Updated: Jun 18
I read Foundryside in December 2019. Needless to say I was extatic when I discovered that the sequel was months away. I applied to be a reviewer on Netgalley and when I was approved, (no lie) I went and squealed to my husband about how excited I was. He rolled his eyes of course. But really, I was dying with excitement. While I enjoyed Foundryside and gave it 4 stars, it had some flaws. You can read a review of it here: https://www.authormelissamitchell.com/post/foundryside
Shorefall comes out on April 21st, 2020. That’s only days away! This is probably one of the longest reviews I’ve ever written. Here it is:
(5/5⭐️) “There is no innovation that will ever spring from the minds of men that will not eventually be used for slaughter and control.” This powerful sequel to Foundryside will force you to think on a deeper level about what it means to make a choice between the unimaginable and irredeemable.
Sancia and her allies Bernice, Gregor, and Orso understand Tevanne’s flaws. They understand that to make Tevanne a better place, they must steal the power monopolized by the merchant houses and give it back to the people. Their goals are lofty but doable, until a new power emerges, derailing everything they’ve worked for. Crasedes Magnus, first of the legendary hierophants, is reborn. He will stop at nothing to rid the world of evil. In the eyes of Crasedes, all men are the same: inclined to use their inventions for slaughter and control. Crasedes longs for a world where people create rather than destroy. To achieve such ends, he would remake every human mind into a submissive entity—a slave. “I came to realize, Sancia—you can’t make laws or policies or dictums to constrain this impulse … You must overwrite all the hearts and minds of mankind—directly, instantly, and permanently.” Crasedes believes he is doing the correct thing. And while his methods are inhumane, he is not wrong in wanting a better world. “It is a regrettable thing that in order to fix a monstrous world, one must become a little monstrous in one’s own right.”
Crasedes is like many villains both on and off page. He believes that his goals are pure. That one must resort to ignoble measures to achieve noble ends. This is not so unlike other famous characters throughout humanity’s history, which makes Crasedes easy to relate to as a character. [Danny Targarian from GoT season 8 is another character that comes to mind with the same kind of ideals, willing to make unbelievable sacrifices to achieve a specific end, believing that end is the right thing to do.] I found myself fascinated by Crasedes. Shrouded in a great deal of mystery, he was presented in layer after rich layer of detail. Everyone loves a good villain. But there was another villain in this story. Valera. She’s the kind of villain that presents as the lesser of two evils. While she also means well, we see that she’s got her own motives. Both Crasedes and Valeria are on opposite sides of the same fight. Each has opposing goals, yet each would inflict catastrophic damage. Thus, our key characters are caught in a struggle to chose which of two evils they must support. There is no middle ground.
“But one day, girl, you too might have to choose between the unimaginable and the irredeemable. And no matter what choice you make—it will haunt you for the rest of your days. Until you become a specter like this.”
The incredible world Robert Jackson Bennett creates is breathtaking. Very few books come close in conjuring such imaginative concepts. Scriving is the common means for magic here. Everyday objects are imbued with bits of sentient intelligence using small sigils. Each string of sigils forces an object to believe something contrary to reality. A string of sigils written on a wheel might convince the wheel it is forever on a hill, forced to roll, because a hill provides the potential energy it needs to remain in motion. In doing this, Bennett has found a way to defy the laws of physics with a dose of magic that is believable and absolutely beguiling.
Concepts such as artificial intelligence are introduced in a magical setting and used prevalently. To me, this was unique because AI is usually specific to science fiction only. Bennett finds a way to change that. While this book is predominantly fantasy, the lines of fantasy and science fiction are blurred exquisitely. “But the line between life and death is always blurred. To live is to die, just very, very slowly.”
Sancia, Bernice, Gregor and Orso are individually presented with unique voices, distinct in their own ways. I grew to enjoy these characters in the first book and now I absolutely adore them. I believe that I cried for the last four or five chapters. I was so overcome with emotion while I read each of their endings. I especially loved getting to see more of Sancia and Bernice’s queer relationship. They were so different from each other, yet they found a middle ground to come together. Each completed the other. I found myself smiling at their various interactions, and rooting for them every step of the way. They make a killer team!
Shorefall was, in my opinion, better than Foundryside...by a LOT. Foundryside took some getting used too. The first half of the book was a hard adjustment. For that, I had given it four stars, and I stand by that rating. With Shorefall, I was already familiar with the world, characters, and the technology. I was able to jump straight into the story. Plus, I enjoyed the deeper concepts in this book compared to Foundryside. There were some really deep issues presented here, issues that make a person think. Not only that, the story was unpredictable. I did not expect the ending—it took me by complete surprise. The ending sets the stage for what is sure to be a great third book, and I will eagerly await its release...whenever that is.
Thank you to Netgalley and Del Ray for giving me an ARC. This has been my favorite read of 2020 so far. I’m still emotional about the story days after finishing it. Such a great read!