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’m somewhat sad that I didn’t enjoy Brother’s Ruin as much as I hoped I would, mainly because it could have been so easily a book I adored. A lot of it has to do with a smallish thing ruining it for me half way into the book.
Brother’s Ruin has a lot speaking for it, many things I liked about it that could have turned this into one of my favorite novellas. It starts with great family dynamics, a family of healthy, admirable relationship where everyone cares about each other. I especially loved the brother/sister relationship, their unbreakable bond, and how they would do anything for each other, take care of each other. Charlotte is driven by her dedication to her family, her actions both in her own and her family’s interest, which isn’t something you see very often.
While there isn’t much space to play with your characters in a novella, Emma Newman was able to draw a fully fleshed character with Charlotte, a character I liked a lot, especially her feminist side, refusing to let herself be pulled back by the fact that women shouldn’t make money from certain professions.
What I really liked about her was the fact that she thinks of herself and of what she wants, and clearly has a feminist side. Being happily engaged to a guy, it being her choice and not forced, is showing how getting married in a society where it’s expected, it doesn’t necessarily have to be an anti-feminist thing, not if it is what she really wants, if it’s her choice. It’s so rare to read a story where a girl is looking forward to her marriage, is in love with a guy already when the story starts.
Directly related to that is what made me enjoy this novella a lot less than I could have. Half way in Charlotte meets a BEAUTIFUL guy and from then on it’s like a switch has been turned and she suddenly seemed like a slightly different person to the one I admired so much. Constantly making heart eyes at this perfect looking guy, not trusting him but “oh he is so pretty why don’t I”, I started to be pretty annoyed. This story would have worked perfectly with a nice guy she doesn’t have any feelings about whatsoever. Instead you’re looking around every corner, waiting to be ambushed by a love triangle.
Nevertheless, I still enjoyed the story quite a lot, especially the world it’s set in and the conspiracy related to magic. I’m just not sure I want to continue, considering where it left off. The end both made me look forward to more regarding the story itself, but also less inclined to read more, considering the possible romantic part of it.