Review of Brother’s Ruin by Emma Newman

29964674Brother’s Ruin by Emma Newman. ★★★★

Brother’s Ruin is the first in a planned series of historical fantasy novellas.

Charlotte Gunn is the daughter of a lower middle income family in 1850 England. Her father barely scrapes by as an illustrator, but Charlotte has her own secret artistic career that she’s using to help her older brother pay for engineering school. Then disaster strikes – Charlotte finds out that her father is in debt and doesn’t have the money to pay and is facing debtor’s prison or worse.

In addition to her own career as an illustrator, Charlotte has another secret – she has significant magical abilities.

Hiding magical abilities is illegal, and if Charlotte is discovered involuntarily, her family would be presumed to help her and face prosecution. But if Charlotte voluntarily announces her abilities to the Royal Society of the Esoteric Arts, they would pay her family a compensation of funds analogous with her abilities. It could offer the solution to her family’s financial problems, but it would mean the end to Charlotte’s dreams. Mages are forbidden to marry, but Charlotte has a fiancee. Mages are forbidden to have incomes independent from their work with the Royal Society, but Charlotte loves her art. Can Charlotte find a solution to save her father and her own dreams? Or will she have to make a sacrifice?

My favorite thing about Brother’s Ruin is Charlotte. She’s such a spunky heroine! On the surface, she acts very hard to be the proper Victorian lady. As such, her family and others pay very little attention to her, and she has a lot of leeway to lead her own life. She’s smart, determined, and by golly, she’s got gumption. I’d love to read more about her.

I also enjoyed the alternate history Newman has crafted. She pays heed to historical details but embellishes them with fantastical twists. The Royal Society is appropriately mysterious and intimidating. If you’re discovered with magical powers, you’re taken from your family and made to devote your life to the Society. An early scene with a young boy being dragged from his mother by Society enforcers shows just how real this threat is. It’s abundantly clear why Charlotte doesn’t want to join them.

Brother’s Ruin is a novella, and thus a pretty quick read. It is clearly the beginning of a series, feeling much more like a “Part One” than an independent story. The next novella is also supposed to come out in 2017, but there’s no firm news. That’s too bad! I really want the next part of this story.


I received this novella from the publisher via Netgalley in exchange for a free and honest review.



11 Comments Add yours

  1. Tammy says:

    I’m glad to read some positive reviews of this novella. I thought I didn’t have time to squeeze it in this month but maybe I should try harder. I do live Newman!

    1. That’s the great thing about novellas – they’re easier to find time for!

  2. This sounds super fun! I usually wait for a full series to come out before I start — I like gobbling them all up at once! But I’ll definitely keep this one in mind. Love the cover.

    1. Waiting for the full series might be a good idea, but I went ahead and snatched this one up on Netgalley.

  3. Reviews seem to be all over the place with this one. I’m actually kinda glad to hear it’s going to be a series though, I think Newman’s much better storyteller when she’s working on “big scope” stuff.

    1. I haven’t seen much in the way of other reviews yet, but I’d guess that the introductory nature could be divisive. It’s not really a stand alone story – very clearly the beginning to something.

      1. Pyoro says:

        It’s the description of the romance in other reviews that makes me very wary.

      2. Huh. I didn’t think there was much in the way of romance. There’s the guy she’s engaged to who she’s obviously not going to end up with and there’s the mysterious hot guy she’s attracted to, but it’s not really a romance yet. Just her being attracted to him.

  4. imyril says:

    I didn’t realise this was a novella, or I would have tried to get hold of a copy! It’s all a bit busy at the moment, so novellas are about all I can squeeze in. By the sound of it though, I might enjoy it more when I can read the second instalment at the same time 😉

    1. I think reading it once the second one is out is actually a good idea.

  5. thecorneroflaura says:

    Sounds interesting. As soon as my to-read list is clear, I’ll check it out. I love alternative histories and magic.

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