Hello all! I finally finished a book that I want to review. Reading has been slow lately, but at least the books I have read have been high quality. This one was no exception. And the only reason I even found it, is because of The Story Graph!
Anyway, before I start, I want to explain how this review will work, because it’ll be a little different than normal. So the first part of this review will be 100% spoiler free. But I just have to talk about some other aspects of Foundryside that tread into spoiler territory. So, I will divide this review in two! Don’t worry, I’ll give ample warning before the spoilery part starts.
By Robert Jackson BennettPublished 21 August 2018 by Crown
fantasy | heists | LGBTQ
My rating: ★★★★.5☆
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.
What I Liked
Okay, let’s start with the world building.
Foundryside is one of those books that has amazing world building, but you don’t realize it while you are reading. Brandon Sanderson calls this the Grand Skill, and it’s basically world building without the readers knowing you’re doing it. Almost everything we learn about the world in Foundryside is learned through the POV of the characters. Third person descriptions are very limited. The downside of that is that the first few chapters are quite confusing. The plus side is that it’s only a few chapters, and let’s be real… No one wants to read 30 pages of third person descriptions.
Let’s move on. The city of Tevanne is built on the art or scriving. Scriving is basically altering objects to the point that you alter their reality. That’s all a little confusing, so I’ll try to explain it based on regular computers. A computer is programmed to perform certain tasks. Now you can change what those tasks are, by reprogramming it, or overriding their code. That’s basically what scriving is, but you can apply it to everything. So, floating lanterns float, because they think that they are lighter than air, even though in reality they aren’t. Anyway, that’s a very crude explanation of scriving. The book does a better job explaining it, but it takes a lot longer
The city of Tevanne is interesting. It’s basically ruled by four merchant houses, of which the heads are called Founders. However, each house kind of lives in their own district and never leaves it, making the city of Tevanne more like four cities and the slums. The slums, known as the Commons, is where people not associated with any house live. This is where Sancia lives.
All this to say, that I absolutely love the world building in this novel. We learn about Tevanne and scriving mostly through first person POVs, and the result, for me, is that I can still see the city in my head.
Now let’s move on to characters.
The blurb makes it sound like there is only one main character. This is wrong. Sancia’s allies have their own POVs, which makes them main characters to me. So let’s talk about them!
Sancia: Sancia’s storyline starts by dropping us with her in the sewers. On her way to complete a job, we immediately learn that she’s no normal human. She has the ability to sense scrivings. Unfortunately, she came to be this way by horrible circumstances. That said, she’s so bent on just surviving, she has no space in her heart for grudges or revenge. However that also means she doesn’t have time for any real friends. This makes her character arc all the more fascinating.
Clef: Clef is Sancia’s first friend in forever. That’s all I’m going to say about him for now.
Captain Gregor Dandolo: Our captain, a veteran of conquest war, does his best to transform Tevanne into a real civilization. You know, one that’s actually civil. He is part of House Dandolo, and perhaps a little too idealistic. His and Sancia’s paths cross when he sets out to catch the thief who broke into the heavily guarded warehouse at the waterfront. Once he does catch her, he gets dragged into a way deeper plot than he could’ve ever imagined. I really enjoyed his character, partly because he’s older than most typical fantasy characters. I don’t have an exact age on him, but I believe it should be somewhere around 30, maybe older.
Berenice: So if you cross Wylan van Eck from Six of Crows with Zofia Boguska from The Gilded Wolves, you get Berenice. She has the cold and straightforward logic we also see in Zofia, but also loves to blow shit up, which screams Wylan. Her character is lots of fun, and I hope to get more of her POV when I read the second book.
Orso Ignacio: Orso is a hypatus, kind of a head of research for a House. He used to work for a different House before switching teams to House Dandolo. Now in his old age, he copes with the consequences of missed chances and regret. It makes for an interesting character. He’s also kind of insane. That said, he is still as ambitious as he was when he was younger. Which of course lands him in hot waters quite a lot.
What I Liked Less
I rated this book really high, so obviously there can’t be that much I didn’t like. I just need to say that despite me loving the story and the characters, I didn’t quite feel enough emotion while reading. Don’t get me wrong, there were definitely moments that made me gasp, laugh, and feel tense. But, I didn’t cry. There are multiple scenes in this book that should’ve made me cry, but they didn’t. Maybe I’m heartless? I don’t know.
The ending to me was also a little “meh.” It wasn’t bad, I just expected it to be a little more foreboding. This is going to be a trilogy, after all. So to those who hate cliffhanger endings: you’re in luck! I just expected a little more “oomph.” That said, I haven’t even read the second book yet, and we all know sometimes second books punch us in the face way harder than first books.
This is the end of the spoiler free review of Foundryside. In the next part, I will discuss the villain, but I can’t think of a way to do that without spoiling some little things. So if this is the point where you stop reading, goodbye friend! And I invite you to check out my other reviews here.
If you’ve already read Foundryside, or you don’t mind spoilers at all, then proceed!
Alright, let’s talk villain.
I hate the main villain in Foundryside, so well done, Mr. Bennett. I’m not going to name him, because that’s just too much of a spoiler, but what a despicable man he is. Sometimes you read books and you kind of like the villain. Not as a person, of course, but as a character. They’re alluring, and mysterious. Not this guy, nope. Hated this one as a character too. I think we figure out who the villain is before the halfway mark, and after that it’s a matter of stopping him. What’s his goal? Well, to completely change the way scriving works.
You see, a long, long time ago, the world was ruled by so called Hierophants. They were immortal, and could completely alter reality to the point that they could fly. The merchant houses of Tevanne are a tiny candle compared to the fire that the Hierophants were, and never have they been able to replicate their old method of scriving. Until an old cache of Hierophant instruments is found.
However, what our ambitious guy didn’t see coming, is that those closest to him are just as capable of stabbing him in the back. Thus enters the second villain. And here it gets complex. Because you kind of understand the second villain’s motivations. Where the first guy was just an ass, this second person actually has very good reason to do what they do. They’re just doing it in a horrible way. I thought this was really well done, because it makes one think about ethics and that the world is sometimes cruel and unfair. It was easy to be against the first guy, it’s not so easy to be against the second one.