Foundryside (The Founders Trilogy, #1)
By: Robert Jackson Bennett
My Rating: Three out of Five Stars
Best for: 18 and up
But the cover was so pretty!
Brandon Sanderson gave Foundryside a rare and coveted 5-star review when it was published back in 2018. When I saw that, I immediately bought both ebook and audiobook (obviously) because Brandon Sanderson is perfect and gets everything right and he loved it so I’ll love it too.
I (im)patiently let Foundryside sit on top of my Mount TBR for the last 4 years, looking at the pretty cover once in a while and dreaming longingly of the day when the last book in the trilogy would be published so I could start. Because everyone waits for the series to be written before you start book 1. Right? RIGHT!?
The last book was published in June of this year. The four year wait was over! The time had arrived! I read Foundryside.
And…it was ok.
There are a ton of positive reviews for Foundryside–Brandon Sanderson included. All the elements of great fantasy are here, and clearly there are fans. The characters are colorful, the magic system is unique, the world is big, and the writing is strong. I liked the gritty descriptions and the fantasy-realistic living conditions of the elite class vs everyone else.
The story is clever, too. The magic is this world is controlled by scripts of code written onto objects, with the instructions for the code written in a magic database called a lexicon. It’s an art called scriving, and the more powerful the scriving, the more complex the code, and the more amazing things you can do. The elite, ruling class owns the scrivers and can build the foundries that produces the scrived resources that define this world’s wealth. Everyone else is left to fend for themselves–which gives the classic set up of powerful elites ready to be overthrown by brave and scrappy regulars…and that’s the story. Throw in the heir-with-a-conscience, the disenfranchised genius, the thief who has mysterious abilities, and the witty sidekick, and you’ve got a magical heist story that I should love and obsess over and annoy all of you with my obnoxious hyperbole.
I wish I loved.
I wanted to love.
But I only liked it.
It wasn’t even one big thing. It was more like a few small things…like I kept finding annoying dimes, and each time I found one had to add them to a stack. Eventually the stack of annoying dimes got tall enough it toppled–along with my interest in Foundryside.
For example, I found the magic was too complex. On the surface, I bought it. But as the use cases expanded, the explanations got more confusing, and I felt like I was being force fed justifications that I couldn’t grasp and was expected to just accept. I added a dime to the tower.
The characters were colorful but underdeveloped. They were cool, but I didn’t feel any emotional connection. Added a dime.
There wasn’t much world building. There were hints and attempts, but it felt like the city and its inhabitants an island with no connection to a hinted-at much larger world. Dime.
There was a whole lot of grown up language that felt super out of place in a fantasy novel. Dime.
There was an attempt to make a same-gender, romantic relationship. The characters didn’t sell it, and I couldn’t believe it. Dime.
Those were the things that bugged me, but it appears most people didn’t have the same issues. Maybe you won’t either? I did just read through the reviews of those who rated Foundryside two stars or less, and looks like I got my criticisms right–my thoughts are not unique. If you’re good with complex magic and action and can look past those things that bugged me, you’re in good company and you’re going to love this book and the trilogy that follows. If not, well, then you can thank me for saving you from wasting your time.
Be aware of a ton of grown up “sh-words” and a whole lot of fantasy violence against humans. There was no sexual content, and some might want to know the same-gender relationship exists nearly entirely in sneaked glances and unspoken emotion that culminates in a brief kiss and the promise of more in the next books.
Best for 18 and up.