My first foray with Robert Jackson Bennett came with my reading of Vigilance, a recent speculative fiction novella of his, which might well pan out to be one of my favorite books of the year. I knew as soon as I finished it that I wanted to read more by him as soon as possible.
While I had heard of Foundryside, I was put off by some misconceptions I had heard from other people’s reviews of the book. Foundryside is usually described by other reviewers as an epic fantasy about a thieving crew. And it is that. And it also isn’t. Foundryside is fantasy, science fiction, and steampunk all wrapped up with a lovely dystopian bow. It’s epic fantasy in that the world is completely new and not at all our world, but that’s about it. There is no “magic” or “magic system” per se; rather, the magic comes from technology and science.
The, for lack of a better word, “magic” in this series comes from a process called scriving, where people engrave instructions and words into items to change their nature or make the items do certain actions. For example, people can scrive wheels into making them move on their own by tricking the wheels to believe they are rolling downhill. It’s super cool, very science-y, and akin to computer coding in our world.
If you love stories with a larger cast of characters, with heist/thieving storylines, or with a found family theme, then I think this series could be right up your alley. The main character, Sancia, is a thief. There’s Gregory, a soldier who wants the world to be good and just. And Berenice and Orso, who work as scrivers for a wealthy merchant house. The characters are as diverse as they are fascinating, and I loved seeing each of them interact throughout the course of the story. It’s not unlike Brandon Sanderson’s Mistborn series, but with less obvious magic happening.
There’s also some super secret things I could get into about certain scrived objects in this world, but telling you would be giving away some huge spoilers. I’ll just say that Foundryside explores themes of what it means to be human, to be a “being,” and what it means to be sentient. It’s a theme I really love in science fiction, but told in a fantasy-esque world, which was so interesting to see.
This book rates 5/5 stars for me, and I am so, so glad I finally gave it a chance! Foundryside is out now, and its sequel, Shorefall, comes out on April 21, 2020. Get excited for a review of Shorefall, because I got an Arc from the publisher and I cannot wait to read and review it as well!