Foundryside by Robert Jackson Bennet
There are a lot of books I get super cheap or free. I collect them and they add to my never ending "to read" pile. They aren’t things I’m dying to read, but are backups for when I don’t know what to read next. And recently I had to dive into that pile to find a fantasy. I recently read a horror with very bummer ending and I needed the pallet cleanser. What did I choose? It was Foundryside by Robert Jackson Bennett.
So what is it about? First, it is set in a magic punk world. Something bad happened in the world and hundreds of years later, the city of Trevene had grown out of the remains of it. This city runs on and relies on runes and a magic language that allows objects to warp reality. They are very crude spells that allow carriages to move on their own or light homes or supply main water. This language is called Scrivings. And the book follows the teenage thief Sancia who is surviving by doing odd jobs in the slums of Trevene. But Sancia isn’t any thief. She has a rough history where, at one point had been scrived herself. Some bad men put a plate of spells inside her head. Having escaped, she uses her new found psychic abilities for work.
Then she takes a new job for a noble house that is more trouble than she ever expected. She steals a key. But through her abilities learns it has a consciousness, personality, and soul. As she learns it is sentient and what the key can do, she second guesses her choice. But before she can finish the job there are separate noble houses who come after her. One is from the man she stole from. The others attacks are out of the blue with more advanced magic tech than she had seen before. Then a wild adventure continues on from there.
The good? The story’s world is fascinating. This magic world runs is not traditional fantasy magic. Instead it is a language is written on objects that tricks it into defying the laws of physics. For example, a carriage moves on its own because the scrivings written on it make the object believe it is rolling downhill. All the magic is very physics based and is more scientific than I ever expected. The author spends a long time explaining this so the reader understands how it works. It’s fascinating and made this world so much more grounded. The imagination is great. The action is absolutely amazing. When it’s going, it is very hard to put the book down until it is over. Also, the cast is pretty amazing.
The bad? Though I was loving this the book to death in the beginning, I began to see faults as I read on. For one, I found the last third rushed. The second half fell into a routine that made things a tad predictable. Then there was a strange thing that caught me off guard. For seventy-five percent of the book, Sancia and the noble man Gregor have growing chemistry throughout. It seemed like the author wanted to make them more than friends. Then something happens. Gregor is thought to be dead. Not a tear is shed and Sancia is suddenly in love with a magic tech assistant (who has been a minor character until this point) with no chemistry whatsoever. It all seemed very weird. It seemed awkward and not organic at all. Also Gregor had a big part to play but is somewhat sidelined for the rest of the book. Strange choices were made is the final third. Some people might hate or simply be confused by them like I was.
Overall, despite some of the odd late story decisions, it was a great read. The world is fascinating. The characters are great. The action keeps you on the edge of your seat. It was a really good read. Possibly one of the better fantasies out there. So despite all the faults, I really recommend it. If it sounds like your thing, go check it out.
Overall Rating: A Magic Punk Heist Tale Worth Checking Out
4 smoothies out of 5