Shorefall by Robert Jackson Bennett

Rate: 3.5/5

Medium: Audiobook

Overview (No Spoilers):

I’ve been looking forward to reading the followup to Foundryside for well over a year, so needless to say Shorefall made my list of most anticipated books of 2020. I’d been drawn in by Bennett’s elaborate worldbuilding, magic, and character development in book one of The Founder’s Trilogy, especially as many of the key elements reminded me of other beloved high fantasy literature. Upon diving into the sequel, I was delighted to find that it was quite easy to brush off the dust regarding where the preceding novel had left off especially with the return of familiar characters. Bennett started Shorefall off strong with a complex heist sequence that quickly reintroduces the readers back into the nuances of this literary realm and the magic that permeates throughout. 

An action packed beginning aside, I was about half way through this novel when I realized that I wasn’t necessarily enamored with the story itself. I struggled with this realization, because I genuinely liked the writing style, character development and worldbuilding, but the direction the story had evolved was just not enjoyable. The latter half of Shorefall was both entertaining and draining due to the conflicting opinions warring within me mid read. I struggle to name a book where I had such opposing views. Sure, the part where I found fault with the actual plot there wasn’t a whole lot pleasant regarding the predicament our good guys had found themselves in, however I don’t think this plight was the source of my discontent having suspected this bias during the read. By the end the story felt like a revolving wheel with significant time being dedicated to making a plan before all that plotting gets thrown out the window due to some new unforeseen development. 

That being said, from a pure list standpoint, Shorefall has everything I look for in a high fantasy novel and continues to expand upon this the history and magics that define this world. We learn significantly more about the hierophants and their needed power sources, as well their motivations. Bennett knit together complex sequences that keeps the reader glued as the suspense grows proportionally with the stakes, not only our characters but the world at large. Overall, Shorefall was an action packed followup to Foundryside that wields death and magic in equal measures.  

Additional Insight (Spoilers Abound):

  • Is Gregor still somehow there or did he fully merge with Valeria? What are Tevanne’s goals? Where did he go on the ships?
  • What role will Polina play?
  • Twinning was a major innovation in this read, however it seemed to be the solution one too many times. Too convenient.
  • I never even really liked cranky Orso in Foundryside, however in this novel we start to see the old man soften, which serves to endear him. His sacrificing death cued up all the tears.
  • There is so much death in this novel that the vastness of it is hard to comprehend.
  • It was interesting to see how Ofelia changed from the reader’s perspective as her motivations became clear.
  • Where will Crasedes go? How will the revelations that Crasedes is Clef’s son change the story? Who was Valeria?
  • Clef returned! He didn’t really have a major part or really much of a voice but he was missed in the story.
  • So every time Sancia uses her powers she dies a little bit. Will she refrain from using her powers as much?

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