Foundryside (Founders #1) by Robert Jackson Bennett (2018)
Fiction | Fantasy
“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.”
Expected Publication Date: August 21, 2018
pooled ink Review
Thank you to the publisher, Crown, for sending me a copy of this book to review!
As you may be well aware, I’m a big fan of fantasy. And heists. And this book combines the two. I knew at once I wanted to read it and was ecstatic that I’d been given an ARC from Crown Publishing to review. So, my thoughts…
My favorite aspect of this book is the entire element of scientific/linguisitc magic. Scriving, they call it. People study for years just trying to memorize and master the formulaic art of scriving objects to be other than what they are. It’s like magic, it is magic, and yet it’s so scientific that it’s easy to believe in. Magical formulas and logic puzzles inscribed on mundane objects and suddenly carriages pull themselves, wood stands strong as stone, locks become unpickable, and the city of Tevanne grows fiercer. I found the whole concept of scriving fascinating. Definitely a strong cornerstone for the plot.
Now the book begins with the main character, Sancia. She’s a thief who lives in a slum, tucked away in the unwanted streets between the big beautiful Merchant Houses and their campos. What begins as a dream job (if you ignore the incredibly high risk) quickly devolves into a messy escape that lands her right into the hands of some powerful people. And as much as she may not like it, these people become her new crew. Either they unite forces or face the end of Tevanne as they know it. Perhaps even the end of the world as they know it.
Each character is interesting. Orso is a cranky genius, Berenice is a practical protégé, Gregor is an honorable solider, and Sancia is a useful impossibility…and thief. Oh and we can’t forget Clef, what this whole mess started over.
(If you’ve ever listened to the podcast Hello From the Magic Tavern then you’ll laugh when I say that I hear Clef’s character speaking with Usidore’s voice 😆)
We quickly become acquainted with the mystery that is Sancia. While proclaimed impossible she somehow exists. A scrived plate is implanted in her head giving her magic (or scrived) abilities that happen to be ideal for thieving. Not only does it allow her to scope out handholds for climbing and tell if a room beyond is empty, but she can hear the whisperings of scrived objects (something indiscernible to the natural ear). And when she meets Clef, her world is tossed upside down into chaos.
I won’t tell you too much about Clef, rather I’ll let you learn more about him as you read the story, but I will say that he’s a handy character to have on your side. Furthermore I really loved his humor. He adds a whole other dimension to the reality and possibility of scrived objects and it’s knowledge that others would kill for.
The plot, in very broad strokes, is essentially a series of heists, each getting grander and riskier than the last. What begins as a simple grab job from a safe ends up requiring the whole team to pool every resource they have and grasp onto any speck of luck they can get. It’s pretty fantastic and addicting to read. Just when you think things might resolve or at least come to a pause for a breather they’re off on another quest racing against time before time itself is reversed.
I admit this book was a bit longer than I’d anticipated but I was so entertained that I didn’t care (plus big books don’t scare me off). I definitely think that fantasy fans will enjoy this story of twists and turns. I will say there are some, ah, unsavory elements that come up as part of the Commons (the poorer parts of Tevanne) so keep an eye out for that, but this isn’t categorized as YA anyway.
But there you have it. I found this book to be a really enjoyable read.
Foundryside begins with a small grain of perspective that quickly and continuously evolves into a multilayered plot to destroy the world as they know it. Following thrilling heist after heist, characters thrown together and bound by tenuous alliances, and an industrialized form of magic that holds their realities together, one nobody thief just might have the key to history and with it unlock a whole new and unexpected future. This is a definite read for fans of fantasy and mayhem.
Purchase Here: Foundryside
Meet Robert Jackson Bennett!
Robert Jackson Bennett is a two-time award winner of the Shirley Jackson Award for Best Novel, an Edgar Award winner for Best Paperback Original, and is also the 2010 recipient of the Sydney J Bounds Award for Best Newcomer, and a Philip K Dick Award Citation of Excellence. His fifth novel, City of Stairs, is in stores now.
He lives in Austin with his wife and son.