While impressive, the beginning of The Memory Thief has a very rough structure. The author plops the reader into the world without any world-building, and it is not always easy to follow. The Memory Thief is a fantasy novel where the characters have many gifts; however, following these gifts is hard. The author is not clear on the world works or on how the gifts work. It just comes across as very confusing for the reader who is trying to figure out who Etta is and what her place is in the world. It just is not clear construction-wise.
As the plot develops, the story explores the differences between the Gifted magic and their societal position versus the Ungifted. So, the author does go into detail with developing the world, but it takes a while. The focus of the opening chapters is establishing the villain and the tension between the villain and Etta.
Nevertheless, in the beginning, Etta is not a very compelling character. There is much internal struggle for her character as she struggles to reconcile her past mistakes. As a story focused on memory and the power of it, how they make us feel and influence our personalities and decisions. So she does become a compelling character, eventually, but the opening chapters do not make her appealing. Thankfully her dynamics with Reid offer up a lot of tension and character development, making her a more compelling character in the long run.
Ultimately The Memory Thief is an okay novel. It is something unique, highlighting the power of memory and how important memories are, but the first quarter of the story, both the structure of the storytelling and the characterization is lacking. (★★★☆☆)