In this second installment of the Founders Trilogy, Sancia Grado and her allies are sowing the seeds of a full-on magical-industrial revolution: If they succeed, the secrets behind scriving—the art of imbuing everyday objects with sentience—will be accessible to all in Tevanne. But first Sancia must stop Crasedes Magnus, a powerful hierophant who wants revenge on Tevanne.
Bennett wastes no time in putting the reader right back in the action, bringing us swiftly through the streets of Tevanne, reacquainting us with the four heroes of Foundryside, and giving us gentle reminders into scriving, magic that can imbue inanimate objects with sentience, and argue reality into working in ways it was not intended. Which is good, because our understanding of every single one of those things aspects of the book flip and change, evolving through Bennett’s expert touch and effortless prose. Through Shorefall, we watch as from chapter to chapter, characters are challenged and new facets of their personalities bloom, driving and nuanced ... It’s always a sheer pleasure reading Robert Jackson Bennett because of his talent at writing work that is both seamless and balanced. For every moment of plot momentum, there is an equal moment dedicated to Sancia and Berenice’s deep love for each other. For every glimpse we get into Gregor’s terror that he’s not in control of his mind or body, there is an equal moment given to someone arguing about the nature of humanity ... Bennett’s work has always been fine-tuned, but Shorefall is a testament to his ability to make a modern epic fantasy flow so seamlessly from scene to scene, never bogged down by excess or pontification. If his books were a scriving rig, they’d be masterworks in convincing reality that somehow a book with ideas, action, characters, and lore this massive isn’t somehow two thousand pages long ... as packed as this book is, I still could’ve spent another four hundred pages in Bennett’s story ... a riveting epic fantasy that gives you a little bit of everything, but so seamlessly, you’re going to wonder when you got to the ending. It has heart and intricate characters who love and care for each other. It has wonder and danger, oftentimes attached at the hip. It has upheavals and twists and morality and action, that culminates in a breathless series of events that will have you eagerly awaiting book three. Bennett has written another stunning novel that shows exactly what this genre can do and why we love it.
This grisly plot concept gives Shorefall a different feel than Foundryside. The first book, despite Sancia’s horrible past and some powerful villains, maintained a lighter tone, with fun capers and the delightful relationship between Sancia and Clef. Unfortunately, Clef appears hardly at all in this book, and charming wit is in shorter supply than corpses ... This bleak assessment of humanity rings true in our own human history as well as in the history of the novel ... If the first two books are any measure, the third promises to raise thought-provoking issues with likable characters, a creative magic system, and clever action sequences. It will be interesting to see if Bennett continues to emphasize the darkness of human nature or if he will find a path to justice and hope.