the Little Red Reviewer

Foundryside by Robert Jackson Bennett

Posted on: August 22, 2018

Foundryside by Robert Jackson Bennett

available Aug 21 in US, Aug 23 in UK

where I got it:  Received ARC from Jo Fletcher Books

This review is part of a BlogBlast hosted by Jo Fletcher Books.  Find Foundryside reviews and more by searching on twitter with:








Robert Jackson Bennett books are always hard for me to describe. I end up just squeeing about “and then this happened, and there’s this character who is so cool, and don’t let me forget to tell you about this thing that happened, and you are gonna love this one scene so much, and I didn’t expect that other thing to be laugh out loud funny but it was, and I wanna know more about  . . .” My mind is going faster than my mouth, and I’m so busy trying to list everything that’s awesome that I can’t even finish a sentence or coherently describe what it is that makes his books so remarkable.


But I think I finally figured it out: Bennett connects all the dots. He takes what could have been a narrowly focused story, and some characters who are just trying to live their lives and do their thing, and he puts them in a world that has history and politics, and consequences.  He writes characters who deal with the same crap I deal with, they are living through the same frustrating stuff that I read about in the news every day: the cost of cheap goods, capitalism, colonialism, PTSD, marginalism, the difference between the haves and the have nots, etc.  His characters and their frustrations are relatable, I guess is what I’m trying to say. I get their motivations, because in their place, I’d probably do the same thing and have the same frustrations.


If you’ve ever read a Robert Jackson Bennett book before, you know the characters are going to be top notch and the plot is going to be the perfect balance of tightly paced and non-stop.  And if this is going to be your first Robert Jackson Bennett? You are in for a treat, as his work just keeps getting better and better. Foundryside is part N.K. Jemisin’s The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms, part Scott Lynch’s The Lies of Locke Lamora,  and part the Wachowski brother’s The Matrix.


The lyrics to “broken” by Lovely the Band feel very Foundryside #NotASpoiler

I was thrilled to see that Foundryside is the first of the Founders Trilogy, because while the novel functions perfectly well as a self contained story, there is so much more I want to know about Gregor, about Berenice, and I’m sure Gregor’s mother has a rivetingly creepy backstory.  And don’t even get me started on how much I want to know about Clef’s backstory! And I really hope Sancia is finally able to take a bath without it literally killing her.


I’m gonna skip all the How Fun The Story Was, and the How Much I Loved the Characters (omg, CLEF!!!), and skip right to the thing in Foundryside that completely blew my mind wide open: The magic system.  And not only the magic system, but the implications of how this  magic system works.


Lemme explain as best I can without spoiling anything. Get comfy, because this is gonna take a while. But first: do you like science? Do you like engineering?  (are you wondering why I am asking science-fictiony STEM-y questions in a fantasy novel review?) If you answered yes, you are gonna love this!

The magic system in Foundryside is known as scriving. An object, say a door, is scrived to believe that it can only open when a particular person says a particular word or has a particular item on their person.  Scriving re-writes reality for the object that’s scrived. The lock on said door can not be picked, and even if a thief could pick the lock, the door still wouldn’t open because it wouldn’t sense the object it’s been programmed to look for. Make sense? Sort of?  All sorts of things in the citystate of Tevanne are scrived – doors are scrived so they can’t be opened, lamps are scrived to float or follow you, weak wooden furniture is scrived to believe it is stronger, boats are scrived to obediently follow another boat, you get the idea.


There are scrivers who work for the merchant houses, and scrivers who work independently for anyone who will pay them. And here’s where things start to get interesting:  Scriving is an ancient art, with the Tevanni scrivers using only the knowledge that has been slowly gleaned from artifacts and ruins. The merchant houses spend small fortunes to unearth artifacts with scriving language that no one else as seen, so that they can keep that knowledge secret, effectively giving that merchant house a patent on whatever scrived gizmo they come up with using their secret knowledge.  Cuz knowledge is power, right?

Here’s the thing though –  no one has the whole alphabet of the sigils used in scriving.  Try writing a sentence without using the letter “e” or the word “the”.  Not easy is it? But if you had to, you could probably write an entire essay within those limitations, right?  These scrivers are re-writing reality, and doing it missing large chunks of the language needed. Their scrivings are full of work-arounds and inefficiencies.   But man, the hella cool inventions they come up with!  It’s like mad scientist heaven!


Still with me?


They are using language to change how an object behaves, to make that object more useful. They are able to tell an object to do something, or not do something, or only do something if a certain set of variables is met.


When I looked up “Computer Programming” on wikipedia, I got this:

“The purpose of programming is to find a sequence of instructions that will automate the performance of a task for solving a given problem.”


Robert Jackson Bennett has built a magic system around the concept of rudimentary computer programming.  And if you know the programming language, is there any door you can’t open?  Holy crap, can you even imagine what a Coder Boot Camp would be like in Tevanne?

My mind? BLOWN.

Huh. Wonder what this key opens?

Like I said, good thing this is just the first book in the series.


Magic system that blew my mind? Check.

Story that drew me in?  Check.

Characters I fell in love with? Double Check.

Surprises around every corner? Check.


So when is the second book coming out?



13 Responses to "Foundryside by Robert Jackson Bennett"

This book was amazing. Yes I’m also impatiently waiting for the next one now too!


have you heard when it might be out? maybe next year?


Yes, all of this! Such an amazing book. The weirdest thing about reading this review? I actually had “Broken” playing in my head before I got to the lyrics. How did you do that??😁


isn’t that song such a catchy earworm? if your local radio stations play it as often as mine do, you are probably hearing it 10 times a day. it is inescapable.


Isn’t it nice to know they think everyone in the whole offing world has Tweeter. Bah.


i feel the same way when people ask for my tumblr. or my instagram. or my snapchat.
luckily in this case, i have a tweeter!


I had a hard time reviewing this one too coz it’s so amazing….
I love the way you’ve written about it… Awesome review!!!


it is a tough book to review, so many awesome things to talk about! thanks for liking my review, it was fun to write. 🙂

Liked by 1 person

found you on twitter- fantastic blog and review!


Yes!!! This sounds awesome!! Argh! 😀


Foundryside also reminded me A LOT of Brandon Sanderson’s Cosmere books, so if you haven’t read those, I highly recommend while we wait for the next Founders book. Warbreaker has a ~talking~ sword.

Liked by 1 person

I’ve read so many raving reviews about Foundryside! Maybe it’s time to get a copy! You make it sound like such a fun ride!


it was an amazing brilliant ride! everything thing guy writes is excellent.


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some of the books reviewed here were free ARCs supplied by publishers/authors/other groups. Some of the books here I got from the library. the rest I *gasp!* actually paid for. I'll do my best to let you know what's what.
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