Information about Robert Jackson Bennett:
Robert Jackson Bennett is a two-time award winner of the Shirley Jackson Award for Best Novel, an Edgar Award winner for Best Paperback Original, and is also the 2010 recipient of the Sydney J Bounds Award for Best Newcomer, and a Philip K Dick Award Citation of Excellence. City of Stairs was shortlisted for the Locus Award and the World Fantasy Award. City of Blades was a finalist for the 2015 World Fantasy, Locus, and British Fantasy Awards. His seventh novel, City of Miracles, is in stores now.
Robert lives in Austin with his wife and large sons.
Click here to visit his official website.
Information about Foundryside:
In a city that runs on industrialized magic, a secret war will be fought to overwrite reality itself - the first in a dazzling new fantasy series from City of Stairs author Robert Jackson Bennett.
Sancia Grado is a thief, and a damn good one. And her latest target, a heavily guarded warehouse on Tevanne’s docks, is nothing her unique abilities can’t handle.
But unbeknownst to her, Sancia’s been sent to steal an artifact of unimaginable power, an object that could revolutionize the magical technology known as scriving. The Merchant Houses who control this magic - the art of using coded commands to imbue everyday objects with sentience - have already used it to transform Tevanne into a vast, remorseless capitalist machine. But if they can unlock the artifact’s secrets, they will rewrite the world itself to suit their aims.
Now someone in those Houses wants Sancia dead, and the artifact for themselves. And in the city of Tevanne, there’s nobody with the power to stop them.
To have a chance at surviving - and at stopping the deadly transformation that’s under way - Sancia will have to marshal unlikely allies, learn to harness the artifact’s power for herself, and undergo her own transformation, one that will turn her into something she could never have imagined.
REVIEW: FOUNDRYSIDE BY ROBERT JACKSON BENNETT
Robert Jackson Bennett's Foundryside is the first novel in The Founders Trilogy. It's a compelling and highly enjoyable epic fantasy novel that will captivate speculative fiction readers by its freshness, engaging characterisation and sophisticated complexity. This novel is one of the best fantasy novels of the year and it can be recommended to readers who love absorbing stories.
I find Foundryside deeply immersive and entertaining, because the author has a great feel for nuanced storytelling, making the pages fly by as the story unfolds. It's been a while since I've read an epic fantasy novel that's as good and entertaining as Foundryside, because it's something original. What sets this novel apart from many of its kind is the author's keen enthusiasm to tell a gripping and fast-paced story that instantly pulls readers into a mesmerising world of magic, secrets and peril.
Foundryside has everything I expect to find in a compelling fantasy novel: fascinating worldbuilding, excellent characterisation, intriguing magic system, thrilling plot, good dialogue and delightful humour. The author combines various elements in a mesmerising and effortless way and delivers readers an enthralling story that leaves them wanting more. The story flows powerfully from start to finish and surprises readers with its twists and turns.
Foundryside tells of Sancia Grado, a thief, who is sent to a heavily guarded warehouse on Tevanne's docks to steal a wooden box. Although she faces problems along the way, she manages to steal the box. What she doesn't know is that inside the wooden box is an artifact, a golden key with delicate and complex scrivings, that has great and unimaginable power that could thoroughly revolutionize the magical technology known as scriving. It could be used to alter reality directly and change the world to suit the aims and needs of those who can unlock its secrets. Soon Sancia finds herself in grave peril and is being chased by ruthless people who want the key for themselves. She has no other option but to ally herself with unlikely people if she hopes to survive. She also has to learn to harness the artifact's power for herself and become transformed into something else.
One of the most noticeable things about this novel is its original and unique magic system. Scriving is a form of magic that allows its user to imbue everyday objects with sentience. Scrivings are instructions written upon mindless objects that convince them to disobey reality and rules of physics in select ways. They have to be carefully thought out or accidents and death may occur. What intrigued me most about scriving is that it involves both magic and science.
It's great that the author writes about problems that are caused by the excessive use of magic, because not many authors write about these things. In this novel, magic is used by those who control the city and it has resulted in inequality, corruption, crime and slavery.
The characterisation is excellent and the reader is able to get a feel for the characters quickly. The characters feel real and they act like real people, because they're well-developed and have their own feelings, traits and motives. It's good that the author allows his characters to make mistakes and doesn't describe them as perfect, because it adds a touch of realism to the story.
Sancia Grado is a fascinating and strong female protagonist, because she's a gifted, clever and resourceful thief who once used to be a slave. She has a talent of sensing things from objects and she can hear scrivings. She doesn't really understand her talents, but she knows what they do and how they can help her. Although her talents are useful and can be used for example to pick a lock, they have downsides, because she has to keep a lot of her skin concealed at all times in order not to touch objects for too long a time.
Captain Gregor Dandolo of the Tevanni Waterwatch is a well-created character. He has been trying to weed out crime on Tevanne docks, because he believes in justice and wants to build something that will bring justice to people. Unfortunately, the recent events have made him a disgraced man, because Sancia's deeds have complicated things. He is determined to find out who is responsible for the theft and destruction at the waterfront. He has connections to his family's house, but has little to do with his relatives unless he has a good reason to do so.
Orso and Berenice are also interesting characters. Orso is a hypatus who knows a lot about scriving and Berenice is his apprentice. Orso's sharp opinions and observations about certain things are fun to read.
Clef is an especially intriguing character, because he's "something else". His conversations with Sancia are amusing and fascinating. In fear of revealing too much information about the plot twists, I won't write more about Clef in this review.
The worldbuilding is rich and immersive. Everything about Tevanne and its surroundings exudes thoughtful worldbuilding and attention to details. The author does an impressive job at fleshing out Tevanne, which is a city that runs on industrialized magic. In Tevanne, the use of magic has been maximized by the merchant houses who control the city.
The four merchant houses compete with each other and jealously protect their scriving designs. The areas that the houses own are fiercely guarded and resemble walled city-states. The merchant house enclaves, the campos, take up a lot of space in Tevanne (almost 80% of the city is owned by the merchant houses). The remaining areas, the Commons, are places where the poor, the lame, the uneducated and the undesireable people live and try to survive as best as they can. The Commons don't have any kind of laws, so crime is abundant there and life can be dangerous and deadly for the unwary.
The Occidental Empire that preceded the modern world lies in ruin. Almost nothing remains of this great and ancient empire anymore, because when it collapsed, it collapsed hard and all of its people died. What remains of the empire are notes concerning the art of scriving. Various relics and runes are occasionally found by people among the ruins of the empire. If these findings hold secrets about scrivings, they're desperately wanted by the ruthless elites of Tevanne who will do anything - even murder - to get them.
I have to mention that the industrialized setting intrigued me, because I've grown a bit tired of reading about medieval fantasy worlds (in my opinion, this novel is perfect antidote to stale fantasy novels taking place in various medieval fantasy worlds). The author does an impressive job at building up a vivid vision of Tevanne and its industrialized magic, because he brilliantly brings it to life and hints at ancient mysteries.
I like the author's approach to thievery and thieves, because his vision of them is entertaining and enjoyable. His way of writing about Sancia and her talents is atmospheric and thrilling. I enjoyed reading about how Sancia entered the buildings, sneaked along the alleys, hid in the shadows and fought for her life.
The action scenes are exceptionally good in this novel, because the author avoids fluffy and unnecessary scenes. I often find action scenes a bit tedious, because many authors are guilty of writing action scenes just for the sake of action and forget that they have to have a meaning, but now I enjoyed reading about them and found them fascinating. All of the action scenes advance the story and work in its favour, which is good.
There's quite a lot of underlying darkness in this novel, which will fascinate those who love the darker side of speculative fiction. I think that many readers will be both fascinated and shocked by what kind of horrors Sancia had to endure while being a slave, because the author writes unflinchingly about what was done to her. The depictions of Sancia's fate are memorable in their brutality.
Robert Jackson Bennett has his own literary voice and he uses it well. I like his writing style and prose very much, because he has an effortless and impressive way of writing about the characters and the happenings. The admirably well-wrought narrative spends as much time on the characterisation as it does on the story, and there's a good balance between action and plot development.
There's something in Foundryside that reminds me a bit of the novels written by Scott Lynch, L.E. Modesitt, Jr., Felix Gilman, Lynn Flewelling, Bradley P. Beaulieu, Brandon Sanderson, Courtney Schafer, Rjurik Davidson and Anthony Huso. It's different from them, but it has a few elements in common with them. Perhaps the best way to describe its contents to readers is to say that it feels like a combination of Scott Lynch and Brandon Sanderson with a dash of L.E. Modesitt, Jr.
When I read this novel, I noticed that - at certain points - it has a bit of a YA feel to it, which is something that is not often found in this kind of fantasy fiction. This adds its own unique flavour to the story arc. The humorous elements and amusing dialogues also bring additional spice to the story.
One of the best things about this novel is that not everything is revealed at once, but gradually during the story. Although the action starts from the first page and carries on throughout the novel, the author takes his time to set up things. I like this kind of storytelling, because it maintains the reader's interest in the story.
I enjoyed this novel a lot and look forward to reading the next instalment. Because the author introduces the setting and the characters in this novel and takes his time to build up the background story, I have a feeling that the next novel will be even more amazing than this one. (I haven't yet had an opportunity to read the author's previous trilogy, The Divine Cities, but I intend to take a look at it as soon as possible, because this novel awakened my interest in it.)
Robert Jackson Bennett's Foundryside is a fascinating and rewarding blend of epic fantasy, mystery and unique magic. I sincerely hope that as many readers as possible will read this entertaining novel, because it's gripping escapism for lovers of epic fantasy. If you're in need of something good and enjoyable to read, I strongly urge you to read Foundryside, for it's an excellent fantasy novel filled with depth, magic, action, intriguing characters and underlying darkness.