the Little Red Reviewer

Shorefall, by Robert Jackson Bennett

Posted on: June 24, 2020

what’s this, a book review?   I know, right?


Shorefall, by Robert Jackson Bennett

Published April 2020

where I got it: Received ARC from the publisher (Thanks Jo Fletcher books!)



I meant to reread Foundryside before reading Shorefall. But then i was like do I really have time to reread Foundryside? And I liked that book, but did I like it enough to want to reread it?


So I dived into Shorefall, with very, very fuzzy memories of Foundryside.   I remember really digging the magic system, really liking Clef and his whole deal, being kinda meh on Sancia even though she has a tragic backstory and a metal plate in her head, and really digging the magic system.  Yep, that’s about all I remember from the first book.  I don’t remember all the details about Valeria from the first book, but she must have been really important.  That said, I do NOT recommend jumping into Shorefall if you haven’t read Foundryside. (Altho I am SUPER curious about people who did read Shorefall first. Could they get into it? is this a series that can maybe be read in any order?)


Shorefall opens with Sancia, Berenice, Gregor, and Orso putting the final touches on some new invention they’ve created in their workshop.   What exactly is this thing?   First I thought it was some kind of printing press,  then it seemed more like a magical photo copier, and finally I settled on that it was some kind of magical quantum button thing, that whatever one button does, the other button does it.


Even they have a tough time describing their invention,  and that makes a specific merchant house even more interested in getting their hands on it.


Of course,  getting their invention inside that particular merchant house is just the first step in their grand plan . . .


Something I’ve loved from the start of this series is the magic system.  It functions sort of like computer programming – you etch a set of sigils, and lines of sigils become commands,  and the commands that are etched into something, such as a metal plate, make that something want to break the laws of physics. Now, imagine if all the commands and how to combine them weren’t yet known, but scrivers messed around with things (a la mad scientists) to figure out new combinations that would make something work without it exploding. Larger discoveries effectively creating programming shortcuts, and new knowledge akin to a more advanced computer programming language.  Oh, and there are no computers, and hardly any advanced technology.  It’s all very Girl Genius, but with way less humor.


I was worried this book would suffer from “middle book syndrome”, and the book ended up being quite the opposite!  In fact, in my opinion, Shorefall is all around a better book than Foundryside.


I *think* I was supposed to connect with Sancia, and really follow her plotline and be super interested in the politics of what was going on in Tevanne.


What ended up happening was that Sancia had a scene or two  that tugged at me,  and then I lost track of all the fancy merchant families, and then I got super invested in Gregor and Crasedes and Valeria.  And then buckets and buckets of hella cool shit happened at the end of the novel.  And I mean really, really hella cool shit!

Remember Gregor?  He’s quiet and stoic and has a tragic backstory that he mostly can’t remember.  What was going through his mother’s mind when she allowed those awful things to happen to him?  Gregor is close to his trauma, and he’s getting closer to it every day, as he learns to think around his scrived augments.  Everything about this guy was absolutely fascinating to me.  The poor guy is literally fighting his programming, and sometimes he succeeds (I keep reading Yoon Ha Lee fiction at the same time that I’m reading Robert Jackson Bennett, and I can’t help but connect Gregor’s “programming” with “formation instinct”.)  So, Gregor is hella awesome.


And then there’s Valeria, I wish I remembered her more from the first book. Eh, it’s my own fault for not rereading it.  She’s a sort of, ghost in the machine style AI?  Like, she can think for herself, and she can appear as a humanoid being, but she lives inside scrived things, and she’s not alive.  She talks to Sancia, and Valeria is so vulnerable, and she’s trapped and so afraid of Crasedes.  Valeria is someone that Sancia can actually help, for once.   Valeria has plans of her own, and she’s happy to share her powers with Sancia.


And then there is Crasedes, the big bad.   Bennett has fun with local customs and history,  all this plot is happening during carnival, and everyone is dressed up black robes and a black hat and mask, to look like Father Monsoon, who brings the rains.  And well, every myth comes from somewhere, so it’s hilarious when Crasedes shows up in his traditional garb of all black, to find random drunk folks dancing in the streets dressed just like him.  Sure makes it easy for him to blend in.


Obviously there is way more going on here than my obsession with Gregor and the question of “um, do Valeria and Crasedes like, know each other?”.


There is a whole ton of reveals at the end,  along with a whole ton of “holy shit, that worked!” mad science,  lots of stuff I’m going to enjoy thinking about for a really, really long time.  There’s also something that happens at the end, that screamed “Fullmetal Alchemist” to me,  and that’s always a gold star in my book.


The first book reminded me of the song Broken by Lovely the Band,  the second book reminds me of the song Handlebars by The Flobots, which is about the dangers of being power-drunk.  What does power do to people?  Is is possible to use power for good? What if you think you’re using your power for good, but you’re actually hurting people?   Means to an end, right?


Doesn’t the villain always see themselves as their hero of their own story?

10 Responses to "Shorefall, by Robert Jackson Bennett"

When I pickup a series after a longer time, I recap in Wikipedia. Usually, they have great synopsis. I‘d never do that if I haven’t read the book, though.


ooh, good idea!! All I did was read my review of the first book in the series, and surprising no one, that review did not have a synopsis, so wikipedia would have really helped me here! If it’s been ages since I read something, but it’s come up in conversation, I’ll often look at the plot synopsis on Wikipedia.

Liked by 1 person

I always feel kind of left out when a new entry in a loved fantasy series hits the shelves. I am so far behind on some of these series and I want to find a way to join the fun. 🙂


I’m going through that right now with The Expanse books. I only read through five, and then got burned out. But everyone is reviewing later books, and talk about FOMO! I figure I’ll get back to that series eventually.

Liked by 1 person

I flipping love these books. Have you read his Divine Cities Trilogy? Every book in that is a 10/10.


I remember reading your post on Foundryside, trying to get a copy and ending up with City of Stairs instead coz that’s what the shop had at the time. I still really really want to read Foundryside (AND CoS) and this has reminded me to get on it. Love the sound of the magic and definitely here for Valeria. 😄


have you gotten to read City of Stairs yet? boy did that whole trilogy hit all my buttons in the best possible way!!!
(that happens to me all the time, btw, i’ll be looking for a certain title by an author, and they don’t have that one, but they do have this other one, so I get the other one, and love that one tooo!!)

Liked by 1 person

No, I’ve not read it yet. *sighs at self*
Good to know I’m not the only one grabbing the ‘wrong’ books first! 😆

Liked by 1 person

if it’s a book, it can’t be wrong. 🙂

Liked by 1 person

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some of the books reviewed here were free ARCs supplied by publishers/authors/other groups. Some of the books here I got from the library. the rest I *gasp!* actually paid for. I'll do my best to let you know what's what.
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