Cover Image: Shorefall


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This book is the second of the trilogy and I don’t think that it can be read as a standalone. All of the setup of the characters is in the first book and if you skip it you’ll never know what an entertaining character Clef can be. (He’s a sentient key.) I thought that the first book also gave a clearer explanation of the scriving magic that encodes sentience into inanimate objects and enables some people to control them. In this book, it felt like new rules and powers for scriving cropped up on every other page, whenever the author needed to get the characters into or out of trouble he threw in new magic.

There were a lot of villains and a lot of action and it had more plot development than is sometimes present in the middle book of a trilogy. By the end of the book, it seemed to me that the heroes had made the situation significantly worse, and the cliffhanger ending set things up for the final book. Ultimately, I liked this book slightly more than I liked the first one, which I found rather repetitive.

I received a free copy of this book from the publisher.

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Published by Del Rey on April 21, 2020

My objection to most fantasy novels is that writers too easily resort to magic (or godlike powers) to make things happen for the convenient purpose of advancing the plot. Robert Jackson Bennett, on the other hand, is scrupulous about creating rules that govern the universes he creates. Bennett's rules are the analog of the laws of physics in our universe.

In the Founders trilogy (of which Shorefall is the second installment), reality is affected by scrivings that trick objects into believing that the rules are something other than they would otherwise be. Objects float because they are told that gravity makes them rise rather than fall. Wheels turn without propulsion because scrivings convince them that turning is what wheels do. The instructions that give definitions to scrivings are stored in large devices known as lexicons. How mere humans came to learn about scriving is not entirely clear at this point, but the explanation appears to be unfolding.

Foundryside ended with its protagonist, Sansia Grado, facing a perilous future. The peril heightens in Shorefall as Crasedes Magnus — perhaps the first of the long-vanished hierophants and known to some as the Maker — travels to Tevanne, the city-state in which the Foundries operate. Crasedes plans to take control of the lexicons to restore his ability to remake reality to suit his purposes. To do that, he must overcome another godlike being, a powerful “construct” known as Valeria whose scrived permissions restrain her from confronting Crasedes directly. Crasedes gets an initial assist from Ofelia Dondalo, Gregor's conflicted mother.

Gregor's heroism in Foundryside finds new expression in Shorefall. Gregor’s mommy issues are reflected in other characters who have difficult parents, although the novel’s biggest surprise involves a key character from Foundryside who is dismayed to discover that he has a troublesome child. (You need to read Foundryside to catch the pun in the last sentence.)

Sansia, Berenice Grimaldi, Orso Ignacio, and Gregor Dandalo are the primary returning characters from Foundryside. Each grows in his or her own way. Each confronts adversity, gains strength, and finds a way to cope. The heroes in Bennett’s novels always remind readers of the need to place the common good ahead of their own desires — a message that resonates in these troubled times. While all the heroes in Shorefall risk their lives repeatedly for the welfare of the world they know, a couple of characters engage in acts of self-sacrifice that will change them, or end them, because they see no other choice. One reason I keep coming back to Bennett is that he makes me feel good about the human race, even if his humans live in a different universe.

There is usually a moral conflict in a Jackson novel. Shorefall presents two views of how power might be used. One powerful character wants to make the world a better place by taking control of humans and directing them toward pursuits that do not involve violence or corruption, a sort of benevolent enslavement. A competing powerful character wants to make the world a better place by taking away scriving, which would prevent the owners of lexicons from exploiting everyone else, although a few million people would die when everything collapses. Both powerful beings believe they have good intentions, but their laudable ends may not justify such destructive means.

Despite its philosophical underpinnings, Shorefall offers abundant action. I admire Jackson’s ability to create imaginative problems that can only be overcome by devising clever but dangerous solutions. Shorefall doesn’t exactly end on a cliffhanger, but the resolution creates a temporary lull in a larger story that will continue in the final novel. Jackson and his publisher made me wait twenty agonizing months for the second novel after the first one was published. I hope we don’t have to wait as long for the last one.


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The second book in this terrific fantasy. It has been a couple of years since the first book, but you are drawn quickly back into the city of Tevanne and Sancia's life. I do recommend that you read the first book, Foundryside, before delving into this one. The book is full of adventure and Bennett developed the characters so completely that I felt I understood their feelings and motives well. Sancia is a great heroine with a strong courage and a good sense of fairness. The plot moves quickly and kept my attention throughout. I found the story intriguing, especially how scrivings were the basis for the economic and social structures in this world. The themes of social inequality, oppression, slavery, and power are strong throughout without being preachy and they add to the story rather than detracting. I would recommend this book to anyone who loves fantasy adventures. A truly enjoyable read.

Thanks to Random House Publishing Group - Ballantine through Netgalley for an advance copy in exchange for an honest review.

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There are millions of books in existence around the world, some bad, some good, and some very good. Then there are a rare few that are so far above their peers that to read them is to feel like you are reading something truly special. Such is the case, in my opinion, of Robert Jackson Bennett's latest novel, Shorefall.

Even though it is the second in the Founders' trilogy, Mr. Bennett's talent allows readers unfamiliar with the first novel to catch on to the story with little frustration. The beauty is that he spends no time rehashing previous events but allows the characters to refer to those past events in a natural fashion through conversation. It not only clarifies key aspects of the story but develops the characters even further than they already are.

Mr. Bennett's novels are all extremely unique in nature, from literal gods to magic that ignores the laws of science. What makes them so brilliant is the fact that he considers every aspect of his world and his characters when building and developing them. We not only know what his worlds look like, but we know what they smell and sound like. We know what makes them function, and the same is true of his characters. There is a lot of excellent science fiction/fantasy literature in the world, but I feel Mr. Bennett puts them all to shame.

Shorefall is a masterpiece of science fiction/fantasy. It crosses both realms in that the magic that exists in the world plays with reality and scientific lawsThe characters are all strong and well-developed. There exist plenty of twists and "oh shit" moments, sacrifices, lies, and danger to interest most readers. Mr. Bennett's visceral descriptions are breathtaking in their coverage of the minutest detail without getting bogged down in a plethora of words; he shows rather than explains. Shorefall is a spellbinding story that reads extremely quickly, complex and yet cohesive and easily understood. In other words, it is masterpiece.

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A more than solid follow-up to FOUNDRYSIDE. The biggest stumbles in the first volume are mostly rectified here, with new twists that help mollify the issues I had with character development in FOUNDRYSIDE. Foreshadowing in the first is satisfyingly handled, new elements and characters are introduced to great effect.

Overall, a very good second installment in a trilogy, and an improvement of the first book in most ways.

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Shorefall is the sequel to Foundryside, which I loved. Now, the gang is back and off righting wrongs while personally profiting, of course.

If you haven’t read Foundryside, please take a few days to read that book first. It will greatly increase your delight in this book if you know everyone’s full backstory.

The world-building is this series’ best strength. The mix of past and future into a nice melding of science fiction with fantasy works really well. Sancia and her troop are also engaging characters. Shorefall, despite being long, doesn’t feel slow-paced at all. If you usually don’t read fantasy or science fiction, this series is a great introduction to both of those genres. 4 stars! And I can’t wait for the promised conclusion of the trilogy!

Thanks to Del Rey Books and NetGalley for a copy in exchange for my honest review.

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Thank you Netgalley for the ARC.

Firstly, I LOVE Robert Jackson Bennett. His "Divine Cities" trilogy was amazing. Foundryside was amazing! I had high expectations for Shorefall. My first impression was that the cover is gorgeous. It just radiates secrecy, authority, and foreboding.

Even though three years has passed since the events in Foundryside, we are launched into action with our favorite characters, Sancia, Berenice, Gregor and Orso. Events unravel as they attempt to foil Crasedes in his plans for...well basically an apocalypse. The writing was spot on, the world building was phenomenal, the character development was cool (for some of them). However, I only rated this 3 stars. The magic system was expanded in this book, which was done well, but also took away from the "magical" quality of Foundryside. Did that make sense? Having battles with "Gods" somehow diminishes or belittles the everyday behaviors of the characters. Magic isn't nearly as mysterious or intangible when Gods are involved. Some evil characters developed a lot, and the basic ones (Gregor in particular) could have had more. The problems got a lot worldlier which isn't my preference. I get tired of reading (what I think are) poorly concealed social criticisms.

Nevertheless, I will be excited to read book three.

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4.5 🌟
i teared up a bit
i think i am almost numb but give me a few hours and I will probably be balling

well... i can't really tell you that can i? i mean this is the second book in a series so any summary I give with spoil what happens in the first so I will give the vaguest one-liner summary ever.

3 years after the events of the first book our band must tackle an even greater heist than the one prior with many casualties along the way.

Honestly, for me, this book wasn't as good as the first book. I don't know what it was about this but I think I just enjoyed the heist better in the first book I thought it was better planned and it was really interesting. However, the one thing I did really enjoy was the main villain in this book. A man named Crasedes, the first hierophant. His whole arc was really interesting and if you have read the book then that reveal had me gasping like wtf????

I recommend this series to anyone who enjoys high fantasy because the magic system is one of the most interesting systems I have read in a while.

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'Shorefall (The Founders Trilogy #2)' by Robert Jackson Bennett is a deep-dive fantasy novel about a sort of hobbled together group of rebels, bound by the struggles they've shared and a communal desire to free others like themselves. Though I didn't read the first book in the series, I had no trouble picking this one up and settling right into what was going on.

In a world where people rely heavily on the art of scriving-- the act of imbuing everyday objects with sentience and permissions they wouldn't normally have by nature's rules, there comes a battle between two godlike figures. Crasedes Magnus, the first of the great hierophants and Valeria, the construct who defeated him in their last conflict.. were both left too damaged to affect the changes they intended without help.

Our protagonist is a spitfire named Sancia Grado, who just so happens to be able to physically see the logic of the scrivings sunken into the objects around her and interact with them, convincing them to do things they aren't meant to. She's rough around the edges, she's amusingly sarcastic at times, but she's also capable of great love and loyalty. It just doesn't usually look like what we might expect from a heroine.

Accompanied by her girlfriend Berenice (together, the two referred to as The Muses), the old scriver Orso (who left the Founding Houses and struck out on his own in an attempt to bring technology more equally to the people), and Gregor (the son of one of the Founding Houses.. and a broken thing in his own right), Sancia intends to put a stop to Crasedes as well. Their relationships are all rather beautifully complex. Each carrying their own baggage as they try to alleviate those same agonies in those around them.

As a team, they're a well-oiled machine. They complement each other's skills and temperments, and really.. this is what I find is the core thread through the story. It's a tale about taking on the greatest of odds together. While of course, that is no guarantee of success, Bennett certainly shows the reader how much stronger they are because of their common goals and willingness to put each other first.

As great as Sancia is, it's Gregor I find myself drawn to. He's the tragic beauty. It doesn't matter that he's a deadly warrior, that he's covered in scars, and emotionally cold and distant much of the time. There's still something elegant about him, he just feels so lost to me all the time.

I have some minor complaints, of course I do.

Understandably, Bennett's ideas are complex. The very theory of scriving itself is fascinating and in their world it's everywhere. It's used for defenses, both personal and geographical, but it's also used for everyday work. Irrigation. Light. Construction. Every part of their world has been touched by it, maybe not improved.. but progression is not always improvement, is it?

Despite the complexity of the concepts, in my opinion he goes a bit overboard with the information dumps about how everything works. It's constant. Explain a few things to me so I get how it works in theory and then focus on the story itself. Whatever. The result was it made the book a bit more of a trudge than it needed to be, but it also didn't seem to weaken his work on the characters, plot, or relationships at all. So, it's just a personal preference. I would have liked less of that.

Also, I would have liked less easy answers. With Sancia able to look at any scrived rig, see exactly how it works and how to manipulate it, that's borderline convenient already. But add in the all knowing beings and the ways they find to share information as they move toward their goals, it's just a bit too much. I really dislike everything being able to be explained in a flash of knowledge at every turn.

Ultimately, none of my small protests matter. The story is gripping. I was invested from the start and remained so throughout. Most of the book has no real time for emotion. That isn't to say the characters don't experience them, they're just pressed for time, pressed for action.. they cannot just still and let themselves crumble. There are moments however, that I found incredibly moving.

While the tension ramped up and time seemed fleeting, every decision became that much more crucial. Reveals, long foreshadowed and slow to come to fruition, made harsh impacts.. both on the characters and the reader. I was deeply unhappy with how certain events unfolded.. and I'm absolutely certain that is exactly why they were the right choices. The author left me feeling as bereft and broken as those within his story seemed to be.. and I can't wait for him to do it again.

Come on.. book 3..

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I have been a fan of Bennett's writing for some time now and I have eagerly awaited this release of the sequel to Foundryside, his latest trilogy. The magic here is loosely based on computer coding in a way that makes this a fun blend of modern and traditional fantasy. But this second book in the series is less focused on world-building and more on action. Picking up three years after the conclusion of Foundryside, Sancia and her friends open this one with a heist, but also with the legitimate sale of their latest breakthrough of their magical technology. The book jumps right in and I must admit that I wish that there had been a few more reminders and refreshers about the material covered in the first book - I felt a little lost at first since it was nearly two years ago since I read it, and my favorite character, Clef, isn't even mentioned right away.

This one also lays a lot of foundation for what will come in the third book in the series. It doesn't end quite on a cliffhanger, per se, but it's definitely a pretty steep hill of an ending. Its has hints of more action to come. I continue to really enjoy these characters and the secrets that are revealed here. It's certainly an exciting and action-packed read! Though I think that I would have enjoyed this one more had I re-read Foundryside immediately before starting this one... so that's definitely my plan for the third book's release! A re-read and binge of the whole trilogy! It's a fresh and fun series, and though I felt a little disconnected from this one at the start, by the end, I couldn't put it down!

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This is such an interesting fantasy world- tastes of old-school Italy combined with the industrial revolution combined with a hugely inventive magic system. And the plot and characters are also great! This is basically everything I want in a fantasy series and I'm really looking forward to book #3.

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Are you looking for a fantasy series with an original magic system that's so complex and yet expertly rendered for readability, whose setting explores capitalism and class differences, with a plot that moves with heart pounding pace, while creating witty characters who find family with each other and are so endearing that you can't help but love each of them? Not to mention it's inclusive and diverse? Do I have the books for you.

Shorefall was an incredible sequel just as compulsively readable as the original and I really don't feel like these books are talked about enough. Foundryside was one of my favorite fantasy reads of 2019 and I was not let down by this sequel. The conflict and struggles that were set up in the first one were expanded into absolutely wild ride in this sequel, the world grew to an even bigger scope without losing the reader at all. Not to mention the last 100 pages had me desperately turning pages while crying and anxious to know what happens next. I'm absolutely ready for the next installment to leave me breathless in the wake of it's brilliance. It can't come soon enough.

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I figured out what I was missing from Foundryside during my read of Shorefall and it was my connection to the characters. I suppose I needed one more book to develop those feelings I was lacking in book one because this one hit me right in the feelings. Bennett takes this story to a whole new level in this book and I cannot wait for the conclusion! Does anyone by chance know how long I have to wait? I know this one just came out a few days ago, but I want that conclusion right NOW!

This novel is not suffering at all from the slow second book syndrome that seems to haunt trilogies, in fact I enjoyed this book more than the first installment.

Highly recommend.

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I received an early copy of Shorefall via Netgalley.

It's three years after the events of the terrific first novel, Foundryside. In this world, artisans known as scrivers can etch symbols onto things such that those things believe things and behave in ways that defy reality. Wheels can be convinced they're heading downhill, so will move along on their own. Locks can be convinced that they can only open when a certain key is put into them. But our protagonist from the first novel, Sancia, can interact with scrivings in new ways. For example, she can convince that lock that it wouldn't be breaking its orders if the door opened out, rather than in. Voila, she's into places she ought not be.

But now that our heroes run their own House, they're working to make their world a better one. Unfortunately, one of the original hierophants (powerful, godlike overlords) has come back, and wants to control again, at any cost.

The book is full of action, as the characters try to fight back against an enemy that's overwhelmingly more powerful than them. If there's a downside, it's that it's so action-packed that we don't have much time for character development. Don't get me wrong: I really like these characters. But I don't know much more about them than I did in the first book. As it neared the end, I was flying through the book to find out what would happen--though I admit that some of the technology got muddled at the end, and I wasn't quite sure what was happening or why it was happening. Nevertheless, I was very pleased with how he landed this.

While I didn't like Shorefall quite as much as Foundryside, it's still a very good book, and has made me eager to read the next one.

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Tread carefully!

Things are different in Tevanne now for Sancia Grado and her group.
Tevanne a place where "where machines are run by plates scribed by sigils that convince objects of a different reality, which in turn sets them in motion according to the demands inscribed."
If you remember Sancia is able to unlock scriven sigils and send them down a different path. With her associates Orso, Gregor, and Berenice, the search to finally overthrow the powerful barons who control much of the scriven capabilities and thus the population appears to be on the horizon, well closer than that.
However there's a but with a capital B.
It seems one of the legendary inventors of scriveners is about to rise from the dead, reappear and that takes the fight against the ruling class to a fight against the gods.
Gregor is uneasy. Sancia is warned in a dream like sequence by Valaria, "THE MAKER MUST NOT COME BACK!"
What can I say? A solid addition to a series that in it's inception was exquisite in terms of the redefined techno magical device that is scriveness, daring in the scope of it's world building and socio ecomrealities, and a straight up enthralling adventure.

A Random House - Ballantine ARC via NetGalley

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This book is one of the 2020 releases that I have been most excited to get to read. Short of the next Expanse book or the next (two!) Dresden Files books, this was it. After reading FOUNDRYSIDE this guy’s stuff again rocketed to the top of my list. The only problem with that? You may be familiar with the phrase, “The bigger they are the harder they fall”? Yeah. It fell hard. This reading experience is going to stymie me for a while.

SHOREFALL is the second book in the Founders series, and would you just look at that cover art? I think it’s pretty spiffy and instantly makes you wonder who the dude in the robe and the tricorn hat is. Easily on par with the cover art of the previous book. Someone over at Del Rey doing things right. Love it.

This story picks up things about three years after the end of FOUNDRYSIDE. Essentially all of the main characters of that book are now bound together into a single group and doing their darnedest to bring down the might of the remaining merchant houses of the city of Tevanne. With the destruction of one under their belts, they can taste the blood in the water. In the intervening time, Sancia Grado (the main protagonist of this series so far) and her friends have developed a pretty good bead on how they’re going to it. The story opens with them offering to sell some new scriving technology to one of the remaining large merchant houses. Seems like a deal that’s almost too good to be true, and that is definitely correct. For the team has ulterior motives for selling this new technology, as it’s going to allow them to initiate the beginning of the end for this merchant house.

Shortly after the transaction, Sancia is warned by a somewhat self-aware construct that she released from imprisonment near the end of the previous book that Crasedes Magnus, the first of the legendary heirophants of history, has been brought back to life and he’s coming to Tevanne. The construct is terrified of what the first heirophant, her previous master, wants to do to humanity, and she warns Sancia and her friends that they need to do everything they can to keep him from the city. Soon, they’re off and running, and they don’t get a chance to stop until the very end.

First, let’s go with writing. RJB is really good at stringing words together. He’s one of those that is typically able to make you forget that you’re reading a book. I’m one that can fall into visualizing what’s going on in a story pretty easily if the writing is up to par, and that is definitely the case here. Just as good as in the previous book. You know what’s going on. There’s a good sense of place and lots of detail where detail is needed. One place that I felt detail was missing though was when it came to continuing to describe the city of Tevanne. In FOUNDRYSIDE there was a solid feel to the city, the buildings, the districts, the technology and it’s peoples. SHOREFALL seems to almost completely set the city aside though. Detail and description of it and it’s contents are sparse at best, and I really missed that aspect of the story. This lack of detail was especially surprising in light of one of the major plots turns near the end of the story. No spoilers, but it really bothered me.

Second, let’s hit up the characters. I’m going to have to harass RJB the same way I did Joe Abercrombie about his most recent book, A LITTLE HATRED. There are just too many characters that get POV time in this story and they’re all right of top of one another. This did two things to the narrative that made it difficult for me to enjoy. First, there’s not enough time to really develop solid character because of all of the different POVs. Second, nearly all of them end up sounding the same and telling the same story instead of being anything near distinct. Gregor Dandolo gets lost in the mess, and even though there is an interesting reveal about his past, there’s nowhere near the impact that FOUNDRYSIDE contained. There we had separate storylines and character and motivations. Here it just kind of turns into one big mush of “character” and they all seem to have the same drive. Orso gets totally lost in the mix, as do most of the others. There were a couple moments between Sancia and her girlfriend, Berenice, that started to look hopeful, but that was about the extent of goodness that I found. This lack of solid characterization made the large majority of their reactions feel very melodramatic. Of course, the fact that essentially the entire story is Sancia and her buddies running around, finding something else amazing or horrific, and then repeatedly responding with a “Holy S**t!”, only served to reinforce that opinion.

Next… how bout the magic system? Everyone should have read FOUNDRYSIDE by now, and if you haven’t, shame on you (because you’re actually reading this review instead of reading that book — go fix that). Scriving is one of the coolest magic systems that I’ve come across in recent years. Has so much potential and so many ways that you could play with it, but all of that just fell apart in SHOREFALL. One of the mild difficulties I had with the magic system presented in FOUNDRYSIDE was that it sometimes got a little “technical”, and I felt like I kind of got lost in the details of it. But it was still FUN. Here, the details are essentially thrown out the window. The interesting conversations between Sancia/Clef the heirophantic key, and the various scrived components that make up the city and how Sancia disentangled them made for some humorous times indeed. Regardless, the process of scriving always seemed detailed and complicated and hard. But here, they’re making new scrivings for all of this crazy stuff that is only minimally described and everything seems to work perfectly on the first go. The magic completely collapsed into something that felt simple and easy. Something that could just be thrown around. This was especially the case after Crasedes comes into play. He’s the big wig after all and he can do literally anything he wants, it seems, with a simple wave of his hand. Took all the fun out of what was a really cool part of the story.

Last (because I have to stop somewhere and despite all appearances, having to write this review about this book is nearly killing me), I feel like I need to talk about the flow of the story. Understanding the motivations of the characters and how those motivations drove the story was easily one of the biggest issues I had with FOUNDRYSIDE. Ultimately it wasn’t enough to negatively impact my impression of the book. In this case, it absolutely did. Repeatedly, it felt like characters would come to conclusions that seemed completely beyond the scope of their understanding, but allowed the pacing of the story to stay high and keep moving because they were always right. This story is, if anything, a fast mover. There’s literally no time for anyone to sit down and rest. The whole thing happens over the course of a handful (maybe?) of days.

If I had to make a comparison about the experience of reading this book, I’d have to say that it would be akin to watching the movie Pacific Rim. If you aren’t familiar with that movie, it’s about a bunch of monsters that crawl up out of a crack in the Earth’s crust and the people that build massive Robotech-sized robots and then use them to go fight those monsters. If you don’t want to think about what’s going on with the story, or see the impact of those goings on other than just knowing they have something to do with “crimes against humanity!” or “mass slavery!” or “magic solves all my problems!”, then you’ll likely enjoy this story very much. It’ll be a lot like watching Pacific Rim: lots of shiny but not much substance. If you’re more like me though… you’re gonna have issues.

Despite the fact that I really didn’t like this book, I can’t help but wonder where he’s going to go with the next one. This story got WAY too big for its britches WAY too fast, but it definitely upped the stakes. Apocalypto to the maximo! Wish it had just told a better story along the way.

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Rating: 9.5/10

Thanks to the publisher and author for an advance copy of Shorefall (The Founders Trilogy #2) for review consideration. This did not influence my thoughts or opinions.

Shorefall is simply awe-inspiring. Bennett is a unique talent in the genre and we are not worthy.

Are we sure this is the 2nd book in the series? Can anyone go on a fact-finding mission and double check? Sequels aren’t supposed to be this good, like ever. I am almost taken aback that Bennett took the opportunity to write a book that was actually as good if not better than its predecessor. WHO DOES THAT?!?!?!

Did you love Foundryside? Are you hesitant about going into Shorefall because of 2nd book syndrome? Well, don’t be. Everything you remember about Book 1 is about to be turned on its head. Injected with reality-bending ideas, a horrifying antagonist, and new wrinkles to the art of scriving, this novel takes everything you enjoyed about Book 1 and turns it up to 11. Best part about it, all of the characters you became enamored with are back and are still the focal point of this ongoing story.

I cannot get over the beauty and intricacy of ‘scriving’. While I thought there was no way Bennett could top what we saw in Foundryside, he just brings it so much harder this time around. Moving on from everyday objects and onto reality itself, the implications become bigger than anyone anticipated; even more so when this ancient entity comes into play. But the mainstay for the series up to this point, and I expect going into Book 3, are the characters. The Foundryside group is in it for the long haul and you cannot name a more intriguing and enamoring cast of characters. From their inner-circle banter to the relationships they have with one another (personal and work-related), you cannot help but get behind them every step of the way.

I literally binged this book in a day via audio. If you really need to know how good it is, the audiobook is 19 hours and 40 minutes. Almost an entire day’s worth of audiobook goodness for those counting. If you enjoy audiobooks and plan on continuing this series, you cannot go wrong with Tara Sand’s narration. She killed Book 1, and she is back to murder Book 2. I cannot WAIT for Book 3.

Read Foundryside? Read this.
Haven’t read Foundryside? What are you waiting for?
Read Shorefall? Holler at me.

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A novel by Robert Jackson Bennett

The City of Tevanne is the Capital of an empire based on the industrial use of magic and slavery. It is an empire on edge. Slaves in their overseas plantations are rising in revolt all across the Durazzo Sea. So much so that suddenly, The City is on short rations because those plantations grow most of the food.

Internally, among the big Merchant Houses, Dandolo, Michiel, and Morsini, the situation is in foment too. The Scrivnors, who formulate the sigil strings for devices the Merchant Companies sell, are moving out of the "Big Three" to set up independent shops. That is an existential problem for Dandolo and the rest because the loss of these critical personnel closes off new ideas and innovation.

Sancia Grado, Berenice Grimaldi, Orso Ignacio, and Gregor Dandolo were the first to set up in the Commons. Their creation, Foundryside Limited, has the destruction of the Dandolo, Michiel, and Morsini companies as their singular goal. Breaking the stranglehold that the "Great" Merchant Houses have on scriving, and industrial magic will reset the table. At that point, Sancia and friends believe that the common folk of the city of Tevanne will be able to gain access to better housing, clean water, scrived lights, and all the other "luxuries" that the Merchant House Campos have in extravagant abundance.

When Sancia and company executed a very successful scheme targeting Michiel Body Corporate, they thought they had made a great stride toward breaking up Merchant House control of scriving. So, as people who have worked very hard to attain a goal finally succeed, Foundryside Limited celebrated a bit too hard.

The vicious hangovers of the morning after came with a terrible revelation. Valeria, an old ally, had sent Sancia warning of approaching disaster; an artifact from the body of Crasedes Magnus was on its way to Tevanne, and Ofelia Dandolo is going to try to resurrect him. Crasedes was the first hierophant, a master magician, and a monster with unmatched powers derived from human sacrifice. The myths concerning him say he could fly, destroy armies unaided, and make empires disappear. He must not be allowed to land. The question is, are Sancia and the rest of Foundryside Limited capable of stopping this onrushing apocalypse.

"Shorefall" is a masterpiece of fantasy. The writing is first-rate, with characters that are well-drawn, likeably human, and realistic. The world of Tevanne, though byzantine, is a unique piece of imagination. The pages groan with fantastic, well thought out action and descriptions that captivate the reader.

I highly recommend Mr. Bennett's "Shorefall" to all aficionados of the genre.

Of note is the fact that this is the second book about Sancia Grado and the City of Tevanne. The first novel is "Foundryside." Reading the latter is not essential, but it is just as enjoyable.

Del Rey and NetGalley provided an advance copy of this excellent novel in return for this review.y of this excellent novel in return for this review.

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o you like rollercoasters? Do you like feeling the grim reaper’s breath on your neck as you hurtle through time and space at speeds that the human mind wasn’t meant to comprehend? Does being super incredibly stressed for uncomfortably long periods of time turn you on? If you answered yes to any of these questions have I got a book for you! Shorefall, by Robert Jackson Bennett, is the emotional equivalent of being shot into the sun at terminal velocity and I absolutely love it.

If you are just reading The Quill to Live for the first time, welcome to the site! Please know that we collectively love RJB and think he is one of the best contemporary writers of modern fantasy. Shorefall did little to dissuade us of that notion. The book is the sequel to Foundryside and while Shorefall picks up the narrative three years later – it only feels like seconds. Sancia, Berenice, Orso, and Gregory have founded their own scriving house with plans to use the technology they invent, steal, and extort to better the world around them and burn the remaining established houses to the ground. However, these plans need to take a major pause when they learn of an otherworldly threat descending on their beloved city. There are some mild spoilers for Foundryside after the cover picture so turn back now if you haven’t read the first book and want to remain completely pure.

At the end of book one, the Foundrysiders released what seemed to be a god from her entrapment. They had mixed feelings about this, but feel decidedly negative when they learn that a second opposing diety looks poised to also return to wage war on everything. The first hierophant, a man who could wipe cities off the planet with a thought, is coming back. The Foundrysiders begin to scramble to prevent the hierophant’s return, as it could spell the end of reality itself.

Here’s the thing. I thought Shorefall would be a story about our lovable crew from book one working together to figure out how to prevent this clearly unstoppable force of nature from coming back and ruining existence. The book would be a game of tag between the Foundrysiders and the cult ushering the hierophant’s return. At the end of the book, the cult might get successful in bringing him back in some form and we would have an intense set up for book three in this series. That is not what happened, at all. I am sorry for these mild Shorefall spoilers, but the first hierophant makes it back in something like the first 10% of the book. The entirety of Shorefall after this point essentially becomes the story of “what if a team of four talented engineers got into a batshit insane pissing match with Cthulu?” It is one of the most intense and fast-paced stories I have ever read, with the sense of palpable urgency never letting up for a single second. Every second of this novel feels appropriately like a mere mortal standing firm against the will of a cosmic deity and saying “fuck you.” It is a work of art.

The magic continues to be one of the coolest and most imaginative concepts that I have ever read. Bennett refuses to be backed into a corner by his premise and continues to find more and more interesting ways to step outside the box he built for himself. The way the characters use and bend the rules of the world to affect change feels like an inconceivably large puzzle snapping into the correct configuration. The magic is also still visceral and nightmarish. I am haunted by some of the descriptions and deaths from this series. I see them in my mind when I lay down to sleep at night and cannot block the sounds of their imagined cries as they are ripped to pieces. This series is not for the squeamish.

Shorefall is so much more than I expected. On top of giving me enough anxiety to have a stroke, it has truly beautiful character stories. Just like in book one the POV is split between all four of our leads, with a slightly greater focus placed on Sancia and Gregory. Each character is dealing with some heavy stuff that is explored in great detail. To give you a peek into some of their trials: Sancia is trying to understand what to do with her life now that she has stability for the first time ever. Gregory is trying to gain some semblance of control over literally anything to feel like he has a shred of agency in his life. Berenice is struggling with the idea that while she is amazing at many things, in order to do what is needed she has to step outside the comfort zone she has hidden in her entire life. Orso is coping with the profound realization that most of his life’s work isn’t going to amount to anything and trying to find meaning in his existence. This is only a fraction of what these characters are going through and it is wonderful.

However, I will say that while it is truly impressive that Bennett managed to create such a fast-paced story with such memorable character arcs – it feels like these two powerful elements of the story do not compliment each other well. The pacing rips you through the story so fast there is rarely time to sit and digest things. This works well from a plot perspective because it keeps you so off-balance that every new piece of information feels like an amazing twist. But these character stories are beautiful and deserve to be luxuriated in, and there simply doesn’t feel like there is enough time to do so with how fact the pace moves. I just want it all, to be pulled across a lake of imagination at the speed of sound and at the same time sit on the shores and calmly enjoy the view.

Shorefall is not what I expected in the best way possible. It is a lightning strike to the spine, an explosion of ideas and feelings, and a hauntingly beautiful story about good people making hard choices. It is a success as a sequel in every possible way and I can think of and if you are not already reading The Founders series by Robert Jackson Bennett you are missing out. Shorefall is not a book to let pass you by like a ship in the night.

Rating: Shorefall – 9.5/10

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This latest installment in The Founders series was pretty wild. There are new scrivings, deadlier villains, and fascinating ideas like the mind-bonding Sancia and Berenice experience. The story is definitely action-packed and picks up three years after the events of the last book.

We learn some devastating truths about Sancia's deteriorating physical state and Gregor's childhood trauma. Crasedes proves to be a formidable villain, but he's not the biggest surprise. The end of the book was both heartbreaking and horrifying.

I wasn't as engrossed in this sequel as I was in the first book, but I believe that's because it's been over a year since I read Foundryside and kind of forget most of the events. I didn't have enough time to reread the first installment before diving into Shorefall, but for the third and final book I'll definitely have to re-read the other novels in this series.

Overall, Shorefall is an extremely well-written story, with a fleshed-out world and characters with real struggles.

Not to mention the covers of these books are gorgeous!

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