I have been sitting on this one for quite a while, and am happy to finally be able to announce it – my next novel is FOUNDRYSIDE, first of THE FOUNDERS TRILOGY, which will be coming out August 23rd of this year!
In a city that runs on industrialized magic, a secret war will be fought to overwrite reality itself–the first in a dazzling new fantasy series from City of Stairs author Robert Jackson Bennett.
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 an incredible amount of fun to write. I first had the nuggets of the idea way back in 2015, when I was flying to New York Comic Con and reading Venice: A New History on the flight. The idea of the city-state nation dominated by family factions has always interested me, and I thought it’d be fun to write a book about one such city that discovered a type of magic – and then did what any normal person would do, which is make a ton of money off of it.
But this makes me ask – what kind of magic is this supposed to be?
I had that idea a little while later, traveling for work. I was listening to Hello From the Magic Tavern, a favorite comedy impov podcast of mine that lovingly parodies fantasy tropes, and I was struck by how the wizards in the show define their magic: each wizard’s magic seems to originate from a tension between two opposites – light vs. shadow, truth vs. lies, and… time vs. space. (This last one makes no sense, but neither does that particular wizard.)
This was an interesting idea. It seemed like magic was a bit like fire – a phenomenon created by conflict, or an argument. I remember sitting in my hotel room, thinking about magic as an argument, about how you could convince an object’s reality to be something that it isn’t, but only if you were really persuasive about it, giving it very convincing instructions… kind of like a code.
In other words, you could create a code to reprogram reality – if you wrote it the right way, that is.
FOUNDRYSIDE is about an augmented thief trying to survive in a city dominated by four merchant houses who have become incredibly good at this kind of magic, building it up to an industrial scale and using it to create four very separate trade empires.
I found myself describing their house signs in the story (or, as the people in the book call them, loggotipos), and I asked my favorite artist Chanh Quach to create these house loggotipos, along with the motto of each house.
FOUNDRYSIDE, the first novel of THE FOUNDERS TRILOGY, will be coming out in hardback August 23rd in the US. It is available now for preorder.
UPDATE: Happy to reveal the UK cover for FOUNDRYSIDE, out in August from Jo Fletcher Books!