audiobooks Fantasy

Shorefall by Robert Jackson Bennett (AudioBook Thoughts)

I’m committed to finishing series this year and for my last review for a few days, I’m bringing you my thoughts on Shorefall!  So far this series has one of my favorite adult fantasy “magic systems” and character casts of all time, although various aspects have changed drastically since Foundryside.  As always, I do my best to keep these book talks spoiler free but it *is* book two in a series 🤷‍♀️

Bookish quick facts:
  • Title: Shorefall
  • Series: The Founders Trilogy #2
  • Author: Robert Jackson Bennett
  • Publisher & Release: Del Rey, 2020
  • Length: 512 pages
  • Rate & Recommend: ⭐⭐⭐⭐✨ for fans of darker fantasy with technical magic, lots of world, and all the heist shenanigans
Here’s the synopsis from Am*zon:

As a magical revolution remakes a city, an ancient evil is awakened in a brilliant novel from the Hugo-nominated author of Foundryside and the Divine Cities trilogy.

A few years ago, Sancia Grado would’ve happily watched Tevanne burn. Now, she’s hoping to transform her city into something new. Something better. Together with allies Orso, Gregor, and Berenice, she’s about to strike a deadly blow against Tevanne’s cruel robber-baron rulers and wrest power from their hands for the first time in decades.

But then comes a terrifying warning: Crasedes Magnus himself, the first of the legendary hierophants, is about to be reborn. And if he returns, Tevanne will be just the first place to feel his wrath.

Thousands of years ago, Crasedes was an ordinary man who did the impossible: Using the magic of scriving—the art of imbuing objects with sentience—he convinced reality that he was something more than human. Wielding powers beyond comprehension, he strode the world like a god for centuries, meting out justice and razing empires single-handedly, cleansing the world through fire and destruction—and even defeating death itself.

Like it or not, it’s up to Sancia to stop him. But to have a chance in the battle to come, she’ll have to call upon a god of her own—and unlock the door to a scriving technology that could change what it means to be human. And no matter who wins, nothing will ever be the same

A quick note on the audio: from Random House Audio at 19 hours & 40 minutes, narrated by Tara Sands. This is a longer one and I absolutely love Tara’s narration.  She does a great range of voices and kept me interested throughout the entire book! Highly recommend this route if you like audiobooks

My thoughts:

It’s hard to talk about a book with so much scope, and I absolutely loved this one just as much as Foundryside. About three years has passed and scriving is much more accessible to the public thanks to the crew’s shenanigans at the end of book one.  There’s no waiting for action: it opens right up with another magical heist as Sancia, Orso, and the others are aiming to bring down the big Houses and make their scriving definitions available for everyone.

It’s a cute and cozy establishment but as you can imagine, then *the synopsis* happens.  Things get dark quick and then it’s a manner of damage control as Cresedes and Valeria, the two hierophants, face off.

Where this book really shines is…. Everywhere.  The history of the constructs (Clef, Valeria, even Cresedes) isn’t what I expected at all. It’s sad, it’s dark, it’s epic, and we get to watch as reality itself is redefined.  Is God just a scriver that had the highest permissions? I freaking love this take on evolution and creationism, sociology, it’s all here in a big way as the morals of reality and control move to a globally historic scale.

The characters are amazing too, everyone is older and more tired.  They’ve gotten a tad softer over the years and Bennett accounts for this in the heists.  He does everything right and keeps the plot moving quickly forward.  I think the only place the book stalled was when everyone kind of finally hit “rock bottom”, the tears and antics got a tad repetitive, but man was I feeling for these characters.

There’s so much history and world building tied into the characters and plot as well that’s it’s not hard to just get sucked into these books.   The setting and atmosphere is consistent and well realized throughout the entire thing.  It’s everything I look for in a fantasy.  And the consequences at the end are astronomical.

Where can he even go from here!

(I do have questions but I’m going to put them after the end of the review disclaimer in case anyone wants to discuss them with me, but they’re spoilery, so stop at the second line if you don’t want spoilers🤔)

Thanks for checking out my audiobook & book review for Shorefall by Robert Jackson Bennett! I obtained my copy through the Libby app and as always, all opinions are my own♥️

Ok now let’s do the discussion questions: stop here if you haven’t read it yet!

I’m dying to know ..

  1. Did anyone else tear up when Orso split off at the end?
  2. Did anyone else notice that Bennett seemed to forget that Orso had been twinned into their group? They should have retained an emotional connection, no?
  3. On that note, the Tevanne Construct didn’t seem to retain any Gregor after the initial water-burial! I thought he would retain more influence but it didn’t seem that way
  4. So do we think there is another, higher  Maker, or was it Valeria all along? I think there’s something else above it all
  5. Most importantly – what was the point of utterly destroying Tevanne (the city?) They’re not exactly remaking civilization if they just wipe the entire population out!

Oooh I hope someone will chat Shorefall spoilers with me!



Foundryside by Robert Jackson Bennett (Book Thoughts)

While I admittedly haven’t done much reading this month, for various reasons, I was finally able to finish Foundryside. The book was an August buddy read on Discord that I was interested in but couldn’t get to on time, and I’m glad I eventually did.

Bookish Quick Facts:

  • Title: Foundryside
  • Series: The Founder’s Trilogy #1
  • Author: Robert Jackson Bennett
  • Publisher & Release: Crown, 2018
  • Length: 513 pages
  • Rate & Recommend: ⭐⭐⭐⭐✨ for fans of the genre that don’t mind a deep dive into magic systems

Here’s the synopsis:

In a city that runs on industrialized magic, a secret war will be fought to overwrite reality itself—the first in a dazzling new series from City of Stairs author Robert Jackson Bennett.

Sancia Grado is a thief, and a damn good one. And her latest target, a heavily guarded warehouse on Tevanne’s docks, is nothing her unique abilities can’t handle.

But unbeknownst to her, Sancia’s been sent to steal an artifact of unimaginable power, an object that could revolutionize the magical technology known as scriving. The Merchant Houses who control this magic—the art of using coded commands to imbue everyday objects with sentience—have already used it to transform Tevanne into a vast, remorseless capitalist machine. But if they can unlock the artifact’s secrets, they will rewrite the world itself to suit their aims.

Now someone in those Houses wants Sancia dead, and the artifact for themselves. And in the city of Tevanne, there’s nobody with the power to stop them.

To have a chance at surviving—and at stopping the deadly transformation that’s under way—Sancia will have to marshal unlikely allies, learn to harness the artifact’s power for herself, and undergo her own transformation, one that will turn her into something she could never have imagined

Alright so this is a steampunk-y heist fantasy with a very scientific magic system, lots of snark, and a group of characters that are typical individuals in an atypical group. Bear with me on this because the brave and tragic male character isn’t usually portrayed as the third wheel to the women and that’s where this book won me over.

First let’s talk about the narrative voice.  I personally do best with third person limited, where you see the world through the main character’s eyes and mind but the story is told by a separate narrator.  I like the style because I tend to view the book as a movie in my brain while I’m reading it, and if the imagery is realized well enough to create a realistic world for me to get lost in, all the better.

So that’s where I think the author really succeeded here.  Whether in the dumps of Foundryside, the commons, the guild areas of money and waste, or even the dungeon, I had no problem visualizing Tevanne unspooling around Sancia. 

To further tie that into the world building, remember my fixation with guild drama that started with Garth Nix? There’s tons of (but never enough) guild drama, politics, scheming, plotting, old customs, new customs, relics and religion and lore to really flesh out the world build.  Most of the slang was world based too.  “Scrumming” seems to be the Tevanni primary cuss word, and the explanation is just perfect 😂

Ok, let’s briefly do the magic system next.  It’s scientific, and it’s the main info dump of the novel. More than once, Bennett takes a deep dive into the science of his glyph/sigil based magic system called Scriving.  The whole point is to convince objects that reality is something else.  I’m just going to say that it’s by far one of the more interesting magics I’ve seen recently. It was extremely well thought out, although I felt like it bogged the pace down at times when instead of focusing on action, the magic took precedence. I’m not complaining but it made me zone out a bit at times and just felt like too much, so I docked half a star. Really, I’m nitpicking though.

For the most part the action and plotting moved along at a good pace, I may have phased out a few times but never would say J was bored reading. There’s more than enough mystery and nuance to keep it interesting where all else fails.

Alright I saved the best for last, let’s see why the characters are interesting. Sancia is a pretty typical thief, a really great thief, down on her luck needing money.  She has a snarky sidekick (Clef) who ends up being an inanimate object that can talk to her.  Then it’s kind of a mixed bag of people introduced and I was surprised at who ended up being important. There’s a cranky old scientist type (Orso) who I hated at first but he ended up being my favorite character. How amazing can a cranky old guy get? Apparently very. His assistant (Berenice) forms a friendship with Sancia and ends up being pretty bad ass herself. Lastly, the son of a Founder (Gregor) who just wants to make Tevanne a better, more just place, but his fate is in the hands of someone else.  Gregor also ended up with the saddest storyline – a good study in characters with deceptive narratives aka you’re not expecting to have your heart ripped out by them but you do.

Put them all together, and you end up with a super cranky and reluctant mentor figure overseeing two absolutely powerful women, with an equally righteous and brave man that while important, kind of ends up being a third wheel to the women. There’s a lot of nuance and development in the group interaction that I really liked.

Ok let me wrap this up before it gets any longer! If you like steampunk, in depth magic, political intrigue, guild drama, dark and ancient forces at work, world building, and random groups of people working together to topple a capitalist society, you would probably love Foundryside.  It’s not a happy book but it’s got it’s moments of darkness, light, torture, hope, misery, redemption, and all of the above. Overall I had a great time reading it and would definitely recommend.