Thank you to Jo Fletcher Books for the review copy in exchange for an honest review, and for inviting me for this blog tour. The quotes below were taken from an ARC and are subject to change upon publication.
Book: Foundryside (The Founders 1) by Robert Jackson Bennett
Release Date: August 23rd 2018
Tags: Fantasy / Adult / Magical Inscriptions / Magic / Thieves / Sentient Objects / Artefacts / Mental Health / PTSD / LGBTQ+ / Lesbian Relationship / Trigger Warnings / Slavery / Implied Abuse / Implied Sexual Abuse / Sexual Assault / Torture / Violence / Blood
The city of Tevanne runs on scrivings, industrialised magical inscriptions that make inanimate objects sentient; they power everything, from walls to wheels to weapons. Scrivings have brought enormous progress and enormous wealth – but only to the four merchant Houses who control them. Everyone else is a servant or slave, or they eke a precarious living in the hellhole called the Commons.
There’s not much in the way of work for an escaped slave like Sancia Grado, but she has an unnatural talent that makes her one of the best thieves in the city. When she’s offered a lucrative job to steal an ancient artefact from a heavily guarded warehouse, Sancia agrees, dreaming of leaving the Commons – but instead, she finds herself the target of a murderous conspiracy. Someone powerful in Tevanne wants the artefact, and Sancia dead – and whoever it is already wields power beyond imagining. . Sancia will need every ally, and every ounce of wits at her disposal, if she is to survive – because if her enemy gets the artefact and unlocks its secrets, thousands will die, and, even worse, it will allow ancient evils back into the world and turn their city into a devastated battleground.
When I got the chance to participate in this blogtour for Foundryside I jumped at the chance. While I haven’t read any of his earlier books, Robert Jackson Bennett was for sure on my radar. And now I know I need to go back and read some more by him. Because Foundryside was excellent.
Tevanne has a rather complicated system with founders and scrivings but the author has a great talent for building the world without taking any of the pace out of the story. I have a rather clear image of Tevanne in my head and how some of the things look like. He certainly tickled my imagination. I also found the magic with the scrivings very interesting. Scrivings are basically magical inscriptions that make objects sentient. Carts that can drive without horses. Floating lamps. There is a lot left to discover but we get a very clear basic understanding of scrivings in this book. That is information that the author is going to build on in later books.
Because picking a lock is easy if the lock is actually telling you how to pick it.
I was surprised with how action packed and fast paced this 500 page book is. Adult fantasy is normally not quite known for that. But there was a great balance between the above mentioned world building and action. It was a wild ride. It sucked me in and then wouldn’t quite let me go. Having said that I can’t quite give this book the full 5 stars either. The thing is that there are some easy to see plot twists coming for those of us that read a lot of fantasy. It pulled out that surprise element at the end it was banking on. It just made it lack a bit of punch.
The characters are developed quite nicely with still a lot of room to grow for all of them in the next books. They were actually characters where I wondered if I was even going to like them when I first met them. But then as we got to see more in their head and their backgrounds and their reasons, I became attached to them. They are flawed. It makes them believable. I also loved how the author slowly introduced the point of views of characters to us. We started with our main character where in a character got introduced that we then get a point of view on and so on. We don’t at random get characters thrown at us. It builds everything very nicely.
I took an especial liking to Sancia, our main character. She is smart, daring and broken. An escaped slave, she is trying to survive in a world that doesn’t seem to have a real place for her. She also suffers from PTSD from her time as a slave and the things that were done to her. The strong reactions she had at moments stemmed from that. I am glad that wasn’t glossed over. Sancia also shows interest in another female (which is recuperated) which made me so happy. She deserves some happiness. I also loved her interactions with a sentient object. That is all I shall say.
Gregor seemed like such a stiff man but he also had a background that shaped him. That changed him. As war often does to soldiers. Orso is a man that loves to curse and is perhaps a bit short-sighted in his pursuit of knowledge. Even so he grew on me as the novel continues. He does have his heart in the right place. Somewhat. Though I’m amazed Berenice (his assistant/partner I suppose) can stand working with him 24/7. I admire her for that. He is not an easy man.
‘Justice is a luxury.’
‘No,’ said Gregor. ‘It is not. It is a right. And it is a right that has long been denied.’
The author doesn’t shy away from the tough subjects. As mentioned Sancia clearly has PTSD and is an escaped slave. I think slavery was done respectfully in the sense that there isn’t a white savior here. Sancia saved herself. And even Gregor realizes as the book continues that the justice he wants to deliver isn’t going to just roll over for him. But there is also mentioned abuse, sexual assault, torture, sex, child trafficking. So be aware of that when you go into this book.
There are a lot of morality questions also considering the scriving. Inevitably people find bigger things in history or think of new ideas that one should wonder if that is a line one should cross. Like scriving on people. How far should one go in the pursuit of knowledge and aren’t we better off leaving some things in the past?
In the graphic below you can find the other stops during this blog tour. The handles are for their twitter accounts. If you want to hear more opinions on Foundryside go check out their posts!