I’ve been reading Robert Jackson Bennett’s novels for a number of years now and he never ceases to disappoint. Foundryside, the opening novel in his latest trilogy was one of my standout novels of 2018, introducing us to a host of wonderful characters and an innovative magic system.
He’s now back with Shorefall, a novel as good, if not better, than the first. If you haven’t read Foundryside yet, I wholeheartedly recommend you do. The rest of this review keeps things general for those who haven’t read the first, book, but really, you should click on the link above, read that review, and order Foundryside forthwith.
Foundryside was always going to be a hard act to follow. It’s a brilliant blend of magic, heist, and social commentary, and, at its heart a genesis novel. First novels and genesis stories are often the kernels of good ideas and it can be hard for novelists (and particularly filmmakers) to elevate follow up stories to similar heights.
Shorefall does use the standard sequel methodology of bigger baddies and more impressive explosions, but it also has a few other special tricks up its sleeve. One of the standout features of Foundryside is the empathy its characters have for one another. The relationships formed in that book are strengthened further in Shorefall in ways you can’t begin to imagine.
Shorefall also makes great use of the idea that the “enemy of my enemy is my friend,” isn’t necessarily a sensible way to plan a victory. Great tension is created by having two competing powerful entities at the center of the novel. One is very obviously “bad,” the other seems fairer, but the truth about both is probably something different. Who should Sancia and her friends trust? You’ll be guessing throughout!
In this book, Bennett expands his world-building, in particular, his compelling magic system. He develops the history and scope of “scriving.” It’s a fascinating take on magic, and it was great to see it evolve further. Once again, the novel’s dialogue is on point. Fast, funny, and authentic. Bennett’s sharp eye for dialogue is part of what makes his novels so special.
It’s hard to say much more than that, for fear of spoiling the previous installment. Shorefall is a solid second-in-a-trilogy novel. Lots of exciting things happen, some of which are resolved, but a whole can of worms is opened up for the final episode.
As long as Sancia doesn’t end up being the centuries-old, evil sorcerer’s granddaughter, I’m sure to be more than happy with book three! The Founders Trilogy is an excellent place at the end of book two, and I can’t wait to read the big finale.
Disclosure: I received a copy of this book in order to write this review.