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Review: Founders 01: Foundryside

Rating: 4.5 out of 5.

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…

Goodreads, Synopsis


Foundryside is the first book in the Founders series, and the first time I’ve read a book by Robert Bennett. It’s excellent. The worldbuilding is sublime. As soon as I finished, I went looking for the release date of book two, Shorefall, and other books by Bennett—I added Divine Cities to my TBR immediately.

The book starts with a heist. Sancia Grado, the main protagonist, is an extremely talented thief with an amazing ability; she can touch the walls and floors of buildings and sense where people are… a very neat trick for a thief! She’s been asked to steal an artefact: a box. She’s not supposed to open it, she’s to ask no questions and in return, she’ll receive a handsome sum of money. Something doesn’t feel right about the job, but the sum of money offered is life-changing… curiosity gets the better of her and she opens the box. It’s a key, Clef, and can communicate with her. Clef is also able to open any lock… surely the best thing a thief could wish for! Wrong… and so the adventure begins.

“Remember—move thoughtfully, give freedom to others, and you’ll rarely do wrong…”


Foundryside is well-paced, fun, and addictive. I read this in one sitting. From that first heist, I didn’t want to put it down. Sancia and Clef are magnificent characters; their interaction and, what becomes a friendship, is a joy to read. Sancia finds herself in danger from the moment she met Clef. She doesn’t know what to do and is in need of allies, both from the underworld and within the merchant houses.

The magic system, Scriving, is fun. It’s the process of writing codes on objects to alter their behaviour. For example, coding an object to believe it has a larger mass and therefore becomes extremely heavy and impossible to move; or doing the opposite to make an object much lighter. Scriving becomes increasingly complex throughout the story; its possibilities are endless with the correct knowledge and creativity applied. There is an element of science to Scriving, it’s a technology, not actually magic, and throughout the book, Bennett challenges the benefits and implications of advancing technology—a question we are asking in the modern world.

I’d highly recommend this book to anybody who enjoys fantasy. Read it and note down the release date of Shorefall! April 21st, 2020.

“All things have a value. Sometimes the value is paid in coin. Other times, it is paid in time and sweat. And finally, sometimes it is paid in blood.

Humanity seems most eager to use this latter currency. And we never note how much of it we’re spending, unless it happens to be our own.”

King Ermiedes Eupator