Sancia Grado is a thief, and a damn good one. And her latest target, a heavily guarded warehouse on Tevanne’s docks, is nothing her unique abilities can’t handle.
But unbeknownst to her, Sancia’s been sent to steal an artifact of unimaginable power, an object that could revolutionize the magical technology known as scriving. The Merchant Houses who control this magic–the art of using coded commands to imbue everyday objects with sentience–have already used it to transform Tevanne into a vast, remorseless capitalist machine. But if they can unlock the artifact’s secrets, they will rewrite the world itself to suit their aims.
Now someone in those Houses wants Sancia dead, and the artifact for themselves. And in the city of Tevanne, there’s nobody with the power to stop them.
To have a chance at surviving—and at stopping the deadly transformation that’s under way—Sancia will have to marshal unlikely allies, learn to harness the artifact’s power for herself, and undergo her own transformation, one that will turn her into something she could never have imagined.
This book was really hard to rate for me. There were quite a few things about it that I really loved, but there were also a few things that took me out of the story and made it hard for me to engage and get invested.
My favorite thing about this book was the magic system. The intracacies of scriving items to make them more than they are and defy physics was so cool. It was so unique that I don’t think I’ve ever seen a magic system quite like this one. I also really enjoyed how scientific it was. Each scriver has to make sure that their scrivings do exactly what they want them to or there could be devastating consequences. In some instances this could include death for not just the scriver but many people around them. This magic system has consequences and costs and I love when the magic system itself can increase the stakes.
The world was also excellent. Robert Jackson Bennett did a good job of making this world its own with the mystery of the heirophants and the merchant houses that hold sway in the city of Tevanne by their monopoly of scriving knowledge. The only thing I struggled with at times were info dumps. For both the magic system and worldbuilding there was a lot of telling and not enough showing. I didn’t mind this too much with the magic system because I was so engrossed and fascinated by it, but the expositions dedicated to worldbuilding made the middle part of this novel start to drag.
Another thing that I struggled with were the characters. There was one character that I really connected with and his name is Clef. Clef is snarky, complex, and so much fun. Unfortunately, I felt the other characters suffered from being somewhat one dimensional. I didn’t feel overly concerned about any of the other characters’ well being and that is really hard for me to get past. If I had to pick the biggest weakness of this book, that would be it. However, I do have hope that as the series continues there will be more depth and complexity to these characters that will help me really get invested.
One quick side note. There was also a start to a romantic relationship in this book that I wasn’t a huge fan of. Unfortunately, the characters didn’t seem to have any chemistry leading the relationship to feel forced and unnatural.
The plot was engaging. I was really interested to see what would happen throughout the whole story and the climax (last 100 pages or so) was incredibly fast paced and action packed. The pacing went from fast for the first 150-200 pages, to somewhat slow for the middle portion, and then ended with a bang. I don’t point this out as a negative, but rather so that you as the reader know how the pacing goes in this book and whether that will work for you personally. For me, the pacing seemed pretty balanced and was done well overall except for the info dumps that I mentioned earlier.
Overall even with the problems I had this was an enjoyable, solid first entry in The Founders Trilogy. I don’t have the urge to continue the series right away, but this story, world, and magic system have got me intrigued enough that I am sure I will be pulled back to this story in the near future.
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