Brother’s Ruin

      Publisher: Tor 

      RRP: £10.99

      Author: Emma Newman 

      Published:  2017-03-12




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.


Another complex heroine and vivid world from Emma Newman.


Brother’s Ruin is the first in the Industrial Magic series, a new gaslight fantasy setting from acclaimed author Emma Newman. Readers are introduced to an alternate history; a time period where, instead of the industrial revolution, a magical revolution took place. Magical talents are responsible for factories, trains, and timepieces alike. In this world, magic is closely controlled by The Royal Society of the Esoteric Arts, which works in tandem with the monarchy. Mages are both feared and revered, and new mages are taken from their families to be trained, paying the remaining family compensation for the loss of their son, or, more unusually, daughter.

The Royal Society has three branches which descend on newly uncovered mages for testing, and which place competing compensatory bids for the apprentice to join their ranks. Being a “latent”, an unregistered mage, carries grave risk from the authorities, as well as the oft reported risk of “going wild”, causing untold danger to oneself and the general public. Anyone who considers themselves gifted are encouraged to submit for testing, while other members of society are encouraged to inform on anyone who they believe or suspect to be a latent. Both false reports and resisting testing are met with grave consequences.

The Gunns are a lower middle class family who find themselves in contact with The Royal Society; when a timepiece is mysteriously altered, it is assumed that Benjamin Gunn is the latent, while his sister, Charlotte is overlooked. While Ben has some abilities, Charlotte’s are much more impressive; mages are forbidden to marry and have a family, however, and Charlotte wishes to do both. She is left with the unenviable and risky task of hiding her own abilities, while ensuring Ben does as well as possible in the testing, to ensure their family are compensated rather than punished. When Charlotte uncovers a dangerous secret that could destroy their family, however, she finds herself in much closer contact with mages than she ever desired.

This, the first entry in an ongoing series, introduces Charlotte as a clever, gifted and spirited woman, living in a society which does not value these traits in females. While she wants to marry and have children, she is frustrated by the double standards in society which prevent her from openly using her talents as an illustrator to help the family finances.

Brother’s Ruin demonstrates once again how adept Emma Newman is in writing complex heroines and vivid worlds, and is tinged as ever with a welcome touch of knowing feminism. The story takes place over a brief time period and, appropriate to its format, pulls the reader along at a similarly fast pace as Charlotte’s life tumbles out of control. The text is vivid and rich in description, yet no words or time feel wasted or surplus to requirements; the only complaint that could possibly be levied is that it ends far too soon. With the sequel, Weaver’s Lament, on general release from the 17th of October there has never been a finer time to dive into Industrial Magic.




Full disclosure: GeekPlanetOnline is the publisher and host of Emma and Peter Newman's podcasts Tea & Jeopardy and Tales From the Split Worlds. The author of this review is connected to Mrs. Newman via GeekPlanetOnline but has no personal relationship with her.