Monday, August 13, 2018

Review: Foundryside by Robert Jackson Bennett

Foundryside by Robert Jackson Bennett
Crown Publishing, 2018
Hardcover. 512 pages.
About the book:
"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."

I have a lot of thoughts about Foundryside. Some are good, some are not good. The gist is this: Foundryside is truly a fantastic feat of world-building and complex magic system, but the story was exhausting and there was far too much action to keep my attention at all points.

I started this book and thought it was awesome. Then my interest flagged and I started questioning whether I even wanted to finish it. I was about 70% through when I decided that I would put it down, pick up another book, and then after I finished that book see if I still wanted to finish Foundryside. My evil plan worked! I was halfway through the book I picked up instead when I kept hearing my brain go, 'you know, I kind of still would like to know what's going to happen?' so I went back and finished it. All that aside, I've decided to try to organize this review a bit to cover each area, so let's dive in!

The magic system is incredible. I think that creating magic systems should be Bennett's full-time job (which I guess it sort of is) because wow was this fascinating. There was a lot of info-dumping (which will be discussed), but it was also incredible how in-depth and fascinating everything was. I truly am floored by how fascinating everything was and how much there was to the concept of scriving. I think what I liked the most about this system was how it really did work around a general idea of logic. It's one of those things that seems incredibly complex and impossible, but when it's explained to you, you think "huh, yeah, that makes perfect sense." It's crazy, and I loved it.

Info-dumping. As I mentioned, there is quite a bit of info-dumping and I had mixed feelings on this as well (as with most things in this book, you'll find). I didn't always hate it. I actually found a lot of the informational bits pretty interesting and I appreciated how much detail and effort Bennett put into everything. The problem, however, arose with the prevalence amount of info-dumping and how it often interrupted the flow of the story. I felt that there were too many times in which Bennett sort of interrupted everything to launch into his huge explanation that made me forget what was going on outside of the explanation. This frustrated me. I also felt like if I forgot any of the information he gave that I would be completely lost, so it felt frustrating to have to keep going through this information. I liked the information, it just felt like too much most of the time. Also, I felt like a lot of information was repetitive. Not necessarily the info dumps, but the same ideas were repeated, such as how dangerous it was to do a certain thing with scrivings or the extreme consequences--I've heard it four times already, I get it.

Near-constant action and/or chases. I don't mind some high-action books, but this book was exhausting and honestly, I got bored with how high-action everything was. It was sort of a constant cat-and-mouse situation, which one group always running from another or fighting another or pulling something, etc. etc. It gets old for me. I completely understand why other people love this and find it exciting, but it personally just is not for me. I like some moments of calm, not constant action.

The Characters. Half of the time I liked most of the characters... and half of the time I didn't. So many of them felt a bit... flat? I didn't really care much for anyone and they all sort of felt like stereotypes at times, while also being a bit inconsistent. Sancia is an awesome character that takes no bullshit, which I appreciated, but there were times when she just felt a bit over the top and frustrating. I wanted her to be just a bit more mature? I understand that as a character she doesn't have to be exactly what I want (I'm good with unlikable characters or ones that are different from me), but there were just a few things that didn't match up with her skills and experiences in relation to how she acted at times. Gregor was a pretty interesting character most of the time as well, but his espousing of moral ideals just became so tiresome. Orso was like a character that I sort of feel like I've read a thousand times before, but I did appreciate his bluntness and general rudeness. Berenice was one of the better characters, but we didn't get as much focus or information on her as I would have liked. (As a side note--I would have liked to know more about Sark)

Plot. I think I liked the plot, but at the same time it felt like it sort of got... lost amidst everything else. There is a lot going on in this book in regards to the scrivings and fine details. I think this book was about 100-200 pages too long, however, and there was a lot that could have been removed. The overarching story is really engaging, but there were just so many obstacles and extra things that I just felt could have been removed.

Overall, I've given Foundryside 3.75 stars. I completely understand why this is possible and why people love it, but this is just a case of it not quite being for me in the end. I'm still glad that I picked it up, though! If this is one you're excited about, I still absolutely recommend it. I will more than likely pick up the next book as well because I am intrigued to find out what will happen.

Buy the book: Amazon | Book Depository

*I received a copy of Foundryside courtesy of NetGalley and the publisher in exchange for an honest review. This has no effect on my rating of the book.*

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  1. This sounds interesting! I enjoy good world-building.
    I agree, I like my books to have calm moments–actually, I prefer it when the entire book is calm and thoughtful.

  2. I love good world building and I just read another book by RJB so this definitely goes onto my list. Thank you for sharing your thoughts.

    1. Awesome! I've been really wanting to pick up his other series, I've heard incredible things.

  3. I completely understand all the points you made. I do agree this was too long, but I really enjoyed all of it, even the info dumping. (and there's a sentence I thought I'd never use!) I also LOVED Berenice and wanted more of her in the story. And Sark! I have a feeling he's going to pop up in the next book...

    1. Haha, well I'm so glad you loved it all! I was glad at least that all the info-dumping really did contribute to things. I hope he does show up more, I really liked his character. :)