“You were so clearly trying to hide the sun behind a paper fan”
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.
* * *
3 / 5
Brother’s Ruin was short, sweet, and over before I could really sink my teeth into it. I love the occasional book set in a quasi-Victorian setting and Brother’s Ruin made use of the setting, adding a hint of magic. Newman has crafted a complex world with three different magical systems, but it seems like just as the world building and my connection to the main character, Charlotte, really starts the book is over! At barely 100 pages long Brother’s Ruin is tiny; I feel like Newman could have written a much larger book, one that I would have read very eagerly.
At the time of my writing this review (16/02/17), the synopsis for this book was rather misleading and I think outdated. It refers to Charlotte’s brother as Archie, even though he is called Ben, and the plot is rather differently described. The Brother’s Ruin that I read is the short story of Charlotte Gunn, artist, fiancee, and dutiful daughter and sibling. Her father is running into debt problems, having borrowed more than he can repay in order to finance his ill son’s university education. In order to save their family from the debt collectors, Charlotte hatches a bold, dangerous plan involving her brother, the magus, some breaking and entering, and a hilarious bit of swindling.
I like and empathise with Charlotte, a woman in a man’s world where even being an illustrator is looked down upon. She loves and cares for her sick brother, is inquisitive and nosy, and an all-round delightful character. The one primary element (other than the book being far too short!) that I disliked was the bizarre instant attraction Charlotte has to a magus, which features quite prominently in the book, despite clearly adoring her fiance. I feel like the author was trying to create an extra element of tension in the story, but only succeeded in creeping me out.
She watched him leave, unable to stop her eyes drifting down to his calves, so shapely within the tight legs of his trousers
Bit weird. Particularly for a character who won’t even tell her parents that she draws because of her concern for social standing. However, this is my only key gripe.
Overall, Brother’s Ruin is a quick light read with a charming main character. I hope Emma Newman writes more and lengthier books in this universe.
My thanks to Netgalley, the publisher, and the author for an ARC of this book.