Robert Jackson Bennett (City of Blades) kicks off an innovative fantasy series with the fast-paced Foundryside.
In Tevanne, a city not unlike Renaissance Italy, the rich members of the four merchant houses use devices "scrived" with magic code that tells the object to act against a law of reality. Scrived with sigils, bricks can bind together without mortar, weapons can strike with greater force and carriages can roll without horses. Former slave and first-rate thief Sancia Grado lives in Foundryside, one of the impoverished communities outside the houses. Her particular skills make her the natural choice to steal a valuable artifact for a wealthy, anonymous client. When the object, a skeleton key for scrived locks, turns out to have a voice and a personality, Sancia is reluctant to part with it. Meanwhile, the stiff but honorable Waterwatch Captain Gregor Dandolo sets out to catch the thief who set fire to the waterfront as a distraction. Though initially enemies, Sancia and Gregor soon find themselves in an uneasy alliance against a magical conspiracy that could destroy Tevanne.
Although the magical system is complex, with human beings essentially rewriting the code of reality to suit their own purposes, Bennett largely uses it to create entertaining action sequences in this series opener. Plucky Sancia makes a compelling heroine, and her interactions with her allies are infused with humor and carefully developed emotion. Fantasy readers will appreciate Foundryside for its balance of thoughtfulness and fun. --Jaclyn Fulwood, youth services manager, main branch, Dayton Metro Library