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