ARC provided by the publisher—Del Rey—in exchange for an honest review.
Shorefall by Robert Jackson Bennett
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
Series: The Founders Trilogy (Book #2 of 3)
Genre: Fantasy, High Fantasy, Urban Fantasy
Pages: 512 pages (US hardcover edition)
Published: 21st April 2020 by Jo Fletcher Books (UK) & Del Rey Books (US)
Shorefall is mind-bending great; Robert Jackson Bennett once again proved himself that he is a precious gift for the SFF genre.
I feel like there needs to be a new genre classification for Robert Jackson Bennett’s books, an urban fantasy? Check. High fantasy? Check. Sci-fi? Check. Urban high SFF it is. Yes, it is always a safe bet to read Bennett’s books when you’re in need of a refreshing, fabulous, and incredible read that brims with fascinating ideas and concepts. Having read The Divine Cities Trilogy and Foundryside in 2018, I can’t believe that I made it through 2019 without reading any books written by Bennett. Both The Divine Cities trilogy and Foundryside was enough to establish Bennett as one of my favorite authors, and Shorefall—one of my most anticipated books of the year—continue to amplify that notion.
“If there be a person alive with more power than myself, then over time circumstances shall eventually degrade until, inevitably, I am their slave. And if our situations were to be reversed, then they shall inevitably become mine.”—Crasedes Magnus
Shorefall is the second book in The Founders trilogy, and the story starts almost three years after the end of Foundryside. Still taking place in the city of Tevanne, Bennett takes everything good about Foundryside and expand upon them tremendously. In my review of Foundryside, I mentioned that a lot of aspects in the book reminded me of reading Mistborn by Brandon Sanderson, Shorefall, in many ways, feels more original and unique. Bennett writes a stupefying engaging story that includes power, slavery, freedom, oppression, social structure, and the dangers that come with each new invention as the main themes. Most importantly, Bennett also made sure that the characters and their developments are still the main driving force of his narrative.
“Humankind is the most innovative at turning innovation to the cruelest ends. Power alters the soul far more than any innovation I could imagine, even at the height of my privileges.”
Sancia Grado and the members of the Foundrysiders are great characters with a distinct personality that became easier and easier to root for as the story progressed. To narrow it down collectively, they are kind-hearted people genuinely trying their best to change the city of Tevanne for the better. I loved reading about them, and if I may be frank, I didn’t expect that I would be emotionally attached to each one of them as much as I did for the characters in The Divine Cities trilogy; clearly, I was wrong. Sancia and the Foundrysiders have to learn a lot about hardship, invention, love, friendship, camaraderie, freedom, and sacrifices through insane adversities here. Plus, Bennett writes an LGBT relationship superbly well. Additionally, what impressed me even further, though, was the fact that the on-point characterizations don’t apply exclusively to the protagonists. It just astounded me how careful and effective was the humanization Bennett imbued into the antagonist’s vision and reasoning, making me feel invested in knowing more about the villain’s motivation and their unflinching brutality.
“Learn what your city has forgotten,” he said. “What men of power have forgotten time and time again, throughout history—that there is always, always something mightier.”
Bennett is so damn good at writing terrifying mythical or powerful figures with awesome abilities. He has demonstrated this in The Divine Cities trilogy, and he remind us how good he is at it in Shorefall. The dreadful feelings and fear caused by the encounter with these avatars of menace simply burst to life palpably. I truly felt the character’s fear and their struggle as they unleashed everything in their arsenal to augment their hope of overcoming impossible odds. Shorefall is most likely the most action-packed book that Bennett has written so far. It is fast-paced, thoroughly breathtaking, and filled with well-written out-of-this-world action sequences that combine fantasy, innovations, and technology into one destructive package. I mean, I’m talking about a myriad of stones flying through the air like a shooting star of death here; the sky is the color of doom, the threat of a wave of blood flooding the Tevanne is real. The stakes exceeded every conflict bestowed in Foundryside, and my god, I was completely enthralled by every page of this marvel.
“But it is a regrettable thing that in order to fix a monstrous world, one must become a little monstrous in one’s own right.”
Scriving—the magic of giving commands/sentience to an everyday object—is a fascinating and intricate hard magic system redolent of Sanderson’s specialty, Bennett’s achievement with pulling off the expansion of Scriving in Shorefall is nothing short of outstanding, reaching vast scope that I never would’ve expected. Bennett has successfully created a world-building that put the history of the world into account for the present predicament. Readers get to learn more about the origin and inconceivable capabilities of scriving—a titanic power capable of governing the very nature of the world, and also at the same time, altering the kindest of souls towards a darker path due to its limitless possibility.
“Maybe you, like so many of this city, believe that all the world should be your servant because you haven’t ever learned what it’s like to be powerless.”
I’ll stop my review here, I wish I can speak more about the brilliance that occurred in this book in much more detail, but I don’t want to spoil your reading experience; I’ve said more than enough anyway. Shorefall is definitely one of Bennett’s best work so far, it’s as least as good as City of Miracles, and I’m not saying that lightly. Shorefall is an absolutely spellbinding sequel that blew my mind with its compelling plot progression, sympathizing characters, thrilling actions, and clever inventiveness in its manipulation of reality, time, and souls. Overflowing with originality and maximum wow factors, Bennett blends sci-fi and fantasy organically, creating a sequel on a magnitude and imagination that can only be executed expertly by the most gifted of authors. And fortunately, Robert Jackson Bennett—without a doubt—belongs in that group of SFF authors.
Official release date: 21st April 2020
The quotes in this review were taken from an ARC and are subject to change upon publication.
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