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.
I read this book for the first time last year, in the midst of my maternity leave. It was one of the first books I picked up after having my son, and WOW did I get lucky with my choice. Foundryside is one of the best books I read last year, no question. I picked it up again, now, because I was approved for an ARC of the last book of the trilogy. A reread was in order so I could appropriately appreciate the series as a whole.
My opinions of this book have not changed in the slightest. Foundryside is a tightly plotted fantasy book that takes place in the city-state of Tevanne, that is (I think) based off of Venice, Italy. There are canals and merchant houses, so that’s what I’m basing that off of. In Tevanne, “magic” is done by scriving — convincing an object to do something other than what reality says it is supposed to by the use of sigils. That sounds complicated, but it really isn’t inside the confines of the book. An example — they make carriages move forward by convincing the wheels that they are going down a hill. This magic system is so amazingly unique and used in the most fascinating of ways throughout the course of the novel.
Sancia, the main character, is a gruff and mean thief with a strange ability — she can listen to objects by touching them. She’ll lay her hand or a finger on a wall and immediately know what the inside of the building looks like. She uses this ability to steal and during a particularly well paying job, she steals something extremely rare and valuable. It’s this object that starts off the entire plot. This object — a key — is my absolute favorite character of the bunch. And yes, you read that right — the key is a character. I won’t get much more into that because I really don’t want to spoil anyone.
The main plot of the book is to keep someone from doing something absolutely horrifying (seriously, just HORRIFYING) with scriving in order to gain massive amounts of power.
Robert Jackson Bennett manages to weave an incredibly detailed world into being inside Foundryside’s 501 pages. The Tevanne lore includes myths of massively powerful gods that created the scriving language, and mentions of long ago cultures/civilizations that used particular tools. This lore is not only believable inside the context of the novel, but also creates a large sense of the world. I can’t get over how masterfully this is done.
The next book in the series, Shorefall, is just as amazing. I’m onto that book next so I can dive into my ARC of Locklands, the third and final book in the series. Please go read this series. You will not regret it.