It looks to be only for UK & Australia, among others, but it's a great book! It's been shortlisted for an Arthur C. Clarke Award.
You can find my review here, if you want to see what I thought about it.
I can never quite articulate why I find all of Emma Newman's books so utterly enthralling, but I'm pleased to say that Brother's Ruin is no exception. Compared to some of her other more serious works such as Planetfall, I found this novella a pure escapist pleasure. The story takes place in an alternate Victorian London where magic battles it out with the Industrial Revolution. Those born with the gift of magic must renounce their lives and instead dedicate their lives to the nation. Families are punished for hiding their magically gifted children, and paid for having their children taken by the mages. Charlotte has been hiding her magical gifts from her family and fiancee, but that's not her only secret: she is also a talented and successful illustrator. Hiding who she is, protecting her ailing brother, and surreptitiously aiding her family's finances, she thinks she is keeping it all together until the mages arrive at her doorstep.
It's an interesting world: although the books themselves are radically different, the general idea of magic practitioners as powerful pawns required to serve the desires of their government reminded me a bit of Myke Cole's Shadow Ops series. Given that in this case, mages rival the nobility in power and they don't appear to be enslaved, I'm not really sure I accept that they would give up all sense of private life out of pure duty for their country, but I'll be interested to see where the story goes. The alternate London is well-researched and has sly references to real historical events; for example, Charlotte's fiancee mentions that he has been mapping out cholera outbreaks to help out his peculiar friend John Snow. The book explores Newman's familiar themes of agency and feminism, and there's also what I'm pretty sure will end up as a budding romance. I read the whole novella in one sitting and I can't wait for more. My major complaints: (1) that it's a novella instead of a full novel, and (2) I don't yet have a sequel in my greedy hands. If you're a fan of Victorian magic or steampunkery, Brother's Ruin is well worth a look.
~~I received an advanced reader copy of this ebook from the publisher, Tor.com, in exchange for my honest review. Thanks!~~
Cross-posted on Goodreads.
Brother's Ruin was a wonderful short book and a great start to the Industrial Magic series, which kept myself asking only one thing: Where/When can I get the next one? and Is it going to be a full length book? (Okay, these are in fact multiple things but certainly show my enthusiasm).
It had everything in it to make it a very nice read for me. Set in a Victorian England with a Royal Society which enlists everyone with magical abilities, I knew from the start I was going to like it. The Gunns have fallen on some hard times, as a good price is paid for a talented mage, their worries seem to be over when their son Ben seems to develop magical abilities. He's eager to try out, but what he doesn't know is that he's not the mage, his sister is, and she's been hiding it for years.
I was surprised at how much story fitted in the limited amount of pages this book has. Still, I would have loved to see it as a full length novel. The scene was set nicely, and you can see Charlotte struggling between the desire to keep herself safe (and her life predictable) and helping her family. I'm extremely looking forward to the next novel. I would certainly recommend it.
Thanks to the publisher and Netgalley for providing me with a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review!
Series: Industrial Magic #1
Brother’s Ruin is Emma Newman’s brand new fantasy novella set in a Victorian world where mages form a kind of guild, the Royal Society of Esoteric Arts. They owe service to the Crown and can’t have a life outside of the Society. Charlotte (or Charlie) is a young woman with magical and artistic talents who chafes at the confines of her life but is desperate to remain free of the Royal Society. Unfortunately, plot happens and Royal Society mages get invited into her home by her father.
It’s an interesting world, and I liked Charlotte (her brother Ben is harder to like), but I think this is Emma Newman’s weakest work that I’ve read so far. The suspense gets lost in a lot of convenient happenings where too many things just seem to work. I also felt that a lot of the happenings were a little too well telegraphed. That said, I still enjoyed the book, and I’d definitely pick up a sequel to see more of this world and Charlie. I can see the sequels getting much better as the world gets better established and the plot thickens. Although the immediate story is resolved, this really is just a lead into a larger story.
Here’s hoping for more!
It's really difficult to talk about this book without being spoilery, so forgive me if it seems like I'm dancing around things and being cryptic.
Things I loved about this book: Almost everything honestly. Specifically though, the voice. Ren is a compelling unreliable narrator. I really appreciated what an excellent job Newman did with conveying what it's like to live with an anxiety disorder. Also, while Ren clearly has a Secret, I wasn't frustrated by the allusions to a bigger untold story like I often am in narratives like this. Ren's POV was so convincing I felt comfortable that the story continued to just hint at whatever happened in the past, because I felt like Ren herself was avoiding thinking about it. I was continually compelled and convinced by Ren's internal struggles.
This is a masterfully written book, and it is also a terribly personal book. This isn't a large sweeping drama. There's very little action. The bulk of the story takes place in a matter of days. It skips through time. It's a psychodrama. And in the end it's all about one woman. This was all a big plus for me because of the execution, but it could be a turn-off for people wanting something less meditative and more action packed.
Also: the science. I loved that this was a hard sci-fi book, filled with interesting speculative science and alien worlds, and it wasn't weighed down in jargon and complex explainers/exposition. The science is simply woven into the story, and makes perfect sense as you read. It isn't the focus of the story, but it is an important part. I didn't realize just how much I was craving a true hard sci-fi story that has such a personal focus until I was reading this book.
Be warned, there is something about this book you may really hate, and that's the ending. When I finished the book I was a bit taken aback, but after sitting with it for a couple days I actually rather like the ending. It feels right to me. However, I am in the extreme minority. Most people (both in my book club and in reading reviews) really strongly dislike the end. So you are warned. I think it is a matter of taste.
If you're looking for a deeply personal, meditative, character study: try this book. If you want to read a hard sci-fi that reads more like a psychodrama: try this book. If you love unreliable narrators, or really enjoyed Annihilation by Jeff Vandermeer: try this book. If you want a sweeping space opera, an action packed sci-fi filled with a kick-ass heroine, or a book with a more traditional structure and ending: skip this book.