Foundryside by Robert Jackson Bennett
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
Sancia Grado is quite possibly the best thief in Tevanne. Not in the least because of what exactly the metal plate in her head can do–but it’s safer not to talk about that. She’s still not quite sure how stealing a box from one merchant house turned her into the most wanted person in Tevanne, and the only one capable of communicating with the powerful artifact that has the entire city foaming at the mouth.
Gregor Dandalo is the only living son of the family controlling another one of Tevanne’s four merchant houses and trying his best to bring order and law to the commons: the only part of the city not controlled by the merchant houses. It seems like a stroke of excellent luck when he manages to find the thief who blew up half the docks stealing from a merchant-house safe. Then, he spots the assassins and well, things get complicated.
Orso Ignacio, employee of the Dandalo merchant house, might have made a mistake when he bought an artifact from an excavation site without his employer’s permission. Especially now that the key’s been stolen and he has no hope of learning from the scrivings it contains. Hopefully, the thief Gregor has ‘arrested’ can get the key back in exchange for her freedom.
Bernice is a gifted scriver, and has no idea how she got caught up in fixing her bosses stupid mistake. At least the scenery’s nice.
Bennett’s novel is a study in intricate world-building, and he crafts a diverse cast characters, from heroes to villains to antiheroes, with compelling backstories and motivations all the while seamlessly weaves in ethical quandaries that dissect the foundations of each character. Although sometimes his writing became unnecessarily wordy, this book is an excellent starting point to a very intriguing fictional universe. My main issue is with the side characters. While some are nicely fleshed out, the background villains seem flat and evil for the sake of evil. The romance is also lacking chemistry and feels shoehorned in for no good reason, which is a shame, considering the amazing characters involved in the relationship.
-Anya W. ’20