“Foundryside. The closest thing Sancia had to a home.”
Author: Robert Jackson Bennett
Category: High Fantasy, Fantasy
Publication Date: August 21st, 2018
Podcast Review: Episode 89
I received an advanced copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.
Foundryside takes place in the city of Tevanne which is ruled by four merchant houses. Each of the merchant houses has marked out their own districts, or campos, within the city and each of those campos essentially run like their own cities. Within each of the campos is law and order as determined by that merchant house. However, in the Commons, the area between the merchant campos, all is not so bright and shiny. The merchant houses put all their resources into maintaining their own area and as they have taken over what served as a city government, there is no law in the Commons.
Foundryside blends together fantasy and the science behind magic.
The magic system in this world is called scriving. Using an ancient, possibly angelic, language, a scriver can write this special language onto objects when then obey a new set of physical laws which also has the side effect of giving a small amount of sentience to the object. For example they put scrivings on the wheels of carriages so that the wheels believe they are going down hill and will continually accelerate unless a switch is pressed inside the carriage which tells it “oh wait no we are actually going uphill” and then it will start slowing down.
Fun note, the scriving that the merchant house know, which they know a lot hence how they stay in power, is barely scratching the surface of how much this magic could actually accomplish. They already rule with an iron fist and treat anyone outside of their house as lowlifes. If they were able to unlock even more power, who knows what lengths they would go to.
This is one of the most fascinating magic systems to come out in quite a while. It is simple enough to describe in one paragraph and get a good feel for how it works yet has so many implications that it quickly gets complex within the story without leaving the reader scratching their head. This magic system reflects onto the creativity and incredible imagination that Robert Jackson Bennett has.
The protagonist, Sancia, is a talented thief from the Commons and uses scrived objects to steal an artifact for a high-paying client. She has the ability to touch objects and be able to detect information about said object and what is around the object and she even hears the slight consciousness of scrived objects. She finds herself in over her head as the artifact she gets is wanted by the great merchant houses who rule the city of Tevanne and has the capability of shifting the power dynamics within the already chaotic city.
The plot is a simple one and that is all you need to introduce this amazing magic system and world. Main character has item that people would kill for so main character is on the run. Things get more complex for Sancia as the story goes on and it built in such a perfect way that although the magic can get pretty detailed and there are several relationships between members of the merchant houses to keep in mind, the reader never gets lost. The effect is an amazingly immersive world and story.
Sancia is a great main character as well and it should be mentioned that she is gay! It isn’t something that a lot of time is spent on but it is made pretty clear over the course of the story which I found pleasantly surprising as I was kind of expecting her to go with a certain male as the love interest.
She does have some moments where she is ruled by her anger to the merchant houses but overall she is a smart character. As horrific as some of the things that happened in her backstory were, it was also in some ways a story that’s been told before. However, it did lead to some revelations that were as deep as they were heartbreaking.
The only other character that can really be got into without spoilers would be Gregor Dandolo. Basically he runs security in the area where Sancia was pulling off her heist at the very beginning of the story so quickly gets wrapped up in the story that way. He comes across as a little bit stereotypical “just want justice for everyone” kind of personality, sees the world as white and black, and maybe because of that he was a little bit more difficult to connect with. Later in the book though there are some revelations about him that vastly changed how I saw him.
Foundryside is a great ride that sets up the story for an amazing adventure with thieves, great houses, and maybe just a little bit of magic.
As of this review I am finishing this book, so take mine with a grain of salt. I am thoroughly invested in this book. I love a magic system that is easy to understand, but can do some complex amazing things at the same time. I am looking forward to this series!
I wasn’t even done with this book yet and I was telling people in my life that they needed to read it. I think this is a book that will appeal to a broad range of readers because it is just so well crafted and engaging. Go read it.