Goodreads Synopsis: 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.
Brother’s Ruin is the first in a new gaslamp fantasy series by Emma Newman.
Brother’s Ruin is my first journey into the steam punk genre of literature. I picked this novel off the shelf due to the intriguing title, and in an effort to support more female fantasy writers, I purchased the book.
It was not the most thrilling story I have read, but it was short and quick to read. It is the first of a new series by Emma Newman, and it did leave me intrigued to continue the story.
Charlotte is a young mage in a world where mage’s are taken away and forced to work for the government department known as the Royal Society. They are not allowed a family and must dedicate their lives to serving society. Charlotte despises this idea and therefore hides her abilities so that she may marry her fiancé William, until one day she finds her father is in great debt. Working as an illustrator behind the scenes, she hopes to commission enough work to pay for her father’s debt, only to find the amount is too much. When she goes to the debt collectors office, she discovers a disturbing plot within the Royal Society and works to save her father from their clutches. She must also save him from being jailed for fraudulent claims as he has turned in his son for having magical abilities in order to receive compensation to pay off his debt.
Charlotte must work with her brother to trick the Royal Society into thinking he is more powerful than he really is in order to be compensated well. The intriguing ending when Charlotte joins forces with a Mr. Hopkins of the Royal Society is what would make me potentially continue the series when published. It could be very interesting to watch them uncover a conspiracy together, and I enjoy Charlotte’s agency throughout the novel considering it is set in Victorian England.
Charlotte’s character is written well for me, as I am easily annoyed by damsels. However, the storyline was completely predictable. The moment handsome Mr. Hopkins was introduced on the porch, it was clear that he would become a romantic interest for Charlotte; though thankfully nothing is pursued in this novel. The plot itself was pretty weak, but it is written well enough that I still enjoyed it. I was expecting it to be more about the relationship between Charlotte and her brother, and considering the title, I did expect it to be sad or something; however I did not really feel any sort of emotions while reading this novel.
Personally, it is not a book I would be rushing to recommend to everyone, but I wouldn’t tell anyone not to read it either. If you are looking for a quick read, then it may be worth picking up. If the series does continue, I will probably read the second installment as I do think it has a lot of potential to be a really interesting story, so long as it doesn’t begin to revolve around the usual love triangle. I would like to see Charlotte put her brother before a romantic relationship, as I feel family relationships are not explored often in literature which I would personally like to see more of.
However, I was pretty disappointed when I began reading it, as it was not what I was expecting; an emotional book related to family and sacrifice perhaps with a solid conflict for Charlotte, but her only conflict was whether she should step forward or not and it fell flat for me.
I would give this book a 3.5/5 and would suggest it to readers who also want a quick glimpse into the steam punk genre.