Book Review: Foundryside by Robert Jackson Bennett

Title: Foundryside

Author: Robert Jackson Bennett

Series: Foundryside #1

Genre: Fantasy

Rating: 4.5/5 stars

The Overview: 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.Goodreads

The Review:

I picked up Foundryside on a total whim, and haven’t had this much fun with a book in ages!

I don’t like to know much about my books before diving in, so with this one I was going off of general impressions of the cover and a random comment about the book having a fun magic system. I was expecting a rather hard-edge fantasy, and was taken completely by surprise at the levity and general light-heartedness of the story. It was charming! And a not unwelcome blown expectation.

You know how some books have a great idea for a magic system but it never explores it fully and you’re left thinking it was cool, but mostly an opportunity wasted? That is sooo not the case here! The magic system was loads of fun – a perfect combination of Sanderson’s allomancy from Mistborn and Rachel Aaron’s … we’ll call it “object persuasion,” in her Eli Monpress series. So good!! It was abundant without ever becoming too much. And the desire to learn more about how it all works already has me hounding for the second book.

You also know how even sometimes when the book explores the magic system fully how sometimes all of the other components suffer, so it’s ONLY a good magic book? That wasn’t the case here either. I’m not going to pretend it was the best at handling all the other elements, but it did them all well enough to allow me to shut off the critical part of my mind and just go with it. I loved the idea of the different houses driving the innovation forward with “first to market” competition. I loved the characters we got to know (and a couple of their basic profiles reminded me of a few in Abercrombie’s Best Served Cold, but that could just be a coincidence) and particularly loved how each profile was integrated into the story – it was a cool progression! and I’m totally on board with the overall plot.

There are few books that evoke that same sense of wonder and excitement I got as a kid while reading things like Harry Potter and, later, Fablehaven. This struck all the right chords for me and gave me that same sense of wonder and novelty. I loved it.

As I’ve been reading a lot of dark, gritty series lately, I was starting to think something as outright cheerful as this wouldn’t work for me anymore. There were some situations in this story that worked themselves out much better than they would have in an Abercrombie book, and it reminded me that not everything has to end in death and torture for me to gain a lot of meaning and substance from a book. This story brought back a bit of optimism and fun into my experience, for which I’m quite grateful.

Recommendations: for a fun, light-hearted adventure filled with cool magic, great characters, and an action-packed plot, Foundryside is going to be a new favorite to recommend. 

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by Niki Hawkes

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