Published: March 14, 2017
Pages: 160 (Paperback)
My Rating: 5.0/5.0
A review copy was provided by the publisher in exchange for an honest review.
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 Ben’s life and their own livelihoods.
But Benjamin 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.
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.
I sat down intending to read a few pages of Brother’s Ruin and an hour and a half later I was finished. I haven’t read many novellas, but I can say that this is definitely one of the best I’ve read. I dearly wish this had been a full length novel, only so I could have enjoyed it for several more intense hours of reading. Fortunately, this is the first book in Emma Newman’s Industrial Magic series, so I have more to look forward to!
Brother’s Ruin is set in a version of 1800’s era London where magic exists and plays an important role in society. The downside to being talented is that the mage’s family must submit them for an official test with the Royal Society of Esoteric Arts, otherwise the family members can face prison time or a fine. Charlotte Gunn is a talented illustrator, caring sister, and un-tested mage. Her parents and fiancé are unaware of both her income as an illustrator and her less mundane talents… her brother on the other hand is aware of both of her secrets. Until Ben came down with an illness, Charlotte had been secretly supporting him through his schooling and topping up her parents’ coffers on occasion. An unusual set of circumstances has brought the entire Gunn household in contact with members of the Royal Society and it’s becoming more difficult to keep her gifts hidden.
Charlotte is surprisingly detailed, especially considering she’s only given 160 pages to shine, and that while a world is being unfolded simultaneously. This alternate, magical London is fantastically interesting- Emma Newman manages to squeeze in political dissent, sinister plots, and even a bit of amateur spying. I’ve found that most of the novellas leave me wanting more, but in a negative way. That is not the case with Brother’s Ruin at all- this leaves me wanting more in the very best of ways.
Overall, if you’re going to pick up a novella this year, you would do well to pick Brother’s Ruin. I can only hope that the sequels will be soon in coming because I’m dying to know what happens next!