“All things have a value. Sometimes the value is paid in coin. Other times, it is pain 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.”
Foundryside is radically different from Bennett’s Divine Cities series, which served as my introduction to his work. There was an almost flippant lightness to this book, whereas the Divine Cities novels had a philosophical weight to them that gave them immense power and a lasting presence in my mind. I thoroughly enjoyed Foundryside, but it’s not a book I’ll still be mulling over weeks or months from now.
“To steal a thing is not the same as freeing a thing.”
The story starts with a bang as Sancia, our most prevalent protagonist, stages an elaborate one-woman heist. There was something about Sancia and her thieving abilities that reminded me a lot of Mistborn’s Vin, though Sancia seems more sure of who she is and what she’s capable of from her first appearance. But the heist turns out to be far most complicated and deadly than Sancia anticipated, which is where Gregor, our other perspective character, comes in. Gregor stands on the opposite side of the law from Sancia, doing his best to uphold justice in a city with now set guidelines to bind people together. He plans to singlehandedly change that, even if it kills him.
“I think he’s broken, just like you and me. He’s just trying to fix the world because it’s the only way he knows to fix himself.”
I loved the dichotomy and banter between Sancia and Gregor. We meet other characters, namely Orso, Berenice, Claudia, and Gio, who add quite a bit of sass to the story. However, my favorite secondary character is Clef, hands down. Clef is a sentient inanimate object with a very distinctive voice, and he serves a a hinge for the story as well as giving up insight into the magic system of this world.
“Every innovation—technological, sociological, or otherwise—begins as a crusade, organizes itself into a practical business, and then, over time, degrades into common exploitation.”
Speaking of magic system, I think Foundryside’s scriving is one of the most unique I’ve come across. It’s perfectly balanced between mystical and technological. I love when a fantasy realm finds a way to harness that which they do not understand, especially when they’re using something wild and unexplained to accomplish mundane task propelling carriages and lighting hallways. So basically, scriving is the art of convincing an object to act counter to its nature by engraving it with sigils that lie to said object and convince it that whatever action it’s been assigned really is its natural function. I found both the concept of scriving and the mechanics of the system as presented in the book fascinating, as well as how the use of this system had radically divided society.
“Reality doesn’t matter. If you can change something’s mind enough, it’ll believe whatever reality you choose.”
There were a couple of elements of this book that missed the mark for me. Firstly, I thought the character development was lacking. This is strange, since we got a good bit of backstory from both perspective and secondary characters, but as much as I liked them and found them entertaining, they just didn’t resonate with me. They remain acquaintances in my mind instead of friends. However, I know this book is the first in a series, so there’s room for growth there. Secondly, the cursing was a bit jarring for some reason. I have zero problem with cursing in fiction, but there was something about the language choices here that felt forced. I think Bennett was trying to go for something similar to The Lies of Locke Lamora in tone but didn’t quite hit the mark.
“Pride…it’s so often an excuse for people to be weak.”
Foundryside is an engrossing, entertaining heist story with a unique magic system, and it kept me engaged until the very last page. While not quite the caliber of Bennett’s Divine Cities trilogy, which is among my favorite series I’ve ever read, it’s still definitely worth reading, and I can’t wait to see where Bennett takes the series in the next installment.
“Remember—move thoughtfully, give freedom to others, and you’ll rarely do wrong…”
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