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Goodreads Choice Award
Nominee for Best Fantasy (2018)
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.

In a city that runs on industrialized magic, a secret war will be fought to overwrite reality itself--the first in a dazzling new series from City of Stairs author Robert Jackson Bennett.

512 pages, Paperback

First published August 21, 2018

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About the author

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 eighth novel, FOUNDRYSIDE, will be available in the US on 8/21 of 2018 and the UK on 8/23.

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Displaying 1 - 30 of 5,331 reviews
Profile Image for chai ♡.
321 reviews153k followers
August 8, 2022
*reads a heist book* oh nice!

*reads a heist book with flawlessly executed world-building, a wonderfully inclusive cast of characters, deftly realized character development, and a burgeoning sapphic romance* OH N I C E !

The first in a brand-new series, Foundryside introduces a world that is pure molten menace, one that feels real enough to have its own passport stamp even if no one in their right mind would want to live there at all.

In Tevanne, four major Merchant houses hold the thread to power, and there's only one thing they all covet with so much greed: scrived artifacts. They killed for it, fought wars for it, wasted fortunes mining for it. Scriving is essentially a mountainous violation of reality itself: the act of harnessing bits and pieces and fragments of an alphabet that were left behind by ancient, quasi-mythical beings called the Hierophants for the purpose of painting sigils upon mindless objects that convince them to behave like something that they aren't. What that means, for example, is that you can persuade a blade to target the weakest part of whatever it’s swung at, or coax a wooden piece into believing that it was dark stone and thus infallible. But a slow trickle of rumors spoke of worse things: of scrived people, enslaved, their minds stolen away so they have no more will than stones.

Enter our protagonist, Sancia Grado, newly hired to pull off a heist in exchange for an incomprehensibly large amount of money. Sancia’s particular skillset (stealing) guaranteed the job would be simple enough: break in, steal a specific object, and collect the bounty. But as these things often go (terribly wrong), Sancia finds herself embroiled into “a war that has raged in a time beyond memory” with a dubious mismatched group of outcasts as allies: Captain Dandalo, a righteous cop with a bee in his bonnet about justice; Orso Ignacio, a notorious scriver with a foul reputation and even fouler moods; and Berenice, his sharp and far-more-skilled assistant (whom Sancia is absolutely not having a crush on).

The contours of this summary will not feel unfamiliar to many genre fans, but the way Bennett dresses the bones of his premise is nothing short of extraordinary. It was clear, from the outset, that Foundryside is a very ambitious novel, and it absolutely delivers on that ambition. This is an intricate, complex, and tightly wound mechanism of a story that thrums with an irresistible energy. It's smart, thoughtful, attentive, and full of clever twists and turns that I sometimes laughed out loud at Bennett’s sheer ingenuity. It's also quietly, unexpectedly devastating. When Bennett lays down his cards on the table, and new revelations come roaring out, it's impossible not to even as you drink it all in a daze of fascinated horror.

This owes, in many ways, to the sheer thematic force of the novel. Bennett transforms his novel into a laboratory in which he can examine at great length the notions of free will, freedom of choice, and the nature of sentience. In that sense, Foundryside is a masterful critique of capitalism—one that cuts straight to the heart of the matter, to the essential rottenness of the world—that made my heart run cold. Tevanne is a world abound with poverty and toil and human terror, governed by the currencies of men who owned so much ground but never bent down enough to touch any of it, and whose greed is an all-devouring thing that gulped down lives with pleasure and cared nothing for justice or law. It's an eerily familiar world; not so much a parable warning against a near future as it is a terrible reflection of a world already made horrifyingly real.

And, of course, in every terrible world there are people chafing against it. The primary voices are of three characters—Sancia, Captain Gregor Dandalo, and Orso Ignacio—and they will follow you off the page. It was an absolute delight to spend time with each of these characters, to get to know them, to peel away the layers to what's hidden beneath, their longings and fears and heartbreaking vulnerability. Captain Gregor Dandalo, in particular, is the character that hit me the most: his woundedness, his brokenness, which he tried to hide, his naive hopes which he never gave up, the way he tries so hard "to fix the world because it’s the only way he knows how to fix himself." I cried so many actual PHYSICAL tears over Gregor I almost made myself sick lol.

All in all, Foundryside is an excellent work, but I've no doubt it's mere warm-up for what promises to be an absolutely brilliant series, and a new favorite!
Profile Image for Brandon Sanderson.
Author 436 books203k followers
July 19, 2018
Foundryside by Robert Jackson Bennett

We’ve been looking for a chance to blurb Robert Jackson Bennett’s fantasy novels since my assistants Peter and Isaac loved City of Stairs when it came out in 2014. Now we have our chance. Bennett’s new novel, Foundryside, releases on August 21st of this year, and it is quite a bit of fun.

RJB filled The Divine Cities trilogy with unique world building, and I’ll be honest, the first chapter or two of Foundryside had me wondering if he’d abandoned that for a more-standard fantasy setting. Almost as quickly as I wondered that, intriguing things started happening, and I realized that this wasn’t going to be just another fantasy novel with all the trappings of every other fantasy novel. RJB wasn’t going to let me down.

Foundryside follows the thief Sancia Grado, a very likable character with a mysterious past, magical abilities particularly useful for a thief, and a drive to get a job done and do it well. At the first of the book, she’s sent to steal something from a safe in what she thinks is a pretty straightforward job, albeit a difficult one. Once she finds out what she’s been asked to steal, then things really get cooking.

RJB’s work reminds me a bit of China Mieville’s Bas-Lag novels, but RJB’s writing, while beautiful like Mieville's, is a lot more accessible. The story and writing is even more accessible in Foundryside without losing the things that made the Divine Cities series so fascinating, things like: intriguing characters wrestling with important questions. What are the consequences of tinkering with reality? What are the moral implications of doing so?

Of course, along with important questions and moral implications, RJB manages to to do some really awesome and fun things with the magic system.

For Writers
Pay attention to RJB’s use of what I call the Grand Skill, which has come a long way since City of Stairs, whose dense first chapter hadn’t quite struck the right balance.

In short, the Grand Skill is worldbuilding without readers knowing that you’re worldbuilding. In a limited third-person viewpoint, everything you see from a character’s eyes must evoke worldbuilding, plot, and character.

How do you show character, setting, plot, and a magic system without telling the reader directly about all of these things? How do you let readers know things without explicitly stating them on the page? RJB can teach you a thing or two, certainly.

Aside from a few infodumps about the magic system near the beginning of the book, Robert Jackson Bennett does an excellent job at building the Machiavellian city of Tevanne and the larger world through the viewpoints of a few main characters.

Watch how he also meticulously expands the worldbuilding, rarely giving too much at one time, doling out information only as the reader needs it. And little by little the reader gets a more complete vision of the world and the characters in it.

The Short Version
Foundryside is the exciting beginning of a promising new epic fantasy series. Prepare for ancient mysteries, innovative magic, and heart-pounding heists.

Rating Notes
I would give this book a strong PG-13 rating. There are a few somewhat bloody descriptions of horrible deaths. They’re not dwelt on for particularly long, but sensitive readers might be turned off. There are also some euphemistic references to body parts and sex along with one sex scene seen from afar. It only lasts a few sentences, but it is a disturbing image even if it’s meant to villainize a certain character. As for language, there’s a lot of use of the so-called “s-word,” but otherwise the language is dialed down from much of RJB’s other work. For example, the F-word is not used, but is replaced with the word “scrum,” the meaning of which is explained so there’s no doubt as to its euphemistic meaning.

Bias Notes
Not only did we receive a copy of this book for free, but my assistants Isaac and Peter are already predisposed to like Robert’s books.
Profile Image for Emily (Books with Emily Fox).
531 reviews58.4k followers
January 25, 2020
Why do authors keep including a scene where a son looks at his mom and thinks "she was StIlL beautiful... bUt she was also looking her age".

Are sons this obsessed about the wrinkles of their mom and I don't know about it?! Is this a thing? I think not!

I'm so torn. I really thought I was going to give this book 5 stars after I had heard so many people compare the magic system to some of the ones created by Brandon Sanderson and... meh.

Yes, the magic system was unique and complex. The story and characters were okay. The "talking key" was awesome but I overall lost interest throughout the book and struggled to finish. I enjoyed it enough to continue the series and I'm crossing my fingers I'll enjoy book 2 more!
Profile Image for Miranda Reads.
1,589 reviews155k followers
May 19, 2021

The soles of her boots touched earth, and she started to run.
No matter the cost, Sancia will do what it takes to survive. She's carved out an existence in one of the most inhospitable places in the city.

She's a woman of many hats - thief, liar, plunderer, and more:
"But the fire was you as well?"
Sancia shrugged. "Shit got out of hand."
She takes on odd jobs - often stealing items from one merchant house and selling it to another...though the latest adventure might just take a cake.
"You're a . . . a . . .
A What?
"A . . . " She swallowed. "A key."
I'm a key. Yes. I didn't really think that was under dispute.
Now that she's added talking-key-guardian to her job description, she now has to deal with the consequences - which includes having the entire world trying to kill her.

In Sancia's world, there are scrivers who scrive objects to behave a bit...unnaturally.
That's what scriving is. Reality doesn't matter. If you can change something's mind enough, it'll believe whatever reality you choose.
If a skilled scriver writes "something" on an object, the object will believe that it can do that "something"

Only, there are very specific and highly controlled rules for how scriving works - and when Sancia steals Clef (the talking key), she quickly realizes that someone has broken all of the rules.

Any of the merchant houses (where new scrivings are dreamed up and tested), would (literally) kill to obtain the key - especially considering this is an object with an actual consciousness. And with people closing in on all sides, Sancia is quickly running out of options.
I don't know what the hell to do, Clef. I want to run, but I've nowhere to run to.
Wow. Seriously. WOW.

From the first page to the last - I was absolutely hooked.

There was so much I loved about this book - the banter, the characters, the dialogue, I could go on.

The humor really stood out in this novel. Sancia had just the right mixture of sarcasm and snark. I adored how Sancia would take other characters' misconceptions and just roll with it.
"I want your client," he said. "Very much so. If you can give him to me."
"In what condition? You want his name, his head, or what?"
Also, the magic felt so fresh and interesting - I actually looked forward to the exposition scenes so I can puzzle out all the intricacies of the world.

Which brings me to the world building - it was absolutely fabulous!

The craziness of the merchant territories and the slums of Sancia's home were all beautifully fleshed out. I truly feel like I could be plopped down anywhere in the city and find my way around. Hats off to the author for that!

Honestly, the worst part about reading an amazing, newly published first book of a series is realizing how long you have to wait for the series to come out. I cannot wait for the next one!!

With thanks to Crown Publishing for an ARC in exchange for an honest review.

All quotes come from an uncorrected proof and are subject to change upon publication.

YouTube | Blog | Instagram | Twitter | Facebook | Snapchat @miranda_reads
Profile Image for Petrik.
673 reviews42.7k followers
May 4, 2023
4.5/5 stars

Foundryside was an incredibly addictive and entertaining read from start to finish.

I’m a recent fan of Robert Jackson Bennett’s books. Three months ago on the last week of May, I binged read his critically acclaimed trilogy, The Divine Cities, and it became one of my favorite trilogies of all time; I forced my friends and everyone I know to pushed the trilogy up their TBR immediately. Since finishing The Divine Cities, Foundryside, the first book in Bennett’s newest trilogy, immediately became one of my most awaited book of the year; I pre-ordered a hardcover (I usually order paperback) of the book because I can’t wait any longer and I want to give my support to the author as best as I could. Foundryside lived up to my high expectation and upon finishing it, I’m happy to say that Bennett has become the seventh author to be included in my 'favorite author' list.

“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.”

The passage above was taken from the first page of the book, and I had a really good feeling I’m going to enjoy this; I was proven right. The story in Foundryside began with a heist. Sancia Grado, the main protagonist, which is also a super talented thief, was sent to steal an artifact—without knowing its usage—in exchange for a large sum of money that could improve her the quality of her daily life. Out of curiosity, she opened the box and after that, the main plot truly starts with danger constantly coming after her; and she must give it her all to survive. The book was magnificently well-paced and I was completely engrossed by every single aspect of the novel. In fact, I read 350 pages of the book in a day and finished the remaining 150 pages the next day on a weekday; it was that addictive to read, and I found myself thinking about continuing every time I’m not reading it.

A lot of factors contributed to how great the book was, but let me start by saying that the book was almost like a tribute to Brandon Sanderson's; my current favorite author of all time. And no, just because it felt similar doesn’t mean it’s a bad thing. The main character, Sancia reminds me a lot of Vin (the main protagonist of Mistborn), which is a good thing because I consider Vin one of the best heroines ever to be written. Sancia, although still young, wasn’t written like the typical young main character, who does stupid things just because they’re young, or sometimes for no reason at all. While being young can make one do stupid things, it doesn’t make it’s enjoyable to read. This is why Sancia became such a great main character to follow. She’s smart, quick-witted, has a mysterious past, and she gets things done when she must. Most of all, she’s really well-written that I can’t help but be invested in her predicament.

“One day I’ll live a life that doesn’t force me to make such cold-blooded decisions, she thought. But today is not that day.”

It’s not only Sancia that was well-written; Bennett has always been wonderful in his characterizations, and he proved that once again by writing great, complex, and humorous supporting characters in the book to accompany Sancia, with easily accessible prose. Clef was one of the main keys to the success of the book and his past, secrets, and dynamic interaction with Sancia became one of the strongest driving force behind the narrative. The memorable characters, combined with the plot that revolved around sacrifice, innovation, survival, identities, and pulse-pounding heists turned the book from your normal fantasy read to one highly fascinating fast-paced fantasy book that never neglects the crucial characterizations.

“Any given innovation that empowers the individual will inevitably come to empower the powerful much, much more.”

Finally, I want to talk about the magic system, Scriving; the art of using coded commands to change or convince an object to behave differently from their purposes. Scriving contains a lot of similarity with the magic system of Forgery in Sanderson’s novella, The Emperor’s Soul, and this is another thing I appreciate. There were a few info dumps—a quite necessary one—in the earlier section of the book regarding the magic system but once you’re past that, everything became a fast-paced ride full of amazing and memorable scenes. I found the magic system to be a mixture of fantasy and science fiction; through Scriving, Bennett cleverly displayed the implication, for better or worse, of advanced innovation in technology and knowledge. Once a technology has become one of our daily necessities, imagine what would happen when you take that away.

I'll try to give an example of something simple. What if social media doesn’t exist? This and many reviews most likely won’t see the light of day and authors/publishers will definitely have to resort to the old way of advertising: without Twitter, Instagram, or Facebook for promotion. We didn’t get to see something like The Blink from The Divine Cities in this book, but we did see one or two moments where the improvement in technology was taken away and the result, as always, was devastating. I really enjoyed reading the themes in the story and Bennett knows how to portray the world-building gradually to his reader through the perspectives of his characters. Plus, I found the intricate magic system that combined magic and technology to be a great recipe for awesome action sequences, and believe me, Bennett delivered plenty of exhilarating ones that will keep you on the edge of your seat several times throughout the book.

Foundryside was a fantastic beginning to a new trilogy, one that I immensely struggled to put down. I truly think that you will have a damn good time with this book if you consider yourself a fan of Robert Jackson Bennett’s or Brandon Sanderson’s works. I just finished this a few hours ago and I'm already dying for the sequel. I absolutely recommend this book to anyone who's looking for a fantasy with wonderful characterizations, fascinating premise, intricate magic system, and to all the fans of Brandon Sanderson and Robert Jackson Bennett books.

You can order the book HERE!

You can find this and the rest of my reviews at Novel Notions
Profile Image for carol..
1,532 reviews7,856 followers
May 19, 2018
Robert Jackson Bennett is one of the few authors I watch out for. Recently, I finished his early award-winning book (Philip K. Dick, Edgar, Anthony), The Company Man so I was very excited at the opportunity to read an advanced reader copy of Foundryside, his latest work.

Bennett has a habit of starting out a book slow, letting the reader get a feel for the world and the characters before heading into action. He's gotten better at that through his career; Foundryside springs into action on the first pages during an elaborate heist. Skilled independent thief Sancia is in the midst of stealing an object in a safe, although she accidentally burns down half the waterfront in the process. Unfortunately this attracts the attention of Gregor Donaldo, head of security at the waterfront and noble heir, as her actions have jeopardized his long-term plans for a neutral police force in a decidedly partisan city.

For me, this had a decidedly new adult feel, a bit younger than I enjoy. I think I appreciated the more seasoned characters in his Divine Cities series and in some of his other works. He also seems to be experimenting a bit with world-building in this one, and I felt his magic system was far too detailed with too much information-dumping (Brandon Sanderson owes readers an apology). Thankfully, I had the experience of knowing Bennett and his interesting stories to keep me pushing through. I persevered and around page 99, found that the story was finally gripping me.

The plot is essentially a series of heists and cops-and-robbers that takes place in a city controlled by merchant houses who have a complete disregard for the underclass. It's not an unusual setting, and I appreciate Bennett's attempt to create a more 'realistic' vision of the proto-Renaissance setting so many fantasy authors love to play in. However, beyond the Commons area as a dirty cesspool where bodies were literally left to rot on the streets, and the gated merchant communities as pristine, light-infused compounds, I didn't get much of a sense of how the two pieces fit together.

The magic system is complex, using a system of 'scriving' on objects to 'tell' them what their purpose is and how to interact with the world. Bennett spends far too much time describing this, although to give him credit, he at least tries to do this in conversation with Sancia and later with scriving experts explaining what they do. But to me, there was a lot of unnecessary information-dumping, kind of like explaining the molecular process behind tasting and nerve-signal processing when, really, I just want a piece of chocolate.

I enjoyed Sachia's personality a great deal at the beginning and thought she developed reasonably well. One of Bennett's strengths is his ability to create female characters that feel like real people. The Divine Cities have a wide variety of female characters, and Foundryside is no exception. A love interest developed during this story that felt somewhat unfounded, however, I credit his attempt at being diverse. Again, it just didn't hit the complicated notes in The Divine Cities.

Two side notes: one, occasionally too much vernacular crept in. It was particularly noticeable with swearing; 'goddamn' bothered me as I hadn't noted any gods/churches/religion. I think I recall a 'bullshit,' although we hadn't heard of any bulls, or even cows, as well as some other form of 'shitting me' that seemed far too familiar. These were varied with 'scrumming,' so go figure.
The second issue is purely stylistic and not troublesome to me, but I imagine it will bother some readers. A lot of the dialogue is in 'mindspeak,' and so is set off in italics to differentiate it. Which means there are pages of alternating regular style text and italics.

All that said, this just didn't resonate with me like his other books. City of Stairs, and it's follow-up, City of Blades, were easily among the best books I've read in years, interesting, emotional, and flat-out good story-telling. I loved the Southwest atmosphere and the magical-realism of American Elsewhere, and The Company Man had me paying attention to it's intriguing mystery despite some heavy-handed moralizing. This seemed a bit rushed, a strange combination of over-worked (the explanobabble for scriving) and under-developed (the efforts to integrate economics, politics, war) compared to Bennett's usual sophisticated and emotionally complex stories. It's not that I wouldn't recommend it as much as it wasn't as awesome as I know he's capable of (do I sound like a teacher or what?). In his end-notes, he remarks that this was the work that most changed from start to finish. I'd say it might be time to go back to his original advisors. It felt a little like The Lies of Locke Lamora, and a little bit like Mistborn, so if those appealed to you, I'd recommend it.

Many, many thanks to Kathleen Quinlan at Crown Archetype & Three Rivers Press, Crown Publishing and NetGalley for the advanced reader copy.
Profile Image for Matthew.
1,219 reviews8,815 followers
March 31, 2019
Fantastic Five Star Fantasy

Good things: Can you hear us?

Me: Yes, I hear you!

Good things: We are ALL ABOUT Foundryside!

Publisher: Here, check out a copy!

Me: Sweet!

Goodreads community: This book is awesome!

Goodreads Choice Awards: Nominated!

Hype: Lived up to!

Action, adventure, humor, a cool magic system, etc. - so much freakin' goodness in these pages. Creative to the max! I think this book will appeal to most people who love fantasy and even a few who don't. Seems to be set up for a series and I cannot wait for the next installment!

Thank you so much to Crown Publishing for sending for sending this arc my way. They are putting out good product!
Profile Image for Samantha.
416 reviews16.7k followers
April 19, 2019
This was so magical and unexpected! Sadly the sequel doesn’t come out until 2020 *sobs* Review to come on my channel!
Profile Image for jessica.
2,533 reviews32.3k followers
July 30, 2019
i love when friends recommend books to me because, when i enjoy it, it makes it easier for me to recommend it to everyone else.

this is the PERFECT fantasy for book for those who dont like fantasy, or are wanting to get more into the genre. its a very subtle magical system - it plays a great part in the story, but it doesnt demand attention. it feels natural and is integrated very well into the setting and plot.

and what a plot it is. there is a great balance between action and thievery, breaking and entering, and compelling character background stories that will get you immediately attached. i am honestly really impressed with how well balanced everything is.

the only thing keeping this from being a perfect 5 stars is because of a personal preference. it bugs the crap out of me when the author uses regular profanity, but then substitutes one word for slang thats used in that fictional word. to me, that makes the dialogue seem less genuine? i dont know. every time 'scrum it' or 'scrumming' came up, i cringed, taking me out of the moment.

regardless, this is a really fun and exciting fantasy story that doesnt feel like fantasy. i highly recommend to everyone!

4.5 stars
July 25, 2022
And the moral of this rereread is: over-caffeinated street vendors disguised as keys (and vice versa) + exploding flying ninjas + mystical shit galore + people who go “pop” in the most horrifying delightful way + wonderfully scrumptious batshit crazy bitches + severed limbs FTW! + insane mystical conundrums aplenty =

👋 To be continued and stuff.

[March 2020]

And the moral of this reread is: Robert Jackson Bennett, thank thee kindly ever so much. Because of you I am now in hopeless, desperate 💕lurve💕 with a key. A bloody shrimping KEY.

[May 2018]

🥇🦐 Shrimpiest Book of the Year Award Nominee! 🦐🥇

Actual rating: 6.848697 stars. And a half.

Okay. So this book is so bloody fishing scrumptious I don't know where to start. By foaming at the mouth maybe? Not a bad idea, actually, that usually works pretty well for me.

Oh yes, I feel much more inspired now. Not to mention super sexy and irresistible and stuff.

Okay. I can do this. Let's see. Where to start? Oh yes, The Divine Cities. You know, the slightly wondrous trilogy that brings instant doom and self-combustion to those Puny Barnacles who haven't yet heard about it/read it/rated it 10+ stars? Yes, that trilogy. Well it turns out the books in said trilogy are some of the very bestest I have ever read in the entirety of my entire nefarious life. And it just so happens that this little book right here was written by The Divine Cities' Divine Daddy (DD™), Robert Jackson Bennett. Imagine that! What a coincidence and stuff!

Anyway, I was offered an ARC for Foundryside, and I must admit I almost didn't accept it. I mean, there are so many glorious Historical Romances waiting for me on my to-be-read shelf! How could I carelessly dismiss them in favor of a silly Fantasy book written by some moderately talented guy I've repeatedly asked to marry me I kinda sorta not completely dislike and stuff? Quite the predicament this was, I must admit. But, being the civilized, friendly, eager-to-please overlord that I am, I ended up accepting the ARC. Because it was the polite thing to do, obviously. And not because I was slightly excited at the prospect of reading this book. And certainly not because the mere thought of holding it in my undeserving little pincers made me feel a little like this:

Nope nope nope. Absolutely not and stuff.

Soooooo, it's time for the crap to be cut! You want to read this book because:

I will unleash my murderous crustaceans on you if you don't. QED and stuff.

One of the mostest originalest world-buildings in the history of mostest originalest world-buildings this is . Believe me, my Flimsy Decapods, you've never read anything like this. Imagine a city reminiscent of Medieval Venice, ruled by power-hungry lovely merchant families bent on scheming acting benevolently 24/7. What? You think this ain't no original stuff? Ha. You clueless Arthropods you! Now imagine a city reminiscent of Medieval Venice, in a world where lexical magic is used to alter the reality perceived by objects so as to modify their behavior and confuse the fish out of, um, you know, reality and stuff. Sorry, what? You no compute? Don't you worry your little selves about it. Just read the book and thank me profusely later.

Anyhoo, all you really need to know about Foundryside is: magic and science and technology, oh my! Welcome to Robert Jackson Bennett's Lusciously Delicious Industrialized Magic World (LDIMW™)! It's so beautifully complex and rich and well-thought-out and amazingly detailed that this book should have been more boring than watching elderly barnacles copulate! Or than reading coma-inducing Locke Lamora and The Blade Itself back to back! But it wasn't! It was reasonably exciting and gripping and titillating and stimulating and intriguing! And a little thrilling, too! Because spoiler spoiler spoiler! And because Simon Indy says don't play with obscure artifacts! And because History and ancient, magic secrets will always bite you in the exoskeleton! You'd know this if you'd read Divine Cities and stuff! You know, it's that relatively enjoyable series I may have mentioned before! I think! Not sure though! Uh-oh! Looks like I'm suffering from a very sudden, very acute case of Severe Exclamationitis! This is most troubling indeed! Please someone fetch Dr Prawn at once!

Yep, pretty much.

High Security Harem-worthy characters galore! I'm adopting kidnapping them all! Bloody fishing shrimp, it's getting crowded in the RBJ wing of my harem. If the man keeps this Ridiculously Amazing Characterization Business (RACB™) going much longer, I'll have to build an extension and stuff. And I fully expect him to foot the bill and stuff. I mean, is it my fault if he writes characters I just cannot resist locking up protecting? Obviously not. The man dangles some of the most mouthwatering female characters in Fantasy today and I am supposed to stoically remain stoical? Right. Glad you agree with me on that one. Long story short: I am quite innocent, and Poof Gone Kidnapped and stuff.

Oh wait, I haven't told you who it is I was kidnapping! Well, apart from the whole cast, I mean. Sooooo, we have Sancia the super yummy, kick-ass, refreshingly uncontained thief who hears all the objects and things and stuff she touches (don't ask) because spoiler spoiler spoiler (I told you not to ask, didn't I?) Then we have Clef the spoiler spoiler spoilerwho might be the mostestunexpectedest, awesomest, funniest sidekick in the history of mostest unexpectedest, awesomest, funniest sidekicks. Then we have Gregor the delectably reluctant hero who spoiler spoiler spoiler with his spoiler spoiler spoiler. Then we have Spoiler Spoiler Spoiler (not the character's real name, in case you were wondering) who would make both Q and Inspector Gadget proud. Then we have exquisitely grumpy Spoiler Spoiler Spoiler (not the character's real name, either) who may or may not spoiler spoiler spoiler the spoiler spoiler spoiler and vice versa. Then we have…Sorry what? You've got boring things to do and uninteresting places to visit, and want me to get a move on and stuff? Oh, fine. Such a bunch of subaquatic party poopers you Brooding Arthropods are sometimes. There's just one last thing I want to add before you resume your fascinating activities: there are deliciously evil, wonderfully treacherous bastards and bitches in this book. Yes there are. Which is definitely worth a celebratory dance, if you ask me.

I recently attended Fleet Admiral DaShrimp's Smooth Moves for Undercover Crustaceans webinar. It shows, huh?

④ The story is exciting and gripping and titillating and stimulating and intriguing and a little thrilling. I've already told you as much? Are you quite sure? I don't think I did. Maybe you should stay away from drugs and alcohol for a while, my Little Barnacles. They seem to be affecting your ever-flailing mental abilities. But anyway. So the story is kinda sorta bloody shrimping fantastic. It's an action-packed adventure full of, um, you know, action and stuff. And full of suspense, too. And mystery. And twists. And surprises. And revelations. And emotional stuff that does weird, unmentionable things to my black, withered heart. And a whole lot of hahahahahaha dialogues. And fantabulicious heists. And cool (if manically happy) contraptions. And severed limbs (which are always a plus, if you ask me). And flying assholes. And keys that orgasm when they open doors (I kid you not). And pretty excited dead guys. And neurotic scrivings. And people exploding. And aggravating shackles. And the apocalypse. Or thereabout.

⑤ The finale will leave you feeling both like this:

And like this:

Robert Jackson Bennett, have you ever thought of changing your last name to Dun Dun Dun? Because you totally should, methinks.

➽ And the moral of this I Liked this Book a Little But It's Not Like It's One of My Favorite Ones Ever of Course Not Don't Be Ridiculous Now Crappy Non Review (ILtBaLBINLIOoMFOEoCNDBRNCNR™) is: RBJ, it's a good thing you've already started writing book 2 in this series. Not that I want to read it or anything, but other people might. Now if I was, say, somewhat interested in continuing with what promises to be a relatively magnificent series, I would maybe send a few platoons of murderous crustaceans to, um, you know, threaten watch over you, thus ensuring you, um, you know, wrote the sequel to this book post-bloody-shrimping-haste in the most positive, pleasant atmosphere. See? Kindness is me. Also, no pressure and stuff.

Thanks so much to Kathleen Quinlan and Crown Publishing for sending me an ARC of this book! I shall forever be full of grate and stuff!

· Book 2: Shorefall ★★★★★
· Book 3: Locklands · DNF at 51% 😱😱😱😭😭😭

[Pre-review nonsense]

There is a slight chance that I might have enjoyed reading this book a teensy little bit. Maybe. Possibly. Perhaps. There is also a slight chance that this book might be one of my favorite ones ever. Maybe. Possibly. Perhaps. Not sure though. I'll have to get back to you on that one and stuff. As soon as I finish jumping up and down up like a 13-year-old fangirl on acid.

What? You don't think that girl is 13? Of course she is. She looks much wiser than her years, that is all.

This originally original fantastically fantastic world.

This yummily yummilicious cast of High Security Harem-Worthy Characters (HSHWC™).

This grippingly gripping, twistily twisty plot.

This spoilerishly spoilerish spoiler spoiler spoiler.

This stupendously stupendous every-bloody-shrimping-thing.

➽ Full Mr RJB You Already Rejected My Marriage Proposal Once You Do Not Want to Turn Me Down Again and Have Me Become More of a Homicidal Maniac Than I Already Am Do You Now But Hey No Pressure and Stuff Crappy Non Review (MRJBYARMMPOYDNWtTMDAaHMBMoaHMTIAADYNBHNPaSCNR™) to come.

[April 24, 2018]

Bloody shrimping hell of the slaughterish decapod!!!!!

I'm getting a Robert Jackson Bennett of the Amazingly Scrumpalicious Divine Cities (RJBotASDV™) ARC!!!!!

Ahhhhhhhhhhh and stuff!!!!!

Let's daaaaaaaance and stuff!!!!!


Profile Image for Jen - The Tolkien Gal.
458 reviews4,416 followers
September 26, 2021
Buddy read with Karishma

DNF'd at about 7%. I couldn't. I am absolutely sick of YA female characters written with the extreme "independent" women complex/syndrome. I can't take it anymore. I'm done. Done. YA has ruined the concept of the female character - why should it be a concept in the first place? Why can't characters be characters and their gender not the focal point of the book? What happened to personality and strength and complexity being the focal point of a character? WHY???

Image result for I'm done gif

A 2021 edit: Hi here. Jennifer from 3 years later. I still agree with my own review. A strong woman is not one that acts like a man. A woman is someone who identifies as one. A woman can be a knitter and a bodybuilder, or a tennis player and a mother. Do not let gender confine you, boys, gals and non-binary pals.
Profile Image for J.L.   Sutton.
666 reviews864 followers
March 12, 2021
“There are many dangers here, child, she’d said once. Many. Many ugly things you’re going to have to do. It will be a great contest for you. And you’re going to think: How do I win?

Foundryside by Robert Jackson Bennett | The Fantasy Hive

So much more than I expected! Fantastic! It didn’t take long to recognize that Robert Jackson Bennett’s Foundryside (Founders #1) was something special. Before this book was offered to me for review, Bennett was not a writer I was familiar with. Now, I’m positive that I’ll be reading more of his work. His female heroine, Sancia, reminded me of the resourceful Vin from Brandon Sanderson’s Mistborn Series. There was also something about Bennett’s world-building which reminded me of Sanderson. However, Bennett’s characters and his world (and the magic system in his world) are all his own. When it is revealed that the ‘scrived’ artifact Sancia carries is more than it seems, the book became even more interesting. The Founders is shaping up to be an exciting series I’m looking forward to reading. Very impressed!

I received this book in exchange for an honest review.
Profile Image for Jeffrey Keeten.
Author 3 books248k followers
February 19, 2020
”Sancia saw the nightscape of Tevanne below her, suddenly rendered in the juddering, jangly tangles of silver scrivings, thousands and thousands and thousands of them, like a dark mountain range covered in tiny candles. She watched in wonder as the scrived bolts hissed through the air above her, glittering like falling stars as they sped out over the city, a city that swarmed with minds and thoughts and desires like a forest full of fireflies.”

Sancia Grado is an outcast. She is an escaped slave with unusual talents. Four merchant houses who control the art of scriving have grown wealthy in Tevanne while everyone else not attached to one of these houses is left to fend for themselves in abject poverty. If one of the houses finds out about Sancia’s talents, they will take her apart piece by piece to find out how she has these talents, or they would kill her so none of the rival houses can have her.

She lives in a constant state of mortal peril.

She lives in Foundryside.

Her boss is a man who played a dangerous game and lost. His name is Sark. ”Sark had one foot, no ears, no nose, and he was missing every other finger on his hands. Sometimes it seemed about half his body was scar tissue. It took him hours to get around the city, especially if he had to take any stairs--but his mind was quick and cunning.” He had once worked for the Company Candiano as their thief, counter espionage, and saboteur against the other merchant houses. He ran afoul of someone who wanted to do more than kill him. They wanted him to live, but as a fraction of the man he once was. He was no use to Candiano afterwards so he washed up in Foundryside, putting those skills he’d developed while working for Candiano to use for himself.

Sancia is his thief. Her talents for “liberating” items are not just a pair of nibble hands and swift feet, but something much more interesting.

”Sancia pulled off her left glove, pressed her bare palm to the dark stones, shut her eyes, and used her talent.

The wall spoke to her.

The wall told her of foundry smoke, of hot rains, of creeping moss of the tiny footfalls of the thousands of ants that had traversed its mottled face over the decades. The surface of the wall bloomed in her mind, and she felt every crack and every crevice, every dollop of mortar and every stained stone.

All of this information coursed into Sancia’s thoughts the second she touched the wall. And among this sudden eruption of knowledge was what she had really been hoping for.

Loose stones.

There is a Cold War, maybe not so cold, being fought between merchant houses to conjure the sigils that will allow them to harness and control matter. Genius madmen (yes, it is mostly a male guild) are in high demand by the merchant houses to give them the edge in the race for supremacy. It reminded me of the frantic pace with which the Americans were working at Los Alamos to develop the nuclear bomb before Germany. If one of the four companies develops something so advanced that the other companies can not defend themselves against it, there will be only one company. The stakes, in other words, are high.

Compared to their ancestors the Hierophants, who developed scriving, they are cavemen sketching stick figures on the walls of caves. There is so much to be learned from the study of the ancients through archaeology, and acquiring anything made by those brilliant ancestors is sought after with almost desperate depravity.

So Robert Jackson Bennett is going to treat you to some brilliant world building. It does make me wonder if he has carved a few writing sigils on his laptop to increase his writing by the power of 10.

Sancia does what she does best, which is steal something of value, but the problem is, what she steals is a key too powerful for anyone to own. ”Any given innovation that empowers the individual will inevitably come to empower the powerful much, much more.” In the course of fleeing for her scrumming life, she falls in with a team of misfits who find themselves reluctantly dragged into this treacherous, impossible, foolish quest to check the power of those who wish to be more powerful than the world can possibly withstand.

Scania is probably the most reluctant hero I’ve ever encountered, but she ends up being frilling good at it. Sometimes a street waif holds “the key” to the universe.

Bennett is juggling some complex ideas in this novel, but he explains them so clearly that my English major brain, nearly devoid of complex math and science, is able to understand how this realm works. I don’t read a lot of fantasy, but when it works best is when it introduces a reader to new possibilities that are somehow not that fanciful. I would probably only last a day on the streets of Foundryside before a cutthroat...well...cut my throat or a scrived bolt found my spleen or someone sigiled me with something horrible like this: “...body crumbled inward, collapsing in on itself, his shattered arms and chest erupting with blood that then, in full defiance of physics, shrank back into his body, forced in by his unnatural gravity.”

Yeah...you probably need a moment to absorb that scene.

Despite the almost certain hazard to my ability to keep breathing, I would still feel compelled to join Sancia and her maverick (RIP John McCain) crew as they take on impossible odds to maybe, just maybe, by a rat’s hair, save the world.

***I want to thank Crown Publishing and Kathleen Quinlan for sending me an advance reading copy in exchange for an honest review.***

If you wish to see more of my most recent book and movie reviews, visit http://www.jeffreykeeten.com
I also have a Facebook blogger page at:https://www.facebook.com/JeffreyKeeten
Profile Image for Val ⚓️ Shameless Handmaiden ⚓️.
1,826 reviews29k followers
October 12, 2020
4 - 4.5 Stars

I polished this thing off in less than a day, so if that isn't a glowing recommendation, I don't know what is. This book had almost everything I love about great high fantasy: epic world-building, a cohesively complex magic system, and a cool main character with dope fantasy book skills.

Something else this book made me realize I like? Fantasy heist-style books.

What can I say, I just love it when a group of seeming misfits bands together to achieve a common goal. Think The Final Empire crossed with Six of Crows. Ish. Did I love this as much as I loved those? No. But that's only because this book was missing that final great high fantasy element: character building. There just wasn't much to be had here. We didn't really get to know any of the characters all that well...and none of them really formed the truly deep bonds a story like this needs.

Other than that though, this was a lot of fun to read and I was engaged from page one. As I said, the world-building, magic system, and writing was great. And it definitely had that cinematic quality I love from solid high fantasy. I will definitely be reading book two.
Profile Image for Melanie.
1,165 reviews98.2k followers
August 9, 2018

ARC provided by Crown in exchange for an honest review.

“Foundryside. The closest thing Sancia had to a home.”

This is a really hard book for me to rate. The concepts in this book are so unique and creative; I loved them so very much! But some of the banter and conversations felt so dry, boring, and sometimes even offensive. Like, two of the main characters have completely captured my whole heart! The others? Meh. I do think this is worth it though, especially if you have enjoyed Robert Jackson Bennett’s other works! I just expected more, especially after the 6/5 star beginning of this book!

In this world, four houses rule Tevanne. While those royals live like kings, the rest of the population lives in Foundryside, where crime is in high quantity and food and clean water are in low supply. And people are willing to do anything to survive.

“Four walled-off little city-states, all crammed into Tevanne, all wildly different regions with their own schools, their own living quarters, their own marketplaces, their own cultures. These merchant house enclaves—the campos—took up about 80 percent of Tevanne.”

And Sancia Grado is one of the best thieves in Foundryside. Not only is she trained, but she also is harboring a secret that enhances everything that she is able to do, while also giving her abilities that no one else has. And this book starts out with her doing a mission for a payout that will completely change her life. But once she gets the item that she is heisting, her life changes more than she would have ever guessed.

“But if you didn’t work for a house, or weren’t affiliated with them—in other words, if you were poor, lame, uneducated, or just the wrong sort of person—then you lived in the remaining 20 percent of Tevanne: a wandering, crooked ribbon of streets and city squares and in-between places—the Commons.”

The magic in this book is so damn well done. There are people who are able to perform scriving, which is a magic founded in words and language, where you can convince items to do certain tasks. Think a lock that refuses to unlock for anyone without a certain type of blood. Or think of an alarm system that only goes off when certain things happen. Or even think of a belt that tricks gravity itself so the wearing would be able to scale buildings. And these artifacts are very sought after. And maybe, our little thief has just found one that will completely change the world.

And Sancia’s path inevitably crosses many different people, and they all start to piece together that a much bigger thing is happening than any of them realized. This book has many points of view, but, in my opinion, Sancia’s is easily the best. She is truly the star of this book, and her backstory still has me feeling every emotion under the sun. Also, Clef and Sancia are everything and I’d probably die for either of them.

But like I touched upon before, this book makes some fatphobic comments. It’s so thoughtlessly done, too, that it makes me sad, because a beta reader should have noticed and corrected. The first “villain” you encounter in this story of course had to be fat, and it had to be touched upon a couple times. Then, when one of the main characters is looking at a baby picture, a freakin’ baby picture, its talked about again in a bad light. Basically, everyone and thing who is bad has to be fat. I felt like I was reading a Roald Dahl book! Like, I think at the 33% mark I had highlighted five fatphobic things, and it really made me want to DNF this book, I’ll be honest. And I hated every Gregor point of view after. But let me pull some quotes, because I guarantee someone will try to call me out on this:

“He could tell which one of them was Antonin right away, because the man’s clothes were clean, his skin unblemished, his thin hair combed neatly back, and he was hugely, hugely fat—a rarity in the Commons.”

“Gregor took stock of the situation. The taverna was now mostly empty except for the moaning guards—and the large, fat man trying to hide behind a chair.”

“Tevanne, a huge dome that reminded her of a fat, swollen tick, sitting in the center of the Candiano campo.”

“Gregor stared at the painting—especially at the woman in the chair, and the fat infant. His gaze lingered on the baby. That is how she still thinks of me, he thought. Despite all my deeds and scars and accomplishments, I am still a fat, gurgling infant to her, bouncing in her lap.”

“She was not like Torino Morsini, head of Morsini House, who was hugely fat and often hugely drunk, and usually spent his time trying to stuff his aged candle into every nubile girl on his campo.”

Like, it’s 2018. How the hell did proofreaders think those sentences were okay?

Trigger and content warnings for fatphobic comments, abandonment, torture, abuse, murder, death, sexual assault (unwanted touching), child trafficking, use of the slur word for Romani people, loss of a loved one, slavery, medical experimentation, and a lot of depictions of blood.

Overall, there was a lot about this that I enjoyed and a lot that I didn’t enjoy. I feel really torn on this one. I feel like it’s so hard to find unique concepts in adult fantasy anymore, and this book reads like a breath of fresh air. I truly did adore this smart magic system. But I could just never totally fall in love with this story! Yet, I am still curious enough to continue on! And I hope if you pick this one up, you’ll be able to get more enjoyment from it than I did. Also, everyone else I know has five starred this, so take my review with a grain of salt! Happy reading, friends!

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The quotes above were taken from an ARC and are subject to change upon publication.

Buddy read with Jules at JA Ironside & Michael at Bitten by a radioactive book! ❤
Profile Image for Robin (Bridge Four).
1,606 reviews1,480 followers
October 16, 2022
Sale Alert: Kindle Daily Deal 16Oct22 $2.99

Just as good on the second read. I'm glad I did it before jumping into Shorefall, there is a ton of info in this book that I'm really happy I have a refresher on.

Re-reading in anticipation of Shorefall

This review was originally posted on Books of My Heart

You know what more books need…More sentient inanimate objects.


Some of my favorite things in some of the other fantasies I’ve read have been things like Nightblood, the sentient sword in the Cosmere series of Brandon Sanderson.  Pookie Bear (thanks Tandie) from the Angelfall series, Beauty and the Beast had an entire castle full of sentient everyday items - that was awesome. So I was really excited to find a new fantasy world where there is a very sentient Key and other items which are less sentient but seem to have a purpose all their own written into their very being.  

Foundryside is a new series by Robert Jackson where the fabric of reality can be tweaked and you can convince doors to stay locked against anyone unless they have the right token on them, or wood to be as strong as stone or possibly you could even convince items that the laws of gravity don’t really apply to them.  This is a very interesting world where if you know the right language you can rewrite the entire world around you.
”The foundries did that first," said Sancia. "Apparently that was where they first experimented with gravity, just so they could get all their machines to move around and work better."
"Clever stuff."
"Kind of. I hear it didn’t go totally flawlessly at the start, and a few scrivers accidentally quintupled their gravity or something."
"Meaning? "
"Meaning they got crushed into a vaguely flesh-like object about as thick as an iron pan."
"Okay, maybe not so clever.”

Sancia used to be a slave on a plantation but that was before the entire thing burned.  Now she is a thief and a damn good one. It helps that she has a special talent and can sense things she touches.  When her skin contacts a wall for instance, she can sense who has been by recently, where the weak spots arewhich she can use to her advantage and the best place to climb.  It is a great talent, but it would be better if she could also turn it off. Every time her skin contacts anything she attunes to it. So when she finds a key that can talk in her head, she is more than a little freaked out.

Clef is the said key and he is awesome.  Nightblood (mentioned above) is one of my favorite talking items ever and Clef might give it a run for its money in the favorite department.  He is funny, witty and has a very interesting past. Plus he seems to be able to trick other inanimate objects into going against their programing in some interesting ways.  I love the friendship that builds between him and Sancia. As they become closer, we find out more about the past and the people who created this language which can literally rewrite reality.

This is mostly Sancia and Clef’s story but there are also some other key players introduced.  Gregor is a former soldier trying to bring justice to a city that is divided into house sections in which the houses rule, there are no official laws and you are at the mercy of the ruling house if they take offense to something you are doing.  He is a good guy but has absolutely no support in trying to bring law and order to even a small area of this city.
"...And I have come home to bring to this city the very thing I am delivering you to."
"And what is that?"
"Justice," he said simply.
Her mouth fell open. "What? Are you serious?"
"As serious," he said as the carriage turned, "as the grave."
Sancia laughed, incredulous. "Oh, as simple as that? Just like dropping off a package? 'Here, friends--have some Justice! That's the dumbest damned thing I've ever heard!"

Orso is a master of his craft.  He is the best at putting abstract concepts together and convincing reality to do new and interesting things.  He also is obsessed with artifacts of old rumored to have more of the language he’s pieced together over his lifetime that converts reality.  Clef might be a key to that in more ways than just one.
And whoever made that thing is . . . good.”
“Damned good,” said Orso. “Amazingly good. That’s top-rate work, there! I feel sure if someone was that good in this city, we’d all know about it. Everyone would be lining up to lick his candle, I’ve no doubt!”

This was a tale with unexpected twists, great characters with complicated pasts and a threat that could literally rewrite the world the characters live in.  I’m really excited to see how the next book builds into the overall arc of the story because this world and the way the magic/science works in it was refreshing and a new great twist.  Oh the fun we shall have seeing how much reality can be changed without destroying everything we know.

What is your favorite talking inanimate object?

Review copy was received from NetGalley. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.
Profile Image for Paromjit.
2,598 reviews24.7k followers
August 1, 2018
Robert Jackson Bennett's deserves all of the 5 dazzling stars for this utterly gripping, epic fantasy adventure thriller, that is the first of this hotly anticipated series. Bennett engages in wonderful world building of the city of Tevanne with its 4 powerful family merchant houses and the more poverty stricken outsiders residing in the slums of The Commons. Tevanne runs on industrialised magic through the use of scriving, a specialist art that involves coding to change reality for things to ensure they do as they are bid, such as defying the laws of gravity and more. The most gifted scriveners endow wealth and power to their particular merchant house, with some dreaming of the ability to scriven like the legendary and mythical hierophants of the past, reputed to be nothing less than divine. It is a world in which there is little in the way of law enforcement despite the best efforts of Captain Gregor Dandolo, a soldier and war hero.

Sancia Grado, with a harrowing past, is an accomplished thief, she has the job of a lifetime which she has high hopes will secure her future and give her the necessary surgery she seeks. Whilst she gets her hands on what she seeks, she gets more than she bargained for, as she becomes a target to be killed by a ruthless and powerful individual connected with one of the Merchant Houses. In the meantime, she is being sought by Gregor, who wants her to face justice for setting the waterfront on fire and for stealing a box. With the help of the stolen artefact, and a group of unlikely allies, Sancia does her best to survive the dark dangerous waters she finds herself. Things get ever more urgent as it turns out the artefact and its secrets are wanted for the horrifying purpose of rewriting and changing the entire world, endangering whole swathes of the population. Incorporating all the elements of a Robin Hood heist or two, numerous obstacles and spectacular twists, it all ends in a thrilling finale with a cliffhanger.

Bennett has done a stellar job in establishing this action packed series with its fabulous world building that is done with impressive skill. I could easily imagine Tevanne with all its below the radar political intrigue and the magical power of scrivening. Where Bennett really shines is in his complex and intricate plotting and his ability to create a diverse range of characters that captured my interest, from slum girl Sancia, to the talented Berenice. Their interactions and relationships made for compelling reading. This is simply fantastic storytelling that has me waiting with much anticipation for the sequel. Highly Recommended! Many thanks to Quercus for an ARC.
Profile Image for Mary ~Ravager of Tomes~.
347 reviews930 followers
August 21, 2018
Sancia Grado is lonesome thief on the streets of Foundryside. When we enter the book, she's right in the middle of pulling off a job that requires her to steal a small, unassuming box from a safe that's locked up extra tight. Difficult, right?

Not for Sancia, partially due to the fact that she's able to feel the layout of objects when they touch her bare skin. It's not nearly as hard to pick a lock when the lock volunteers its own combination as soon as it's touched!

She can also hear scrived objects, which are carved with a run language that distorts their reality. For example, a scrived piece of wood could theoretically be convinced it's made of concrete instead of wood, and therefore would behave as a piece of concrete instead.

For Sancia, the whispers of these objects invade her mind, whether she wants them to or not.

When a routine job takes an unexpected turn, Sancia suddenly finds herself on the run & burdened with a fragmented knowledge of an ancient magic far beyond her wildest imaginings.

Bennett really has a knack for creating interesting characters, in particularly of the small & marvelously competent female variety.

While the other characters here certainly paint a picture of lovely background depth, I specifically find Sancia a compelling piece of the puzzle. Her mysterious origins & undeviating focus along with a quick tongue & a penchant for cursing definitely struck a soft spot for me.

The magic of scriving is engaging & detailed in nature, making the action scenes specifically a fun experience for the reader.

However, while experiencing the magic system I couldn't help but feel like I was treading on familiar ground? This same feeling arose again when a character in the form of a talking, inanimate object introduced itself.

Then it hit me. The magic system of scriving is very similar to the magic system in Brandon Sanderson's The Emperor's Soul known as Forging. In both, objects are manipulated to, for all intents and purposes, become new objects.

The major difference seems to be that in Bennett's world, objects don't permanently retain their new reality.

Then a new character pops up. I don't want to go too far into explaining who or what he is, but he is very similar to Nightblood from Sanderson's Warbreaker.

For a moment, I had to ask myself if these similarities were too much, but after reading further I decided these aspects of Bennett's story definitely feel less like a straight reproduction and more like a nod.

This one couldn't quite score a 5 stars from me for a couple different reasons.

Near the middle Foundryside stumbles into a couple slow patches. It definitely isn't detrimental to the book as a whole, but it's not helped by the fact that these patches tend to lean toward info dump.

I can't help but compare this to the first book of Bennett's The Divine Cities trilogy. Foundryside is thoroughly entertaining & well written, as I found the pages flying by any time I sat down to read. But it's not quite as original a follow up as I hoped it would be.

However, plenty unfolds at the end that speaks to future potential of the Founders series to differentiate itself as more installments are released. I can't wait for the second book!

This review and other reviews of mine can be found on Book Nest!

***I received a copy of Foundryside from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. Special thank you to Robert Jackson Bennett & Crown Publishing for this opportunity!***

Publication Date: August 21st, 2018
Profile Image for Emma.
2,431 reviews827 followers
March 8, 2020
You know that feeling you get? The excitement and high from reading a stunning story? Yeah- that.
A phenomenal piece of fantasy and feat of imagination! A complex world of mechanics, sigils, scriving is brought to life by Bennet with a wonderful cast of characters. The pacing was fantastic, never a dull moment and very hard to put down (not that I wanted to!). I can’t wait for the next one. I loved City of Stairs, but for some reason, never went back and finished the trilogy despite all the rave reviews. This is now directly where I am heading, while I wait for the next instalment of Foundryside.
Many thanks to Netgalley for an arc of this book. All opinions are my own.
Profile Image for Bradley.
Author 6 books3,962 followers
January 21, 2020
Re-Read 1/21/20:

I really can't outdo my previous review. I'm still mightily impressed and thrilled to death over the magic system. The purpose of rules is to find loopholes. :)

NOW, on to the second book in the series! :) WOOOOOO!

Original Review:

Sometimes I come across a piece of fiction that tickles every single one of my funnybones. As in thoroughly delighting me. Charming me. Making me fall in love.

This is one of those.

I mean, don't get me wrong, I've LOVED Bennett's City of Stairs books and gushed on and on about those, but this one is a near picture-perfect mix of extremely detailed rules-based magic based on Scriving, or rune-like ancient language, to *persuade* reality to behave differently.

Basically, it's a hacking manual for reality. Nothing could be better designed to make me go squee.

Then give me a near-non-stop heist novel with a great thief, an AI-like skeleton key, a thief-catcher full of wonderful mysteries, himself, and a dirty town called Foundryside with corrupt Houses of writers, an old war of deadly physics-based-reality-hacking destruction ramping up into a new episode, and wonderful reveal after reveal after reveal for a meaty and delicious plot, and we've got ourselves an honest-to-Hierophant winner.

Truly. I never once got bored. Never once wanted to put the novel down. I was engaged from the first word to the very last and never wanted it to end.

This was a great story on its own, but the end really makes it shine. I could read this as a series FOREVER. And EVER. :) :) In fact, knowing Bennett's power of storytelling, I am pretty certain this is going to be one of my top-favorites for fantasy. Period.

Let me back up a little. Think of Sanderson's Mistborn for its magic system. Think about the best fantasy heist novels that jump from extremely deep worldbuilding and atmosphere and character-building into an ensemble cast that must band together against an utterly unstoppable foe behind impenetrable walls. Now get REALLY clever with the magic system. And go NUTS with history, implications, magic items that are more than what they seem, and a dark past that is waking up to take over the world.

Sound good?


Nuff said. :)
Profile Image for Ginger.
752 reviews370 followers
September 17, 2018
FANTASTIC! 5 STARS ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

ARC provided by the publisher in exchange for an honest review via NetGalley.

This is the first book that I’ve read of Robert Jackson Bennett and I was impressed. The writing of Foundryside is great from the beginning, to the end.
It starts off strong, the pacing is well done, and the ending was a blast! The action sequences impressed the hell out of me.

The characterization of Sancia Grado was one of the best things in this book. I loved this badass woman. I'm looking forward to the upcoming books in the series for the rest of her story.
Sancia is a thief living in Tevanne. She has unusually talents that give her an edge with her occupation of thieving.

The world building is excellent in this book. You can tell Bennett took the time to create Tevanne and the whole system of how scriving came about.
The city of Tevanne is an interesting place. It’s built on greed, slavery, human despair and the 1% owning everything. So, it was damn fun cheering for the down trodden and underdogs in this book!

The magical technology in this book was bloody fantastic! It took me a bit to figure out the complexities of the technology as the book went along. It’s like a cool AI trick with everyday objects and having those objects do physical attributes that they’re not suppose to do in an original state.
Whew! Yeah, that wore me out typing that as much as you reading it.
Does that makes sense?
Paging! Paging! Can I get a fantasy lover over here that specializes in physics that can explain scriving to this dumbass?

Foundryside lived up to my expectations though!

So why should you read this book?
1. The main character is a thief with “special” skills. HELL YES!
2. Tons of heist happen in this. Can I get another HELL YES?!
3. The magical technology is highly original. I’ve never read anything like it. I’m sure there might be something similar out there and if you’re aware of it, let me know. I loved the concept of scriving.
4. The writing is excellent! While reading this book, I was not bored once.
And last of all…
5. The rest of the characters in this book were also fantastic! Bennett wrote wonderful characters that were all original and strong, that stood on their own.

Recommended to fantasy fans and anyone that loves Brandon Sanderson. This had a similar feel of Mistborn to me and maybe that’s why I loved this so much!
Profile Image for Eon ♒Windrunner♒  .
421 reviews466 followers
August 15, 2022
4.5 Stars

Foundryside's protagonist, Sancia (San-chee-a), a very accomplished thief, is given the difficult job of stealing a small box from a safe in a very well guarded warehouse. Sancia is unique in that she has a very special talent that reveals itself when she comes into physical contact with something, for instance if she touches a wall…

The wall spoke to her. The wall told her of foundry smoke, of hot rains, of creeping moss, of the tiny footfalls of the thousands of ants that had traversed its mottled face over the decades. The surface of the wall bloomed in her mind, and she felt every crack and every crevice, every dollop of mortar and every stained stone. All of this information coursed into Sancia’s thoughts the second she touched the wall. And among this sudden eruption of knowledge was what she had really been hoping for. Loose stones. Four of them, big ones, just a few feet away from her. And on the other side, some kind of closed, dark space, about four feet wide and tall. She instantly knew where to find it like she’d built the wall herself.

This can be both a blessing and a curse, but Sancia leans toward the latter, understandably. For example, she can never touch anyone as the information feedback is utterly overwhelming. She also cannot eat meat as the taste of it carries an overpowering sensation of rot, decay, and putrefaction; it is like gnawing on the hunk of a corpse. See what I am getting at? The scales seem tipped more towards curse than blessing. Oh, and she...um… can hear the voices of the scrived items in her head. She can’t understand them, but she hears their whispers….

In the case of the box, her talent tells her there is a very curious item inside. Of course, we all know how dangerous curiosity can be, but in Sancia’s case there is an added incentive for breaking the rules and peeking inside the mysterious box. Survival. The four merchant houses guard their secrets very closely and if this is in fact one of those secrets, she will very likely become a high value target. But when Sancia opens the box she finds something much more dangerous than she ever dreamed of. Something that can change everything known about the magical art of scriving (more on this shortly) and that will likely alter the course of their history. Things inevitably go sharply downhill from there as Sancia tries everything in her power to prevent the item from falling into the wrong hands.

“But that’s what scriving is. Reality doesn’t matter. If you can change something’s mind enough, it’ll believe whatever reality you choose.”

Scriving is the delightfully thought out industrialized magic of this world, and it is pure genius on Robert Jackson Bennet’s part. It seems to me to be sort of one part of completely original magic, one part of Awakening magic from Warbreaker and one part Forgery from The Emperor’s Soul. I LOVE IT. So basically, these people have learnt they can write code onto an item that reprograms the items’ reality, making it disobey physics in a specific way. For instance they can scrive a bolt being fired from a crossbow and cause it to believe that it was not just fired from a bow, but has actually been falling straight down for years, making the bolt believe it has achieved a much higher velocity and resulting in the bolt actually being fired with incredibly explosive force. Similar scriving is used in the weapons of the elite class such as for example, a rapier. It can be scrived to amplify its gravity so that it believes it is being wielded with the force of ten men and will effortlessly cut through a person or punch through solid walls. Carriage wheels can be made to roll uphill without needing horses, wood can be scrived with the sigil for clay, making it inherently softer and easier to carve. The applications are endless and indeed very varied throughout the book. And there is so much more to it. It’s almost unjust when you think about how much creativity the author has poured into writing such a wonderfully, intricate system. Weeks, months, years? And then he easily explains it to us, the reader in a few minutes and sentences. It might give us only a basic understanding, but the underlying complexity is evident for any to see. I take my hat off.

There is so much to love about this story. The characters were a joy to read, and thoroughly complex. I thought RJB did a wonderful job in not neglecting the growth of the supporting characters even though Sancia of course gets the most attention in this department. While it was fascinating reading about her journey through this book and seeing her alter her perceptions about herself and those around her, the same can also be said for the rest of the crew and I am attached to all of them. My personal favourite was Clef, but the less said the better. I don’t want to spoil anything. As for worldbuilding, Foundryside teemed with it, whether it be the history of the merchant houses and the city of Tevanne or the mythical legends of the hierophants who supposedly were the first scriveners, only they wielded god-like powers and could change reality itself. There is a lot to unpack there, and I am excited in my belief that this will expand exponentially in the sequels.

“To put it plainly, they were the people who invented scriving, long, long, long ago. Though no one’s even sure if they really were people. Some say they were angels, or something a lot like angels. They were also called hierophants, and in most of the old stories they’re regarded as priests or monks or prophets. The first of them—the most notable of them—was Crasedes the Great. They used their scriving to do some very, very big things.”“Like what?” asked Sancia.“Like move mountains,” said Claudia. “Carve out oceans. And annihilate cities, and build a massive, massive empire.

I found the writing very accessible, information about the way scriving and sigils and more worked was conveyed concisely in my opinion (I have seen some complaints about info-dumping, but it never felt that way to me… or maybe I like infodumps?) and there were lots of small moments of humour that were delightful and possibly necessary in balancing out some of the gorier moments of the story.

Foundryside is an excellent start to a series that promises to be fun, fast-paced, incredibly captivating and highly imaginative and I can hardly wait to see what the adventure has in store for us.If you have not yet read anything by this author, do yourself a favour and amend that. Whether it be this more lighthearted , fun series, or his Divine Cities trilogy which is an entirely different but brilliant beast, I have a feeling that just like me, you will be wanting more.

“Remember—move thoughtfully, give freedom to others, and you’ll rarely do wrong…”
Profile Image for Jennifer ~ TarHeelReader.
2,121 reviews30.2k followers
July 18, 2018
5 fantasy stars to Foundryside! 🌟 🌟 🌟 🌟 🌟

This was the second of two fantastic fantasy books I was invited to read from Crown Publishing. I am an eclectic reader, and for whatever reason, I do not reach for fantasy as often, but just the same, I tend to savor it when I do.

Foundryside is Sancia’s story. A skilled thief, she has been sent on a mission to take a hugely powerful artifact from a guarded warehouse in the impoverished city of Tevanne.

This artifact is used in “scriving,” which is coding commands to give previously inanimate objects sentience. This code has already been used to make Tevanne a place where money matters more than people. If Sancia finds this artifact, the whole world could be rewritten based on the ideology of whomever writes the code.

Sancia is now hunted by the people who know she has the artifact, and no one has the power to stop them. To save herself, Sancia will have to make friends with her enemies and master how to use the code for her own survival.

Robert Jackson Bennett is an artist when it comes to world building. Foundryside is full of all the action and adventure one would expect in this type of story. A well-rounded effort, there are intriguing side stories, characters to adore and despise, and a steadfast and resilient female heroine.

Overall, Foundryside is exciting, entertaining, and completely transporting to this other world in a way I found accessible and all-consuming even as an occasional fantasy reader.

Thank you to Kathleen Quinlan at Crown for the ARC. All opinions expressed are my own.

My reviews can also be found on my blog: www.jennifertarheelreader.com
Profile Image for Tadiana ✩Night Owl☽.
1,880 reviews22.7k followers
August 28, 2018
4.5 stars for this great fantasy novel, just published this month, with an intricate magical system that reminds me of Brandon Sanderson. Tevanne is a city with a huge gap between the haves and have-nots, and magical devices are integral to the city's functioning. Sancia is a thief with secret (and illegal) magical powers that make her particularly good at getting into and out of secure buildings, but also make it difficult for her to live a normal life. When Sancia is sent to steal a box from a secure warehouse on the waterfront, the ancient artifact she finds within the box sends her on the run.

Foundryside has a bit of a steampunk vibe to it, and a feisty main character in Sancia. Excellent characters and worldbuilding, along with the fantastic magical system, make this first book in Bennett's new series a must-read for epic fantasy fans.

Full review to come, after it posts on Fantasy Literature.

I received a free copy of this book from the publisher for review. Thank you!!
Profile Image for Sebastien Castell.
Author 45 books4,164 followers
April 28, 2018
Foundryside is a novel that is perpetually combining elements you'd have thought wouldn't be compatible, and yet Robert Jackson Bennet pulls the feat off every time. I was lucky enough to be given an advance reader copy of the book and found it immensely well conceived and executed.

When you begin the novel, you're immediately drawn into a piece of classic fantasy storytelling: a daring (if troubled) young thief in the middle of a dangerous heist, using a mix of magic and cleverness to survive. This would seem to set the stage for a wonderfully told – yet tried and true – adventure tale. Yet what follows is so much deeper and complex than appeared at first. The characters are more vibrant and nuanced, the setting is built on layer upon layer of intrigue and mystery, and the magic system is not only wonderfully innovative, but absolutely crucial to everything that takes place in the novel.

In some ways the book reminded me of Guy Gavriel Kay novels with their rich and textured world-building, yet Foundryside is accessible to all kinds of readers – even ones who normally shy away from fantasy. Precisely because its internal myths and magic are new, it means readers can delve into them without having to come armed with in-depth knowledge of the usual fantasy tropes.

From the opening heist scene to the beautifully-rich climax, Foundryside shows Robert Bennet Jackson as one of those authors with that rare ability to surprise you page after page.
Profile Image for Overhaul.
267 reviews602 followers
October 26, 2022
“Hice lo que era necesario para ganar mi libertad.. ¿Tú no lo harías?"

Sancia Grado es una ladrona y de las buenas. Su último objetivo: un almacén fuertemente custodiado en los muelles de la ciudad de Tevanne.

Pero sin saberlo, Sancia ha sido enviada a robar un artefacto de poder inimaginable. Un objeto que podría revolucionar la tecnología mágica conocida como escritura.

Las Casas de los Mercaderes que controlan esta magia, que es el arte de usar comandos codificados para inocular objetos cotidianos con sensibilidad, la han utilizado para transformar a Tevanne en una inmensa e implacable maquinaria capitalista.

Pero si descubren los secretos del dispositivo, serán capaces de reescribir el mundo para que se adapte a sus objetivos.

Alguien de las Casas quiere a Sancia muerta para hacerse con el poder. Deberá sobrevivir y detener la transformación mortal que está en marcha.

Se tendrá que unir a aliados inverosímiles, aprender a usar el poder del artefacto y experimentar un cambio que la convertirá en algo que nunca habría imaginado..

Uno de los muchos y diversos aspectos que he notado más impresionantes y encomiables de las historias de Robert Jackson Bennett, es la maravillosa ejecución de sus ideas. Originalidad e imaginación son algo que brilla en este autor.

Primera novela y lo deja claro, marcando sus puntos fuertes. Se nota que también tiene una saga previa. Que me deja con ganas de leerla.

Esto es lo que hace que libros resuenen en mi mente mucho después de terminar la historia. Algo que valoro, profundamente, es que sea memorable.

La historia como los personajes, y es algo que no siempre es común de encontrarlo en todas nuestras lecturas.

No solo susurra y nos evoca muchísimas ideas increíblemente originales, sino que examina esas ideas desde todos los ángulos, desentierra los aspectos más interesantes y los convierte en una historia cautivadora.

Este mundo está cuidadosamente construido mientras mantiene sus ideas a la vanguardia, y su atención a la construcción del mundo es muy evidente. Por ello está tan logrado.

Hay mucho para disfrutar en esta historia. Los personajes fueron un verdadero placer de leer, son complejos. Creo que su autor hizo un trabajo maravilloso, no descuidó en ningún momento el crecimiento de los personajes secundarios por ello tenenos algunos carismáticos.

Si bien cae en algunos clichés, son pasables, como sector rico y pobre de la ciudad entre otros, nada importante, al menos no cae en la típica relación de amor que se desarrolla, al menos nada demasiado visible, se centra en lo que se centra y eso jugó a su favor.

Son aceptables.

La historia está repleta de una fascinante y muy original construcción de mundo, sin ser excesiva dejando de lado la trama y su avance.

La integración de la construcción de mundo y la magia tan esencial en dicho mundo es donde el autor realmente da rienda suelta sin limites a su imaginación y creatividad. Un sistema donde la magia y la tecnología se han complementado.

Los escritos son un tipo de lenguaje simbólico y codificado, es inscrito en elementos y objetos para... Ups.. tendréis que leerlo, creerme vale la pena.

Comandos se trata de un vastamente versátil e ingenioso sistema de magia, estando a la altura del mejor y más complejo sistema del conocido autor Brandon Sanderson. Fue halagado por el mismo.

Se trata de una magia industrializada, como un código que se le pone a las cosas, cada objeto y deliciosamente pensada para este mundo, y es una pura genialidad por parte de Jackson.

Descubrir de que se trata. Es una pasada las escenas que proporciona este sistema. Perfecto y adecuado para dicho mundo y sus personajes.

Original, entretenido, interesante, intrincado sistema de magia y una premisa fascinante.

La editorial Gamon nos trae, una vez más, una lectura más que recomendable.. ✍️
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