Foundryside is an incredibly interesting book. I found it a bit hard to get into at first, and I thought about putting the book down for now, but I’m beyond gland that I kept reading, because the second half absolutely sold me on this book.
The magic system is complex and yet incredibly logical in a way that reminds me of Brandon Sanderson’s writing (especially Mistborn) which I absolutely love, because it gives a fantastical world a sense of reality. The story itself took a while to really get going (yes, things are happening, even at the beginning of the book, but for me it took about half the book for me to get really hooked), but once things really start happening, I couldn’t put the book down. With some of the characters, I took some time warming up to them, but I love the bits of development we see them go through, even just in this first book, which makes me very excited for what is to come in the following installments of this series. Lastly, Sancia and Berenice are obviously my faves, I love them with all my heart and if anything bad happens to them I will cry (something bad will most definitely happen to them, cause this was only the first book in a trilogy… :) )
Mixing a wonderfully complex and intriguing magic system with a heist plot and a lovely cast of characters, Foundryside is a great start to this trilogy. I can’t wait to pick up the next book, because now that I got through all the character introductions and the explanations of the magic system that made the first half of this book a little tedious (for me), I have no doubt that the second book could easily be a five star read.
When I tried to find an elevator pitch for this book for a friend it eventually became: “Imagine a heist movie. But with magic. But actually not bad. No, seriously.”
It hits all the marks of the fantasy-heist-movie genre book. A ragtag bunch of characters, a plucky fierce protagonist with difficult past, frequent snarky banter just light enough to give chuckles in quite hairy situations. (And a plus for me — a hint of romance so light that thankfully it might as well not even be there). (And a minus, unfortunately — the frequent use of made-up swear words that are ridiculous in keeping supposedly salty language very PG-13; that’s just silly.)
Set in the fantasy vaguely late-medieval-ish to early Renaissance city-state run by four major merchant houses that built their fortune on “scriving” magic left over from an earlier godlike now-extinct race of Hierophants, the book introduces us to a plucky thief (because of course, it’s a heist book, so romanticized thievery is where the money is) Sancia, who has unexpected magical abilities of her own even before she comes across a magic sentient key that seems a lot like AI (but has a pretty tragic backstory) and gets herself tangled up in events much bigger than her initial desire to make some fast cash, aided by a virtuous ex-military policeman with tragic past and a couple of magical scientists. And although you can see plot twists coming from a mile away, it doesn’t take away from the enjoyment.
(See what I mean about it being a heist movie?)
“All things have a value. Sometimes the value is paid in coin. Other times, it is paid in time and sweat. And finally, sometimes it is paid in blood.
Humanity seems most eager to use this latter currency. And we never note how much of it we’re spending, unless it happens to be our own.”
This is a book with constant action, a few scenes with literal mist of blood splatter which somehow ends up funny, and constant supposed peril for the protagonists where you still not even for a moment can doubt that they will come out even of the most dangerous situations perfectly fine, mostly unharmed and full of snarky banter, and ready to jump full speed headfirst into the next fun deadly peril as though nothing had happened - a bit younger-seeming than I’d prefer. And you know what, it’s alright if you’re in the mood - and I was, after about 20% mark finally letting this story take me along on its ride despite the gripes.
But it also periodically stops to think - between blood splatters - about more serious things. About exploitation and control and treating people as things. And that grounds the snappy banter and makes this stand out a bit among similar heist books by serving as something of a serious counterweight.
“Every innovation—technological, sociological, or otherwise—begins as a crusade, organizes itself into a practical business, and then, over time, degrades into common exploitation. This is simply the life cycle of how human ingenuity manifests in the material world.
What goes forgotten, though, is that those who partake in this system undergo a similar transformation: people begin as comrades and fellow citizens, then become labor resources and assets, and then, as their utility shifts or degrades, transmute into liabilities, and thus must be appropriately managed.”
Could Bennett have gone deeper into the serious stuff? Absolutely, although this may come from the part of me that just finished yet another Ursula K. Le Guin reread. But that would be sacrificing the fun heist stuff for grim reflection, and I sense that his preferred balance here was towards the former.
I’m a bit torn on Bennett’s worldbuilding. I liked the magic system, but the society setup seemed odd and not quite logical — again, like something I’d expect from a heist movie. But my brain did kinda love the whole gravity rig scene — just define the damn mass and density already! — to let it go.
Overall, I was entertained enough to stay up till stupid o’clock to finish it (and not because it was due back to the library or anything), so that must count for something other than the resultant groggy headache. 3.5 stars, and I may check out more Bennett later. Maybe City of Stairs?
Thanks to NetGalley and Crown Publishing for providing me with a digital ARC in exchange for an honest review.
I’m so glad I got to finally read this series. I finally understand all the hype. I loved the fantastical element in this. I can’t wait to continue the series.
Good worldbuilding and interesting characters, This isn't my genre and I likely won't continue in the series but I'm sure this will have many enthusiastic readers.
Highly enjoyable book with great world building and strong characters. The story follows a young thief who we quickly find is meant for much more. The start of a promising series, will be keen to read the next instalments. 4 out of 5. Thank you Netgalley for the advanced copy.
Foundryside features extraordinary world building and an awesome magic system that I found mesmerizing!
My ARC was approved very late, so there isn't much I can say about this that hasn't already been said.
The magic system here is something I very much enjoyed. It involves the scriving of objects to defy the laws of nature, such as space, gravity and time.
The world itself is dreary unless one happens to live in one of the campos, (family houses, somewhat like the Game of Thrones books.) If not part of a campo, then you're part of the area connecting the campos, the Commons. Life is difficult there, with very little food or safe places. This is the place from which Sancia emerges, master thief and all around smart cookie.
During Sancia's latest heist, she burns down the entire waterfront in error, and so begins this tale of magic and the epic battle between good and evil.
With lots of surprises all the way through, FOUNDRYSIDE kept me enthralled until the very last minute. At which time, I immediately downloaded book 2!
Highly recommended for fans of dark fantasy and magic!
*Thank you to the publisher, author and NetGalley for the e-ARC in exchange for my honest feedback. This is it!*
This is an interesting book that is far far far too wordy. I found myself reading the center paragraph on each page and skipping ahead even from that when too many pages were about the same event or conversation. I don't think I lost any substantive info with those jump. Eventually I looked down and saw that I had gotten to only 22% and I quit.
Again, it's not that the story isn't interesting, it's that there is too much of it. If you need to read a long book for some reason, this one would do nicely.
foundryside has great world building and was a fun read. It has a strong heist component so if you liked that in Six of crows this book might be worth a try.
Do we as humans deserve dogs? They're the best so I would hope so. I too would go to the end of the world for my dog. This book was a sweet and sad story of the end of the world and going lengths to save your dog. I found parts to be so sweet and some so sad. I enjoyed this one as a good little palate cleanser.
Foundryside was great!! I went through a wide range of emotions while reading this, from laughter to tearing up for my bbs. I’m glad to say that this lived up to the hype!
Starting off this review with: SANCIA MY GIRL 🥺 She went through SO MUCH and still came out the other side. Her “ability” led to some very interesting characterization for her, and Bennett really thought about how it would affect all facets of her life. And then seeing where she ended up at the end of the book was so rewarding. <spoiler>I LOVED seeing her push back against Estelle trying to make her an object by asserting her own worth after a lifetime of being objectified.</spoiler> (Also she kind of reminded me of one of my favorite characters of all time, Korra from LoK, so that’s a bonus too ❤︎) I also loved seeing Sancia’s interactions with Clef, which ended up being both hilarious and wholesome. I also liked her shy interactions with Berenice and look forward to seeing more. Orso and Gregor were less interesting to me (especially since Gregor started off as very “I’m a noble man following all the rules” kind of character that felt like a random insert at first), but they did grow on me near the end.
The magic system of scriving is really fascinating and it was cool to see the applications. It definitely has a lot of potential. I’m also fascinated by the history and lore of this world and look forward to learning more about the hierophants, especially after that ending!! <spoiler>No lie, I kinda love the concept of releasing/relying on some evil to destroy another evil. Really curious to see what Valeria and whoever that prophet Ofelia has are going to do. And those MOTHS, wtf.</spoiler>
I’ve seen some people say the plot is predictable, but personally I did NOT see where it was going at all lol. I do think whoever wrote the blurb did a great job as it only describes the first like 10% of the book. I really enjoyed the twists and turns this book took me on, as the heists built and built to more intense endeavors. I do think the focus on plot put the characterization in the backseat (especially for the side characters, as Sancia did get a good amount of focus), but I still enjoyed it as a mostly character-driven reader.
The main reason I can’t give this 5 stars is alllll the info-dumping. It was incessant! The narrative took so much time explaining every little detail of scriving and it was just so silly and unnecessary. It was especially annoying during a scene near the end when I understood what scriving was happening just through Sancia’s dialogue and interactions, but the text took three additional paragraphs to explicitly explain what I had surmised indirectly. There were also quite a few scenes where characters (both protagonists and antagonists) spoke in such unnatural ways that were obvious attempts at exposition. I’m hoping that this will be better in the next book in the series now that we’ve gotten the basic world building down in this first book.
Like I said, that quibble was fairly minor and did not greatly reduce my enjoyment, though I am hoping I won’t have the same complaint about the next book. I am really looking forward to continuing in this series!!
This book has been hands down one of my best ever reads.
I honestly don’t even know how to explain how phenomenal this book was. The world building, the concept of scriving, the characters and the storyline were all just so perfectly unique and executed, there is nothing I can fault this book on.
From a heist, to life-threatening circumstances to yet another heist but way more intense, I couldn’t get enough. And dynamic between the characters was something I could only dream of creating.
The concept of scriving really got me hooked in this book. It is such a unique, yet incredibly scientific but also slightly magical concept that absolutely blows my mind every time the scrivings were being described.
I honestly cannot flaw this book and will forever recommend it to anyone who wants the perfect fantasy read.
This was a re-read as I suddenly realised that the sequel was out and it was just as stunning the second time around. Foundryside is a clever and imaginative novel that displays some unique world building, excellent characterisations and a tautly written plot that will keep you on the edge of your seat. It's not traditional fantasy, and yet it has everything you love about traditional fantasy just with a very different spin on things.
Following Sancia, a quick witted thief with a very handy magical talent, what seems to be a simple job quickly goes wrong and what was a difficult but doable task becomes ever more complex. In some ways it starts as a simple heist tale, but quickly spirals with the magical world-building and wonderful characters. I particularly liked the way Clef, a particularly sentient artifact, becomes a character in its own right, even as Sancia is the one wielding it.
All in all, an excellent novel and I really ought to get round to reading more of Bennett's works.
I really wanted to enjoy this book, but I just couldn't get into it. I don't think it's a fault of the author (I liked the worldbuilding and the concept) but I could not relate to the characters for the life of me. I did not care what happened to them.
I hope to reread this sometime in the future and gain a better respect for it, but right now I don't have any desire to continue the series.
Actual Rating: 2.75/5
That feeling when you find an author’s work and absolutely love their writing. Robert Jackson Bennett is brilliant at creating a complex world with interesting lovable characters and an intriguing well developed magic system that effortlessly draws the reader in.
Foundryside is a heist style story with mystery and intrigue. The idea of making a magic system similar to computer programming was kind of brilliant and as characters described its potential and limitations and applications it was so fun and wild to explore. The characters are diverse, full of personality, and easy to become invested in, I loved them all! Sancia is a strong complex kick ass protagonist and I loved following her and Clef as the story escalated.
High stakes became seemingly impossible stakes with twists and turns and reveals leading to a lack of sleep as I found myself saying “just one more chapter and then I’ll totally go to bed,” as morning would creep closer and closer. And while this is the first of a trilogy and danger looms the ending is hopeful and feels satisfying.
I think this would really appeal to fans of Six of Crows or readers looking for a high stakes adventurous read with a fun charismatic motley crew.
I received an advance review copy, and I am leaving this review voluntarily. Thanks to Robert Jackson Bennett, NetGalley, and Crown Publishing for a copy of this book.
The world in this book is so unique and engaging. The heist is thrilling. The characters were cool and well rounded. So much fun, but also tense.
4.5⭐️ The star of Foundryside was definitely the epic world building including such an intricately designed magic system which was described in such detail that you could see it all before you.
This is a heist book taken in new directions!
Our main characters are a mixed bag who all come together when a magical artifact is stolen.
We have Sancia, an orphan girl with a traumatic childhood who is trying to survive the harsh world outside the campos (the protected societies run by magical scriving) by theiving.
Then we meet Gregor, the privileged son of the head of a campo who is setting out to create a better world for those unlucky enough to find themselves without the protection of a campo (much to the dislike of his mother).
Orso, the most talented scriver and his assistant Berenice who are both exceptionally clever and, like many academics, sit outside the real world. Yet, they are the ones creating all the devices that run the world around them.
Now, perhaps the most unexpected of the bunch is Clef… the magical artifact himself, who is a talking key!
These characters all come together when they find themselves chasing the same thing… the key, (which our Sancia happens upon without realising its value) but for very different reasons. Soon, they learn that without each other their chances of surviving those who also seek the key are very slim.
Soon, our characters realise that merely surviving and keeping this key hidden is not enough. Instead of running from this new threat, they decide to use the key to create a better world… and that’s when things get really messy!
Foundryside has many twists and turns that keep you guessing all the way along. The characters lead the journey but it is the world building, the magic system and the plot that captures your attention and completely immerses you in this story.
I absolutely adored this book and am so looking forward to moving straight into book two to continue the journey with Sancia and her friends.
Thank you to NetGalley and Crown Publishing for the ARC.
What a fun adventure this has started off to be! I know I'm a bit behind with this being published five years ago, but, on the bright side, it means I don't have to wait to finish the trilogy :)
I recently discovered Robert Jackson Bennett from an ARC of the Tainted Cup, his newest series, which will release in 2024. I was excited to see there was more in his bibliography, and Foundryside immediately drew me in. Bennett is so creative, he builds worlds and histories and characters with such depth that it is easy to fall into his stories and stay there, utterly entranced. Foundryside is no exception.
From the moment we meet Sancia we are on an adventure through sewers and rats and fire and danger and the story does not let up at any time. Sancia, Clef, Berenice, Gregor and Orso are an unlikely bunch, but at the end of this first tale they have come so far from who they were in the beginning - each testing the limits of themselves and their city and what it means to trust. Sancia and Gregor especially are struggling with who they have been and who they want to be - and I think that journey has led them not to be enemies any longer, but they still have a long way to go, and war appears to be coming for them.
The magical system is a bit confusing at first, but Robert Jackson Bennett takes care to gently build up the reader's knowledge and understanding at multiple times and conversations and plot points so you grow with the story, and you grow with the characters - some of whom are struggling in their own ways with recognizing the abilities of people to create rigs and scriving. The larger part of the history of scriving and artifacts is still a little bit fuzzy for me, what with the ending, but I'm sure that will all be better revealed in Shorefall.
Overall, I thought this was a fantastic read - it's escapism at it's finest, and I hope Shorefall and Locklands are just as good.
This was a good one. There are not too many characters, only a few and you don't really feel anything for them in the start but slowly they grow up on you. Gregor must be my favourite character but I'm still confused a bit coz even when Orso was a rude, narcissistic one, he got quite special for me and I wanted the author to keep all of them alive, no matter the circumstances.
Sancia, the thief and protagonist of the story is well written too but seems like even though she does most or all the stuff in the book she doesn't get the respect she deserves. I'm hoping she gets what she deserved in the second book. Maybe she should have been given a strong voice towards the end in the first book itself but I'm hoping that it is so in the second book.
It is full of action, few fighting scenes are so well written that imagining them gave me real goosebumps. Author has taken care to explain everything as the story goes so we are not left clueless as to what and why it is happening.
Foundryside is the first book of the Founders triology, Shorefall is the second which I already have lined up and I have requested the third book which is Locklands. I'm telling this coz I had got second book and started it and was fascinated with it from the very first few pages but then I came to realisation that actually I had the first book. Sadly I had to finish both books fast coz second book's deadline was fast approaching.
Even if I think you can read any book of the triology but knowing every character and plotline and having idea about how this fantasy world worked made it super easy to understand as I was already connected with the characters.
I would not go into details of the plot as I feel book will be able to explain more in details what's foundryside, scriving and lexicon works. Overall execution and idea was completely mind-blowing. Definitely recommend it.
Thank you so much Netgalley and author and crown publishing for providing me with ARC in exchange of an honest review. Onto the second book we go.
Thanks to Robert Jackson Bennett, Crown Publishing, and NetGalley for the copy of the book in return for an honest review.
This book and series is up for a Hugo Award in 2023 for the best series and deservedly so. The book provides an interesting and unique set of characters in a world that is well developed. The plot moves along well to a satisfying conclusion while leaving plenty of items for future books to resolve. Recommended read.
With so many fantasy books out there, it is difficult to know which is going to be a hit and which one is going to be a miss. If you are a fan of Patrick Rothfuss but need more of a gentle push into the fantasy genre, then this one is for you.
Unique, cohesive, and subtle magic system ✔️
Heist thievery plot ✔️
Steampunk-inspired vibes ✔️
Strong female MMC ✔️