Foundryside by Robert Jackson Bennett
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
I am a huge fan of Robert Jackson Bennett's Divine Cities trilogy, so needless to say I preordered this book as soon as I heard of it. My faith was definitely rewarded.
Bennett's strengths are characterization and worldbuilding, and these are my two absolute must-haves in a great read. This book passes that test with flying colors. The magic system of "scriving," using a special, complex language to change the nature of reality itself, is well-thought-out and comes with a double-edged sword, which is made apparent as the book progresses. I know some people have compared this to computer programming, and I can see that. For me, it's fantasy with an undercurrent of physics and quantum mechanics, and a bit of artificial intelligence thrown in--since the "scriving" awakens the objects it is used upon, and our protagonist, Sancia Grado, can communicate with scrived objects.
There are a few different points of view, but we're mainly in Sancia's head, an ex-slave turned petty thief who is looking for one last chance to make the big money. This is a well-worn cliche, of course, but Bennett takes it and turns it inside out. Her "final job" is the MacGuffin that starts the ball rolling, but there is so much more here than a heist gone wrong. There are themes of colonialism and classism, and Bennett returns to ideas he also explored in the Divine Cities--power and the use and misuse thereof, and a past that is not dead but is roaring to life to bite the present in the ass. It's all wrapped up in an intricate, fast-moving plot with an explosive climax and an epilogue that sets the stage for the next book. Even so, this book is fairly self-contained; the epilogue isn't really a cliffhanger. But I can hardly wait for the next volume.
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