So Robert Jackson Bennett’s Foundryside starts with a down-on-her-luck thief living in the slums of a magic city, taking on the biggest heist of her life to obtain a mysterious box for an equally-mysterious client.
It’s not exactly the most original of setups, and the immediate plot pretty much goes exactly how you’d think it’d go. But Bennett has an interesting world that he’s built (though not, I’d argue, as interesting as in his Divine Cities trilogy), and is a compelling writer, so despite the over-familiarity of the premise and the predictability with which the story hits all its beats, it’s still well-executed and absorbing, a fun adventure with neat scenery. It feels a lot like Brandon Sanderson, for better or worse.
There is one element of the story that bugs me, though—and it’s probably not the fault of this book so much as just having seen it a lot recently—which is the trope of having artifacts or forgotten knowledge of ancient, long-gone civilizations pop up and then instantly turn out to be absolutely crucial to what’s going on in the book.
I get it, there’s a Chekhov’s gun thing going on, but it really is possible to introduce ancient stuff and have it remain mysterious and ancient for at least the first volume of your series, you know? Like, there’s got to be a lot of interesting stuff in the present of your fantasy world, right? Why not have a few stories that deal with that, before you start immediately jumping to the old gods and fallen empires.
Recommended for people who want a fun fantasy adventure that doesn’t feel like too much of a guilty pleasure.