Stars: 4 out of 5
Robert Jackson Bennett is a Creator of Worlds, and yes, the capital letters are fully intended here. Every time his new book comes out, I am amazed at this man’s imagination. His Divine Cities trilogy is in the top 10 of my most favorite series ever. That worldbuilding was absolutely top notch and like nothing I had ever read before. And he delivers again with Foundryside.
Imagine a world where certain words inscribed into inanimate objects can give the truly magical characteristics? A few glyphs put on a carriage wheels can persuade that wheel that it is going downhill, even if it’s on a flat surface, so the wheel will roll forward even if in reality it goes uphill. What you get is a self-propelling carriage that doesn’t need horses or engines. Imagine the implications for such a technology? Imagine how rich and powerful the Merchant Houses who control this art have become? No wonder they guard their glyphs and techniques with murderous jealousy.
Now imagine a person who, through a horrible and inhumane experiment, can interact with these scribed objects and sometimes use them in ways not intended by their creators. That would make Sancia a very good thief indeed… Until she is commissioned to steal an object from a heavily guarded warehouse. Now all the merchant houses want her dead, and everyone wants the artifact in her possession. All Sancia wants is to stay alive.
I loved everything about this story – the worldbuilding, the characters, the tension and the seemingly overwhelming odds our protagonists face. I also liked that ultimately this is a story of transformation. Yes, objects are transformed by the art of scrivening, but more importantly, human beings are transformed by the circumstances and encounters they make during that book. Sancia is the best example of it. She starts the story as a loner who doesn’t trust anyone and struggles with her ability, considering it more of a curse than anything else. She comes to the end of this book as an almost different person – she has found friends and has mastered her ability, but she has also found a purpose. And a group of misfits was transformed into a found family as well. But not all the transformations are good ones, unfortunately, because one good man was transformed into a mindless monster, though I think there is still hope for him and he will come back in future books.
The reason why I gave this book 4 instead of 5 stars is because the protagonists seem less mature than in the author’s other series, even though the book isn’t categorized as YA, so that was a little off-putting for me, but that’s only my preference, since I’m not much into young adult books. Hopefully, Sancia will do more maturing in the next books of the series because I definitely want to check them out.
If you like great worldbuilding, like I do. If you like fast paced stories with twists and turns and wonderfully flawed characters, you should definitely check out this book.
PS: I received an advanced copy of this book from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.