Foundryside – Robert Jackson Bennett

4.5 Stars

Foundryside is a hefty novel that is a satisfying read from beginning to end.

37173847.jpgIn a city that runs on industrialized magic, a secret war will be fought to overwrite reality itself–the first in a dazzling new series from City of Stairs author Robert Jackson Bennett. 

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 just loved the world building in Foundryside. Wow was it satisfying. There’s a rich, well thought out history, an interesting class system, and I loved the interplay between magic and technology. I love stories where industrialization and magic intertwine and Foundryside is a shining example of how to pull that off well. Belief and words and the collision of the two fuel the world of Foundryside and any lexophile will have a hard time resisting the charm of this magic system.

It was like all the machines and devices that made the world run experienced a fleeting moment of paralyzing self-doubt, and they all whisperedWhat was that? Did you hear that? 

The downside to such a heavily built world and this being the first book in a series, is that it takes a little while to get going. Reasonably, RJB has to spend a good amount of time at the beginning explaining the world to the reader which while necessary, made getting into the book a bit tough. It wasn’t until about the 20% mark that I felt fully up to speed and could begin blazing through the book. I knocked half a star off for that, but this is an otherwise fantastic book.

The characters in Foundryside are also wonderfully fleshed out. Sancia, Gregor and Clef are all well built, interesting characters with pasts, futures, desires and motivations. They’re practically jumping off the page. There’s even a little queer romance on the side in an other-wise romance-plot free book.

This was the first of Robert Jackson Bennett’s books I’ve read, and I’m looking forward to jumping into his Hugo-nominated series City of Stairs. (Which I should have done before the Hugo ballots closed in July. Ooops!)

Foundryside is on sale now and definitely worth picking up.

Thank you to Crown Books for providing me with an eARC in exchange for my honest review.