High-spirited Mayhem: The Founders Trilogy by Robert Jackson Bennett
Foundryside, Shorefall, and Locklands (Crown and Del Rey, 2018 – 2022). Cover designs by Will Staehle
Robert Jackson Bennett is the author of the Divine Cities trilogy (City of Stairs, City of Blades, and City of Miracles), as well as the BFA and Shirley Jackson Award winner Mr. Shivers. Locklands, the closing novel in his Founders series, was released at the end of June and, in keeping with tradition, we baked a cake here at our rooftop headquarters to celebrate the successful wrap of another quality fantasy trilogy. (Apropos of nothing, we badly need a gym in the rooftop headquarters…)
Former Black Gate blogger Amal El-Mohtar called Foundryside, the first volume in the trilogy:
Absolutely riveting… A magnificent, mind-blowing start to a series… I felt fully, utterly engaged by the ideas, actually in love with the core characters… and in awe of Bennett’s craft.
It came in fourth in the annual Locus poll for Best Fantasy Novel, and was selected as one of the Best Science Fiction & Fantasy Books of 2018 by The B&N Sci-Fi & Fantasy Blog. Here’s how they described it at the time.
The author of the Divine Cities trilogy (a nominee for Best Series at the 2018 Hugo Awards) begins a new trilogy that’s as fun to read as its world is well-imagined. The city state of Tevanne runs on magic and pillage, as the four dominant merchant houses exploit the lands around them (not to mention the poor denizens who crouch outside their walls in a precarious shantytown known as Foundryside), as their scrivers create incredible machines and accomplish feats that look a lot like magic by way of intricate sigils that bend and break the laws of reality. Sancia Grado is a Foundryside thief who comes into possession of Clef, a sentient golden key — and is pursued by police captain Gregor Dandolo, reluctant scion of one of the richest houses. The unwitting Sancia falls into a scheme to destroy the power of the scrivers; putting a stop to it will bring her and Dandolo together as unlikely allies in the greatest theft theft in history, with the lives of everyone in Tevanne on the line. Read our review.
Martin Cahill at Tor.com had lots of praise to heap on sequel Shorefall.
Last we left the crew of Foundryside, in the titular first book of Robert Jackson Bennett’s Founders Trilogy, they had just succeeded in pulling off the impossible, saving Tevanne from a brutal plot of attempted godhood, even as they lost a friend along the way. Now, three years later, their own scriving house exists as an open source for any scriver who would seek to grow, learn, and compete in the marketplace against the looming Merchant Houses, provided they leave anything new they make with the crew at Foundryside to disperse to others.
But as scriv-sighted Sancia, brilliant engineer Berenice, irascible but talented leader Orso, and the powerhouse Gregor, still struggling with memory and violence, find their feet under them for the first time since book one, the mysterious Valeria reaches out once more: her Maker, the hierophant Crasedes Magnus, long thought dead, is close to convincing reality he is alive once more. And he seeks to do more than come back to life: he has plans for all of humanity, and it starts in Tevanne, just shy of Shorefall, the holiday of true night everlasting.
Bennett wastes no time in putting the reader right back in the action, bringing us swiftly through the streets of Tevanne, reacquainting us with the four heroes of Foundryside, and giving us gentle reminders into scriving, magic that can imbue inanimate objects with sentience, and argue reality into working in ways it was not intended…
Shorefall by Robert Jackson Bennett is a riveting epic fantasy that gives you a little bit of everything… It has upheavals and twists and morality and action, that culminates in a breathless series of events that will have you eagerly awaiting book three. Bennett has written another stunning novel that shows exactly what this genre can do and why we love it.
There are plenty of good reviews of Locklands out there, but the best ones I’ve seen are pretty spoilery, so I’ll just leave you with this tantalizing tidbit from the starred review at Kirkus:
Bennett concludes his Founders trilogy… with characteristically high-spirited mayhem… Bennett is a master of worldbuilding, and for all the novel’s far-fetched moments, everything seems perfectly logical on its own terms. Great fun, with nonstop action and with an escape hatch that would allow — dare we hope? — a sequel.
That’s all the endorsement I need at this point.
Our previous coverage of Robert Jackson Bennett includes:
New Treasures: The Company Man
New Treasures: City of Stairs
Future Treasures: City of Blades
Dead Gods, Buried Histories, and a Protean City: Robert Jackson Bennett’s The Divine Cities Trilogy
Future Treasures: Shorefall, Book 2 of The Founders Trilogy
Foundryside was published by Crown, but the last two volumes in the series were released by a different division of Penguin Random House. Del Rey. The covers are by Will Staehle. Here’s the complete publishing details.
Foundryside (Crown Publishers, 503 pages, $27 hardcover/$16 trade paperback/$13.99 digital, August 21, 2018)
Shorefall (Del Rey, 512 pages, $28 hardcover/$18 trade paperback/$12.99 digital, April 21, 2020)
Locklands (Del Rey, 560 pages, $28.99 hardcover/$16.99 digital, June 28, 2022)
See all our recent coverage of the best new fantasy series here.
Those cover designs are utterly captivating.