting styles, he must still train so that he's physically able to apply what he knows.
  • Final Battle: The author is particularly fond of these.
  • Five-Man Band:
  • Flirting Under Fire: Multiple occasions between Nathan and Elena.
  • Living Forever Is Awesome: The general attitude of the Council of Chains
  • Love at First Sight: Justified among reborn, who often run into former lovers in later incarnations.
  • Humans Are Special: Gods and other supernatural creatures are obsessed with humans because of their ability to die and be reborn, while gods and spirits remain ageless and unchanging.
  • Immortality Immorality: The Conclaves see attempts to break the cycle of death and rebirth as a violation of the natural order. It doesn't help that most paths to immortality involve killing or preying on innocent victims.
  • Indy Ploy: Nathan's approach to most situations.
    • Locked Within: After the Council has killed his father, and is about to take control of a soul eater, a powerful creature that's nearly impossible to kill, Roland asks Nathan what he's going to do about it. His response? "I'm gonna fuck their shit up."
  • Masquerade: Partly by design, but also through humanity's instinct to ignore what it can't understand.
  • My Name Is Inigo Montoya: "My name is Nathan Shepherd."
  • Nice Job Breaking It, Hero: In Silent Oath, we learn that in one of his past lives, Nathan broke the Common Laws that govern the reborn, not only making a deal with Morrigan to kill in her name so he could find and kill Athamar before he came after him and Elena/Varia again, but wound up killing the teenage Athamar's parents in front of him, and resorted to a ritual to lock away Athamar's past-life memories forever. When Morrigan released all those memories at once in the modern day, it drove Athamar insane, turning him into an even more dangerous enemy than ever before.
  • One Myth to Explain Them All: Pretty much every god and monster is actually a being from another realm which has bonded with a human host.
  • Our Souls Are Different
  • Past-Life Memories: All humans have the potential for this. Those that become good at it are known as reborn, and can use their past-life memories to boost their strength, speed, and stamina, as well as re-learn previously-known skills faster.
  • Photographic Memory: Nathan possesses this trait, and uses it in his investigations.
  • Reincarnated as the Opposite Sex: Several characters have explicitly lived some lives as genders other than their current one. In fact, one of Nathan's memories in Locked Within involves re-living having sex with Varia, at a time when Nathan was a woman and Varia was a man.
  • Reincarnation: A key theme and plot element of the series, and the source of the conflict between the Reborn Conclaves, who believe that the soul should be allowed to pass on and return in another life, and the Council of Chains, who fear what lies between death and rebirth, and instead pursue various paths to immortality.
  • Reincarnation Romance
  • Take Up My Sword: Reborn often leave weapons, information, and valuables in places their later incarnations will find. Indeed, simply remembering their past lives often drives a reborn to carry on the goals of their past selves.
  • Urban Fantasy
  • We Help the Helpless: The purpose of the Conclaves, and Nathan's driving motivation after he loses his job, his father is killed, and his girlfriend leaves him for his best friend after revealing she is pregnant with said best friend's baby.
  • Your Soul Is Mine!: A soul eater's primary motivation.