cover image Foundryside


Robert Jackson Bennett. Crown, $27 (512p) ISBN 978-1-5247-6036-6

Bennett’s stunning fantasy, the first in a series, is set in Tevanne, a city-state run by four merchant houses, funded by pillaging nearby lands and powered by scrivers who use sigils to make devices that defy reality. When talented thief Sancia Grado steals a sentient golden key named Clef, she’s pursued by paladin-like police captain Gregor Dandolo, scion of the Dandolo merchant house. Clef and Sancia are both shocked when they find they can communicate telepathically. This and Sancia’s other abilities—linked to a painful scar on her skull—hint at strange, terrible things in her past. When someone tries to kill Gregor to get Sancia, they discover that a very ambitious and powerful figure is building something that could “annihilate scriving on a mass scale,” a disastrous disruption of Tevanne’s society. With a little help from Gregor and Clef; Orso Ignacio, the eccentric Dandolo head of research; scriver Berenice Grimaldi; and other singularly skilled allies, Sancia sets out to pull off the most dangerous theft of her life. The endlessly inventive Bennett (the Divine Cities trilogy) brings humor and empathy to his portrayal of Sancia, a dark-skinned woman who bears substantial physical and psychological scars from being enslaved and experimented on, and who deeply resents her unwanted talents. Sancia and Clef’s friendship is poignant, and her journey of self-realization serves as a backbone for nearly nonstop, cleverly choreographed action sequences. This is a crackling, wonderfully weird blend of science fiction, fantasy, heist adventure, and a pointed commentary on what it means to be human in a culture obsessed with technology, money, and power. Agent: Cameron McClure, Donald Maass Literary. (Aug.)