‘Foundryside’ by Robert Jackson Bennett

When you think “fantasy novel”, what comes to mind first? Are you imagining dragons, epic quests, and the like?

Well banish those thoughts now, because that’s not the sort of thing you’re going to get when you read Robert Jackson Bennett’s 2018 novel Foundryside, the first installment in the “Founders Trilogy” — the second book of which, called Shorefall, is slated to release next April.

While the book does feature magic-esque elements (known as “scriving” in-story), it’s not like any classic sorcery you’re used to reading. In fact, there’s a rather interesting coding-style logic to it. As Andrew Liptak of The Verge notes in his mildly spoiler-y review, it “imagines magic almost as though it’s a type of artificial intelligence. […] I couldn’t help but imagine that the book was essentially a cyberpunk novel, trapped in the clothes of an epic fantasy.”

Couldn’t have put it better myself. If you’re in the mood for a little something different, it’s an enjoyable read for sure.

Here’s the description:

Sancia Grado is a thief, and a damn good one. And her latest target, a heavily guarded warehouse on Tevanne’s docks, is nothing her unique abilities can’t handle.

But unbeknownst to her, Sancia’s been sent to steal an artifact of unimaginable power, an object that could revolutionize the magical technology known as scriving. The Merchant Houses who control this magic–the art of using coded commands to imbue everyday objects with sentience–have already used it to transform Tevanne into a vast, remorseless capitalist machine. But if they can unlock the artifact’s secrets, they will rewrite the world itself to suit their aims.

Now someone in those Houses wants Sancia dead, and the artifact for themselves. And in the city of Tevanne, there’s nobody with the power to stop them.

To have a chance at surviving—and at stopping the deadly transformation that’s under way—Sancia will have to marshal unlikely allies, learn to harness the artifact’s power for herself, and undergo her own transformation, one that will turn her into something she could never have imagined.

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