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Thursday, June 30, 2022

LOCKLANDS by Robert Jackson Bennett - Review

OFFICIAL AUTHOR WEBSITE
Read Fantasy Book Critic's Review of Foundryside
Read Fantasy Book Critic's Review of Shorefall

OFFICIAL AUTHOR BIO: Robert Jackson Bennett is the author of American Elsewhere, The Troupe, The Company Man, Mr. Shivers, as well as The Divine Cities trilogy and The Founders Trilogy. The second installment of The Founders Trilogy, SHOREFALL, will be in stores April of 2020.

His work has received the Edgar Award, the Shirley Jackson Award, and the Phillip K. Dick Citation of Excellence, and he has been shortlisted for the World Fantasy, British Fantasy, and Locus Awards.

He lives in Austin with his family.


FORMAT/INFO: Locklands was published on June 28th, 2022 by Del Rey. It is 560 pages split over 64 chapters and an epilogue. It is told in third person from the POV of multiple characters, including Berenice and Sancia. It is available in hardcover, ebook, and audiobook formats.

OVERVIEW/ANALYSIS: It’s been several years since Shorefall Night, with its devastating losses and the rise of the being Tevanne. Ever since then, Sancia, Berenice, and the others have been on the run, slowly collecting refugees as Tevanne conquers the world one country at a time. But when a former enemy is captured by Tevanne, the group realizes it is only a matter of time before it cracks the secrets of reality itself. The time has come to stop running and take the fight to Tevanne itself, before the entity can find a way to simply turn off reality forever.

Locklands is a steadily marching dark conclusion to what is one of my favorite series of all times. Whereas Shorefall was a pulse-pounding, breakneck tale that took place over two or three days, Locklands is much more of a journey. There’s still incredible action and the highest of stakes, but the book doesn’t rush its conclusion. It almost gets contemplative as the end of the world draws nearer, and the characters reflect on what they’ve sacrificed so far, and what they’re willing to sacrifice to win.

Bennett has always liked a good time jump in his books, to give societies time to breathe and evolve in reaction to previous events, and that’s absolutely on display here. The gap between Shorefall and Locklands is eight years, and the world has changed considerably since the readers last visited. Without going into too much detail, the concept of twinning discovered in the last book has only developed further since we last saw it, creating interesting new societal premises to contemplate. The tone of the series has also become borderline apocalyptic, with the small community that Berenice and Sancia have gathered one of the last holdouts of free humanity in Tevanne’s world.

Despite the literal end-of-the-world stakes, I found Tevanne a less intimidating villain than Crasedes, possibly because Tevanne is simply too big to comprehend. Crasedes was a person of overwhelming power, but they were still a person, something you could behold before you and who was given to certain human emotions. Tevanne, in contrast, largely works through proxies and remains off-screen for large swaths of the book. Thankfully, its appearance in the ending, as well as its connection to the origins of the hierophants, makes up for its absence. Indeed the ending, despite being slightly predictable once certain things locked into place, ripped through my emotions hard enough to earn an extra quarter star from me.

In an interesting spin, almost the entire book is told from Berenice’s point of view, with a handful of sections given to other characters as necessary. Berenice has risen from the overlooked assistant in Foundryside to the leader of this underdog resistance, and she holds everything together extraordinarily well. Of the remaining characters, Clef gets the most spotlight, as he slowly begins to remember the events that led to the formation of himself and Crasedes.

CONCLUSION:  Locklands is the satisfying conclusion to an innovative and intense series, one that has managed to deftly balance action with societal musings. In between rooftop chases, fantasy AI, and terrifying villains, there’s time for examining capitalism and how humanity organizes itself. Never fear though, there’s never a dull moment, and you may even find yourself shedding tears as the series draws to a close.

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