Foundryside by Robert Jackson Bennett
Publisher: Jo Fletcher Books
Publication date: 23 August 2018
Genre: Adult fantasy
Page count: 512 pages
Rating: 4 out of 5 stars
I received a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. This review is spoiler-free.
Welcome to my stop on the Foundryside blog tour! Robert Jackson Bennett’s Divine Cities trilogy is one of my favourite series of all time, so I was naturally very curious about his newest book.
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.
I ended up enjoying Foundryside, despite being a little cautious initially — it’s so hard to dive into a new series when the author’s previous books are your absolute favourites. The world building and magic systems in Foundryside are both well done, however they take a little while to develop. In terms of the world, it is hugely different from Divine Cities. In Divine Cities, there is very obvious equality between male and female characters, and his female characters were truly powerful and outstanding. The world of Foundryside has a lot of sexism and some threats of sexual assault and hints of sexual coercion, something that is pretty much completely missing from his other series. However, these instances do drive the story forward and work well within the world he has established. My obvious bias leans toward the world of Divine Cities — who doesn’t love equality? — so it was a little bit of a struggle for me to fully immerse myself in the world of Foundryside. I do think that he set up the world to become really fascinating in future books, so I’m looking forward to exploring more in later books.
The magic system is particularly important to the plot of the book, and it took awhile for me to fully realise just how incredible it was. Scriving seems to begin simply enough, however you begin to realise its earth-shattering potential. The way that he sets out this fascinating system, which initially seems so straightforward, and slowly allows the reader to uncover its complexities was just fantastic. It took some time for me to really understand the potential of scriving, but I am all on board with this interesting and intricate system.
Foundryside, like his other novels, has a core cast of interesting characters. There weren’t any standout favourites for me, however I think they have a lot of potential to become fantastic and fascinating as the series progresses. Separately, the main cast of characters are fine to read about, but they’re truly at their best when they are all together. Their chemistry is off the charts and I’d love to see more interaction between them in the future.
The three who stood out most to me are Sancia, Gregor, and Orso. Sancia, the thief, is definitely our main character. I really enjoyed uncovering her background, as depressing as it is, and discovering how her talents aid her career as a thief. She has a great character arc — she undergoes a ton of growth over the course of the novel — and really loved her interaction with other characters, particularly Clef. She has so much potential that I don’t think has been fully tapped into yet.
Gregor is a character I really wish we got more of in the book. He’s the son of one of the Founders, however he has rejected his privilege in order to do good in the city of Tevanne. I absolutely love this type of character, and I wish we got to see more of him throughout the story. Of everyone in the book, I think my favourite character was Orso. He’s another type of character I love — he’s older than the rest, foul-mouthed, and so annoyingly talented that no one can get rid of him. He’s the Hypatus of House Dandolo, meaning he is a master of scriving, and comes up with so many incredibly interesting ways of manipulating the magic system. I absolutely loved every time he was on the page.
The key word for Foundryside is ‘potential’. I think there’s so much potential here — this has the makings of a great series. It definitely had its ups and downs for me — there were parts that I thought were brilliant and others that didn’t work well for me. While I don’t love it as much as I love the Divine Cities books I am definitely going to keep up with this series, particularly after reading the fantastic ending. I’d highly recommend Foundryside if you enjoy heist novels like Mistborn, or want to read a fast-paced fantasy novel with a great magic system.
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Don’t forget to check out the other stops on the Foundryside blog tour!