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.
I got this as an eARC from NetGalley and was extremely excited because the setting sounded fantastic! Steampunk Victorian London with magic? Count me in!
The story follows that of Charlotte who is gifted with strong magical powers however she has been hiding them due to the fact that in their society, mages are “bought” by the colleges and are then trained and no longer have their own freedom. Charlotte doesn’t wish this to be her future and so she hides her magic. Unfortunately, at one point it is noticed and blamed on her brother. The penalties for false reporting are high and their family are desperate for money so Charlotte uses her powers to aid her brother in the mage tests so that not only will her secret remain safe, but they will receive a higher price for her brother.
During all this however, there are events going on in the background involving rogue mages and Charlotte becomes entangled with these while attempting to help her father out of his debt.
The story itself was really great and I enjoyed the strong sibling bond and found Charlotte a fantastic character. Through the tests, we were given glimpses of the different schools of magic and a brief idea of the society that they lived in. I really enjoyed the worldbuilding and definitely felt that the author had created a rich, vibrant world. The characters were all well written too and had their own agendas which were interesting to see and figure out.
I thoroughly enjoyed this story and it was one that I didn’t want to end. It’s a great introduction to a fantastic world and I’m eagerly awaiting the next in the series.