Weaver’s Lament by Emma Newman. ★★★★
Weaver’s Lament is the second installment in a series of novellas set in a fantastical alternate history, where magic meets Victorian England. If your not familiar with the series, the first book is Brother’s Ruin. I would suggest reading the series in order.
When Charlotte receives a letter from her brother Ben begging her to come visit, she assumes that something other than homesickness is at play. And she’s right; her brother is overseeing a factory where the machines keep being disrupted. The magus in charge believes the cause to be secret socialists among the workers, and if Ben doesn’t find the culprits, the magus threatens to deport him to Australia. So Ben asks Charlotte to go undercover as a worker in the mill and find the solution.
I like how Weaver’s Lament investigated another aspect of the Victorian era and talked about the extreme class differences and exploration of the poor by factory owners. I’m not sure I’ve read any other historical fantasy book that does quite the same. I guess laboring for sixteen hours a day in a factory doesn’t give many opportunities for magical adventures.
I’m liking Charlotte more and more (even if I’m liking her brother less and less). She’s very much a middle class Victorian woman, and prior to Weaver’s Lament, she’d bought into the assertions that the factories were ethical and treated the workers well. She hasn’t had much exposure to this sort of injustice (although she’s internalized a lot of the era’s sexism), and having her eyes opened leads her towards a passionate desire for social and systematic change.
Charlotte is convinced that she wants the life a woman of her station is supposed to have: she’s going to marry George and be a respectable, middle class woman. Yet at the same time, she’s secretly diverging from those norms by having a career as an illustrator (which she hasn’t told George about). I think as the series goes on, she’ll start to question things more and more. Especially because her growing crush on a certain handsome magus might throw a wrench in her wedding plans…
Weaver’s Lament also has a lot of juicy new revelations about magic and the society of mages. I don’t want to say too much more, but Emma Newman never disappoints, and I think I enjoyed Weaver’s Lament even more than the first installment.
I received an ARC in exchange for a free and honest review.