Foundryside (Founders #1) by Robert Jackson Bennett

foundry2Robert Jackson Bennett is without doubt one of my favourite authors and so as you may imagine I had very high expectations picking up Foundryside – I’m not sure if being such a staunch fan of an author makes you more or less difficult to please but at the risk of sounding like a pushover I think RJB has again managed to create a series that will surely win hearts and readers alike.

As first in series go Foundryside lays a strong foundation.  It has characters that you can adore and equally characters that you can really dislike.  The magic system is absolutely wonderful and probably made even more so by the fact that the people of Tevanne are still learning about it themselves just like the readers and on top of that it has a great heist/caper feel.  I did have a few reservations but more of that below.  Firstly, more of what to expect.

The book gets off to a fairly gripping start as we meet Sancia.  Sancia is a thief with a difference that puts her above your normal ‘run of the mill’ thieves.  Of course, you’ve no doubt heard that before but in this case, seriously, Sancia has a strange ability that is at once both a gift and a curse.  As the book begins Sancia is on a dangerous job, probably the most dangerous, and lucrative that she’s ever undertaken.  She took the job thinking it would be her last one, the biggie that she can retire on the back of, little understanding that the nature of the artefact she’s about to steal could change not only her life but could also have a serious impact on the world in which she lives.  Ultimately, what began as ‘one last job’ turns into a fight for survival and a forming of friendships where least expected. For me, this story takes a good look at power and the lengths and abuse that people will commit in order to attain it.  Taking the easiest path is not always the right choice and Sancia will be forced to decide whether to look after number one or take a course of action that will undoubtedly put her in danger but be for the greater good.

The main characters of the story are Sancia – who has a fascinating and really quite horrible back story that is slowly revealed as the plot moves forward.  I think she’s a fantastic character, her condition makes her a natural loner and an instinctive survivor, she’s a tough nut and yet at the same time her natural disposition is good.  Gregor is the sole surviving son of one of the four ruling merchant houses, although you wouldn’t think that to read about him as he certainly doesn’t use or abuse his family name to open doors or curry favour.  Gregor is all about justice.  He’s started a project on the warehouses to try and bring and maintain law and order and obviously this eventually means he crosses paths with Sancia.  Like Sancia, Gregor has a fascinating backstory, he’s seen war and his ability to cheat death has earned him a few less than savoury titles.  Then we have  Clef – who is quite literally a key – in the physical sense of being a key – which makes his name clever too.  Clef is a character – he’s sentient – I love him and I want to know more.  That is all – well, except there are some nasty buggers herein as well as the ones named above but I’ll leave you to discover those for yourselves.

The world building is subtle.  You will get a feel for the place as the action takes place and what a strange place this is.  It certainly makes you take a look at the discrepancies between the haves and the have nots.  Here is a world of either great privilege where water is used purely for decorative purposes with water features tinkling day and night, whilst not more than a few steps beyond walls and gates, people are dying of thirst.  This is a world that has resolved itself into four ruling merchant houses, each of which have walled in their own realms creating a city that is divided and leaving only those parts unwanted to the great unwashed masses.

And so to the magic – which is absolutely great and yet is the one area that also gave me pause.  The magic system here is one of sigils.  If scribed onto items of any nature they change the make up of the object they’re scribed upon.  A wall made of wood can believe it is stone,  A door can be told only to open to a certain person – there are so many uses for this magic and yet the thing about this is it’s a whole world of people using borrowed power.  This is a system that was created many, many years ago by people who invented the sigils.  Most of what the people of Tevanne use is a roughly ‘cut and paste’ version of the original.  They didn’t create the sigils and basically don’t really understand it, the language that they recreate is basic and crude in terms of the original use, they take snippets from here and there putting them together and hoping for the best. It feels like a recipe for disaster somehow.

Now, this is where I get a few niggles or criticisms..  The story suffers a little bit from an influx of information in the early chapters which tends to take you out of the story a bit and slow the pace.  I felt like I got off to an excellent start but then things started to meander.  The whole magical system here is fascinating, make no doubt about it, and yet, it’s over explained and definitely becomes a little repetitive which jars for me somewhat because I felt like I’d grasped it. I do understand the desire to explain and more than that the love of an author sharing his world he’s created but it just began to feel like I’d heard it already.  And, to a certain extent, it felt like the story was a little conflicted about it’s target audience in that there are imagined ‘curse’ words but then some quite bloody scenes.  I won’t say that any of this spoiled the read for me but I did feel it slowed me down at the start.

Small criticisms apart, this is a wonderful start to  a series and in fact a book that, given the revelations towards the end of the story, feels like it contains fantastic teasers of what is yet to come.  I feel like the story told in Foundryside has barely scratched the surface and I can’t wait to see what comes next.  I anticipate much excitement about the next book in the series.

Yet again, Mr Bennett delivers.

I received a copy through Netgalley, courtesy of the publishers, for which my thanks the Above is my own opinion.

I buddy read this with Sarah over at Brainfluff.  You can check out Sarah’s review here.

I’m also taking part in the blog Blast  for Foundryside – other reviewers are listed below:

Blog Tour

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21 Responses to “Foundryside (Founders #1) by Robert Jackson Bennett”

  1. waytoofantasy

    Great review, Lynn! Everyone I know is just so excited for this book. I haven’t read RJB before so I wasn’t sure about picking this one up just based on everyone else’s hype, but this does sound like something I’d enjoy. Heist/caper feel is something I’m always down for, and if there are characters I can feel for then I’m in. I’ll definitely pick up a copy now. 🙂

  2. Tammy

    Glad you loved it! I agree, he does go overboard with the explanations in spots, but for some reason it didn’t bother me. I do hope Clef comes back in the next book!

  3. fanfiaddict

    Great review! Currently reading this one.

    • @lynnsbooks

      Ooh, I look forward to reading your final thoughts.
      Lynn 😀

  4. Lisa (@TenaciousReader)

    Happy to see another positive review. I’m thinking I need to make the time for this one

    • @lynnsbooks

      Yes, you should read it – it’s a great start to series.
      Lynn 😀

  5. Nadine - todaysechoes

    Great review! I recently finished this one and LOVED it! I agree about the info dumps at the beginning of the novel. Other than that, it was fantastic.

    • @lynnsbooks

      Yeah, and it’s understandable really, it’s a great magic system so the author obviously wanted to elaborate on it.
      Lynn 😀

  6. maddalena@spaceandsorcery

    Reading the enthusiastic reviews for this author’s previous series, I knew that I would have to add it to my reading queue, but have not managed the feat just yet. Maybe – just maybe… – I might try starting with the new one: from your words it’s clear I would not be disappointed! Thanks for sharing 😉

    • @lynnsbooks

      Well, I love this author tbh – I don’t know whether that makes me biased or not – he’s just got a brilliant imagination, a great way with words and an ability to endear his characters to you. The Divine Cities trilogy is a perfect example where lots of bloggers had a different favourite character amongst the main ones – which I think is a great achievement.
      Lynn 😀

  7. Carmen

    Great review, Lynn! 🙂 The faults sound minor; sometimes building a world from scratch could lead to over-explaining and slowing down the flow somewhat. It is understandable. I assume on the second book those faults will be less evident (hopefully!) The characters sound very well developed and fascinating in their own right, a sign that the story has places to go and that RJB already has an idea of how to get them there. I love the cover too, it has a touch of mystery.

    • @lynnsbooks

      I totally appreciate the whole author love for the world they’ve created so understand the desire to explain things. They’re not things that put me off tbh just little niggles more than anything else. RJB is great at giving you characters that you can love and this is no different – and yes, the character on the front is mysterious – which is appropriate for this story.
      Lynn 😀

  8. Mogsy @ BiblioSanctum

    Just started this one yesterday and I’m still very early in, so I skipped over a lot of the details in your review. I’m glad RJB delivers again though, I think I’ll enjoy this one a lot!

    • @lynnsbooks

      I loved Sancia – and Clef. RJB just has a way with characters that makes you become attached quite quickly.
      Lynn 😀

  9. Redhead

    I agree completely on the infodumps to explain the magic system. the first 100 pages or so they were annoying. after that, either they got smaller, or less annoying. Later, when we get characters talking to each other about how the magic works, “oh, so if you had this and this, you could do this other thing?” “Yes!”, that worked way better for me than the infodumps.

    • @lynnsbooks

      Completely. I loved all the chat when the characters were desperately trying to figure things out and tbh the infodumps didn’t spoil the read for me, in fact I can completely understand RJB wanting to be so enthusiastic – it’s a great magic system, it just sort of slowed the first quarter down a little. I just love this author’s way of giving you great characters.
      Lynn 😀

  10. Kathy @Pages Below the Vaulted Sky

    I haven’t read RJB’s standalones, but maybe the infodumping is because he’s not used to writing epic fantasies with complex magic systems? Anywho, I can’t wait to meet these characters! Awesome review, Lynn!

    • @lynnsbooks

      Thanks Kathy, the info dumping didn’t stop me enjoying the read tbh – but I think it was a bit ‘obvious’ in the first quarter of the book. I completely understand RJB’s enthusiasm though and desire to explain – it is a really cool magic system so I can’t blame him for wanting to wax lyrical. I hope you love it.
      Lynn 😀

  11. August : My Month in Review | Books and travelling with Lynn

    […] Foundryside by Robert Jackson Bennett […]

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