In Foundryside, what starts out as a heist caper gone horribly wrong becomes a heist caper tale to save the world in which a band on unlikely companions must put aside differences to stop someone from achieving immortality in a destructive way. Sancia is the thief and the main perspective for much of the story, but she’s pretty one note; she’s had to survive a lot and her past is traumatic, although when she finally faces some of it, the memories do sort of help explain some things. Sancia has a special ability that she can hear scrivings, basically magic done to objects to convince them that the situation and laws of physics are slightly different than what they actually are, like an automatic carriage where the wheels are convinced they are on a steep hill (but actually are not) and thus need to be going faster. Scriving is based on some ancient art now mostly lost, which means that even professional scrivers don’t really understand how things work; it’s almost like computers and programming except the programmers only know how to use binary based on trial and error, and don’t really actually know the language. There’s enough explanation of this background and the “science” behind scriving that it’s interesting but not so much that it overpowers the story.
The other interesting thing about the story is the characters besides Sancia. Clef is the skived key of mysterious origins Sancia is sent to steal but then holds on to, and they can converse. He’s got more personality than she does in a way, especially since he’s got some personal memory-type problems too, like he’s not sure of his own origins. Sancia doesn’t understand her power very well, but at least Clef seems to know how he works. There naturally has to be at least one scriver in the group, so that’s Orso who happens to be a bit of a mad scientist but at least he has some self-awareness to go with the crazy; his assistant Berenice is a little cliché in that she’s smart and hard working but also gets a little impatient with her boss, but she balances Orso. The final member of the group, the muscle, is Gregor Dandolo, who is a member of a Founder house, meaning basically a family that runs a chunk of the world, kind of like the mafia except the mafia families kind of co-rule, and he’s got some memory issues as well but his are, as far as he figures, what we might call PTSD, and he’s on a mission to create justice in Tevanne.
There’s a lot of memory problems, but those are mostly resolved by various reveals and backstories, but the interesting parts are kind of uneven. Clef’s backstory is sort of already figured out by the time he actually talks to Sancia about it, Sancia’s along with her discovery of a key enemy secret allows her to partially understand her powers and grow them, and Gregor’s is about the only one that actually surprised me. He’s got an even more tragic but interesting backstory than anyone, but the kind of cliffhanger about him at the end had better be addressed; it’s more about how stable he might be which given his abilities as a fighter, might be concerning, except he’s got a conscience, but etc.
The plot is relatively basic and a little stop and go, but that almost doesn’t matter. The group together and in some cases on their as they work things out and learn a lot of the secrets they need to keep the story interesting. Even the info dump as Clef explains some history about scriving to Orso isn’t as dull as it could have been thanks to how it’s done; it involves Sacia fading in and out of awareness which means we don’t get the whole conversation, and that worked for me. The other interesting things is how everyone has to work through issues to exist in the group since they’re all some kind of enemy with at least one other member; Sancia the thief and Gregor the law enforcer are at odds, and Gregor and Orso worked for/belong to rival families in the past. Berenice and Clef are little less controversial but still remain integral to the group as well.
I know this is first of a series so I’m wondering how the action will progress with the insinuated greater threat; the hint about who’s the good side and who’s not is interesting, and as long as the Gregor and the other team member who seems to be out of commission at the end come back, I’ll be happy. I’d appreciate a little less reliance on the made-up swears though.