Four merchant Houses control the city of Tevanne and enjoy the prosperity brought to them by the Scrivings, a form of magical wordcraft that can make inanimate objects perform their bidding. It is the Scrivings that have made the merchants so rich, because they imbue everything from weapons to walls to clothing with its own inner life. But while the four Houses bask in their obscene wealth, the rest of Tevanne is a dark labyrinth of walled-off city-states whose inhabitants are mired in poverty and lawlessness. One of the most lawless, Sancia Grado, is an expert thief with some very unnatural talents, and when she is offered the job of stealing an ancient artefact from a high-security warehouse she is only too eager to accept. After all, this could be the payday that will change her life forever… if she can survive long enough to enjoy it.
Because here’s the problem: stealing the artefact was the easy part, but now an assassin connected with one of the merchant Houses will stop at nothing to recover it and destroy Sancia in the process. Also, war hero and law enforcer Gregor Dandolo is hot on her tail and determined Sancia will face justice. And then there’s the stolen artefact itself, a mysterious object that holds enough power to destroy the entire world and everyone in it. How can you stay hidden in a city where dark magic and murderous enemies are shadowing your every move and your main ally is… well… unique to say the least? Sancia is about to find out.
Foundryside is a terrific high-energy beginning to what promises to be Robert Jackson Bennett’s most accomplished fantasy series so far. Sancia, whose unique abilities are quickly established to be a curse rather than a blessing, is a fascinating lead character - ballsy and unsentimental, with just enough talent and charisma to convince us of her heroine status while also suggesting that, one day soon, her skills and luck may very possibly run out. Sancia isn’t indestructible - in fact, between her questionable gifts and the experiences of her slave-past, she makes for a compellingly vulnerable and human protagonist, and all of the key characters surrounding her share a very similar, heavily textured depth. Bennett’s world-building is impressive too, and very subtly accomplished. He doesn’t beat us around the head with the rules of this place, he simply unravels the story and lets us learn the rules along the way. Even more impressive is the magic - the concept of scriving is downright arcane genius - and then there’s the addition of Sancia’s inanimate sidekick who’s so enjoyable it even threatens to steal the show from time-to-time.
If your heart normally sinks at the thought of yet another new epic fantasy series crowding your bookshelves, Foundryside does enough to suggest this may be that rare new series which is worthy of your attention. Beg, steal or scrive to get your hands on a copy because it’s certainly one of the most compelling and magical series openers we’ve read all year.
FOUNDRYSIDE / AUTHOR: ROBERT JACKSON BENNETT / PUBLISHER: JO FLETCHER BOOKS / RELEASE DATE: 28TH AUGUST 2018