Brother’s Ruin, by Emma Newman
Series: Industrial Magic, Book 1
Release Date: March 14, 2017
The year is 1850 and Great Britain is flourishing, thanks to the Royal Society of the Esoteric Arts. When a new mage is discovered, Royal Society elites descend like buzzards to snatch up a new apprentice. Talented mages are bought from their families at a tremendous price, while weak mages are snapped up for a pittance. For a lower middle class family like the Gunns, the loss of a son can be disastrous, so when seemingly magical incidents begin cropping up at home, they fear for their Archie’s life and their own livelihoods.
But Archie Gunn isn’t a talented mage. His sister Charlotte is, and to prevent her brother from being imprisoned for false reporting she combines her powers with his to make him seem a better prospect. However, maintaining the charade will mean masquerading as Archie’s assistant, and delaying or destroying her own plans for marriage.
When she discovers a nefarious plot by the sinister Doctor Ledbetter, Charlotte must use all her cunning and guile to protect her family, her secret and her city.
Brother’s Ruin is the first in a new gaslamp fantasy series by Emma Newman.
Content Warnings for:
Brother’s Ruin is a real page turner and I had a blast reading it. It’s a great first instalment to this new series of Industrial Magic and I don’t know how many books there are coming, but please, let it be many.
This book not only introduces the world and characters, but also sets up the next book(s) brilliantly. However, you don’t have to fear a cliffhanger, because a first story arc is satisfactorily resolved. I am so looking forward to more, because the premise for the next book is amazing and I can’t wait to find out what will be happening next.
Brother’s Ruin is set in a very backward society where women don’t have much say, can’t have the same jobs as men or earn the same amount of money—well, Great Britain in the year 1850, right? Or even in some regards today. But what this book actually centres around is girl power. How one young women defies the rules of the common society, and of the Royal Society of the Esoteric Arts aka the Society of Magi.
Charlotte is a wonderful character. She is kind and takes no shit from anyone. She knows what she wants and gets it, even if it is only in secret. She is an ordinary woman but she dares to reach out for what she wants, even if it’s difficult or dangerous. Oh what joy! This book has such a wonderful female character. I expect her to achieve what she sets her mind to and also to grow loads and loads as a character.
She watched him leave, unable to stop her eyes drifting down to his calves, so shapely within the tight legs of his trousers. Shutting her eyes, Charlotte tried to work out whether that conversation had gone well and, more important, whether the magus had really been encouraging her to do something dangerous and most definitely unladylike.
I am also super intrigued by her male counterpoint, Mr. Hopkins, who has a lot of depths and also some mystery surrounding him. Although he is utterly alluring and beautiful, I love that this is absolutely not all there is to him. It’s really well done, and, frankly, I cannot wait to find out more about him, his motivations, his background and past.
There is, so far, no romance here, but who knows? Maybe there will be. Vibes are there, definitely… But really, I didn’t miss a thing, so I won’t mind either way.
I also like the secondary characters, although there is not very much to tell about them, since they don’t play a huge role, except Charlotte’s brother Archie, and I am not quite sure what to think about him. He obviously loves his sister and respects her decisions but he seems a bit plain and I don’t get why he is so accepting of her refusal to come forward about her magic, since he actually strongly believes it’s wrong, but ok. I can see trouble ahead, though, and I’m curious how he will develop.
The world building is really cool and interesting. Not much is explained about magic and their society, so a lot of the mystery remains. But it is already obvious that there are some shenanigans going on and the next book will reveal more about this, I think.
The plot development is well-paced, and despite one thing being a little too coincidental, it is, all in all, very solid, believable, and entertaining.
It was a joy to read this book. I’m always on the lookout for empowering female representation and this book was a total winner in this regard.
Stop mocking me, sir! I’m not some simpleton, happy to be distracted by talk of weddings and happy endings.
I highly recommend Brother’s Ruin. Give me mooooaarrre.
EMMA NEWMAN writes dark short stories and science fiction and urban fantasy novels. Between Two Thorns, the first book in Emma’s acclaimed Split Worlds urban fantasy series, was shortlisted for the British Fantasy Awards for Best Novel and Emma was nominated for Best Newcomer. She is also the author of Planetfall.
Emma is a professional audio book narrator and also co-writes and hosts the Hugo-nominated podcast ‘Tea and Jeopardy’ which involves tea, cake, mild peril and singing chickens. Her hobbies include dressmaking and role playing games.
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I received an advanced copy of this novel in exchange for a fair and honest review.