Free Giveaway of this novel
Before you read the rest of this review, be aware that I am hosting a free giveaway of Foundryside. Click the linked text here to enter.
Foreword on Foundryside’s To-Be-Published Status
It is rare for me to be able to write a review of an unpublished work of art. So this is something a little different. This is a review to alert you to the existence of Foundryside and its publication in August. More to the point this review aims to provide strong reasons as to why this novel should be at the top of your ‘to-read-fantasy’ list.
Reading is a kind of contextual magic. At times, the location in which you read a book can influence the way you absorb the wonder of that novel. For me, I was reading in the back of a van that were it almost anywhere but Manila would have been illegal. We were stuck in traffic for three hours with nothing else to do. So with every bump and screech of brakes as I rode through the Philippines’ capital, I read a little more of Foundryside. And I found myself incredibly captivated by the power of this novel, and the intriguing parallels between the megacity around me at the time. It would be fair to admit that Foundryside grabbed me in a way few novels have. At least, not since I read Mistborn for the first time.
Advanced Reading Copy – Uncorrected Proof
I was given the opportunity to read this advanced copy of Foundryside from the publisher. Having enjoyed Robert Jackson Bennett’s more obscure novel The Troupe, I leapt at the chance. I must add that there were no obligations upon receiving this pre-proof edition to provide any review (favourable or otherwise). And I say that to encourage you I rate this as an exceptional novel due to my own enthusiastic opinion. And not because someone impossibly bought my opinion. I have no doubts that Foundryside once fully edited and released in August will be one of the best fantasy books released in 2018.
However, therefore the most important detail for me to include in this review is: why? So why is this novel so excellent? And why is this going to be one of 2018′ best fantasy novels?
Why This Will Be One Of 2018’s Best Fantasy Books
There are two main reasons. The first of which is the unique set of characters presented in this novel. Each character has a very clear point of view with distinctive motivations. Whether these are motivations of survival, honour and justice, or just plain academic curiosity. Foundryside uses these characters to discuss deep themes of truth, freedom, justice and industrialised development.
Key Characters And Balance
The key characters, Sancia and Gregor, are highly identifiable to the audience. They are extremely well developed as mentioned previously. Not just in their perspectives, but in their motives. They are likeable characters with true personalities.
While I felt like this world was akin to the writing of Mistborn the characterisation is in many regards far superior in Foundryside. In many regards this is also a novel that feels akin to The Lies of Locke Lamora in tone, theme and content. Yet this is a novel which also balances the serious side of its grim world with a keen sense of wit and humour. Overall, Foundryside is a deep and also entertaining novel due to its characters.
It has become a compulsory part of sci-fi and fantasy fiction that an author must develop an impressive world. In Foundryside, Robert Jackson Bennett has created a world in which science and technology exist through magic. This is a world set the city of Tevanne and which hints at great past imperial dynasties ruling the land. A city which picked up the pieces of this past and profited through the sale of magic. Much in the same way that Italy picked up the pieces of the Roman Empire and their innovations and ran their merchant houses in Venice. In fact, Bennett is on record as stating that Venetian Merchant Houses were a major inspiration for this novel.
Worldbuilding: The Magic
Special magical scripts which tell objects how to defy reality, allow for magical abilities in Foundryside. This ability, called ‘scriving’ is a constructed magic system with clear guidelines. Part of the joy in reading Foundryside, is discovering how these rules work. Combinging these rules with how the politics of the four Merchant Houses work. These Merchant Houses are wealthy due to selling and controlling scrived products, and the roguish underworld operate by manufacturing knock-offs of their own. All of which creates this alien but familiar world for a powerful narrative to operate within.
In short, Robert Jackson Bennett is clearly a thinking fantasy author. An odd oxymoron to write, given that all authors are thoughtful. But what I mean by this is that in Foundryside it is clear that the author has thought about the entire construction of this imagined world. Whether this construction includes themes or more practical ways in which the world works from economics to magic. I strongly encourage anyone with a love of fantasy to read this book as soon as it releases. It is smooth-flowing, detailed and light reading despite the page count. Yet, every detail of the novel is full of information and carefully crafted thought. Put this at the top of your ‘to read’ list for fantasy books in 2018.
Themes and Ideas9.5 /10
Unique Plot, Characters or Worlds10.0 /10
- Fantastic characters
- Incredible worldbuilding (a mix of the imaginary with real historical inspiration)
- Thrilling and pulsing narrative delivered with excellent pace
- This is why I read fantasy to put it plainly
- Some minor oddities with the use of imagined curse words with real world swearing - this may be rectified in the final copy
- I predicted many of the plot twists due to the foreshadowing, however I predict most readers will be blown away by the delivery of the key twists