In Robert Jackson Bennett’s novel Foundryside, the city of Tevanne is a place that runs on industrialized magic with technology known as “scriving.” The process uses sigils and commands to make ordinary objects do extraordinary things. Bennett thinking of scriving like hacking a computer. In Foundryside, the world is a machine and reality is a program that operates using the code written by God. The people within this world have figured out how to “hack” the code by either forcing errors in it or fabricating permissions. Essentially, they have captured the admin credentials of God. And if someone is creative and willful enough, they can find loopholes or contradictions that allow them to literally change reality. So what happens now? Is there hope to alter the oppressive class system of Tevanne, or will it all lead to irreversible destruction?
Magic can be monetized. That’s a fact in Tevanne, a city that runs on industrialized magic. The city has grown rich thanks to its mastery of the magical technology of scriving. Or more precisely, the four merchant houses who monopolize scriving have grown rich. The elite—along with their employees, servants, and slaves—live in the merchant houses’ four walled-off enclaves, where scrived lanterns float above cobblestone walkways and clean water runs in fountains. The less fortunate live in between those walls, in impoverished communities where finding drinkable water is a daily struggle and bodies turn up in the streets. One of the communities, Foundryside, is the home of Sancia Grado.
Sancia is a former slave whose ordeals have made her an unnaturally talented thief. When she finds herself in possession of a powerful magical artifact, she must form an unlikely alliance with police officer Gregor Dandelo to confront a common threat—a plot that would let Tevanne’s masters overwrite reality itself.
The world’s a machine. She’s the wrench.