Foundryside by Robert Jackson Bennett [9/10]

Fantasy is a genre oft corrupted by its successes, any bestseller being invoked again and again by ardent writers. Foundryside has restored my broken faith in the genre, a faith shattered by too many remakes. I’ve not read any of Robert Jackson Bennett before but his stellar reputation is deserved, for Foundryside fills an imaginative, vividly drawn world with an expanding cast of vibrant characters fighting to survive. In a world bursting with scrivings – manufactured inscriptions of magic that turn objects into sentient beings – Sancia, an escaped slave, lowest of the lowest, possesses a scriving-like talent that makes her a super thief. A dream burglary assignment goes wrong and the plot spirals in complexity and significance as it becomes clear her booty is waking up magical forces far beyond the reckonings of her hellish surroundings. Bennett writes deceptively simply, his artistry only making itself known after a few chapters – stick with it, as I did, and you fall under its immersive spell. Sancia is a wonderful, determined protagonist, and a gradually introduced cast of allies and villains splendidly portrayed. The richness of description of the city of Tevanne reminds me of Dune and Bennett’s dialogue, both spoken and telepathized, is captivating. As is evident, I’m now a fan and will both go back through the catalogue and wait, tongue lolling, for the sequel, Hierophant, in the second half of next year.

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