Wednesday, March 15, 2017

Brother's Ruin, by Emma Newman

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(Historical Fantasy; Industrial Magic) In order for her to marry her fiance, help her brother and pursue her secret career as an illustrator, Charlotte has to keep her magic a secret. (39,944 words; Time: 2h:13m)

Rating: ★★★★☆ Clever, Exciting, and Fun

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"," by (edited by Lee Harris), published on by .

Mini-Review (click to view--possible spoilers)

Pro: The overarching plot is Charlotte's attempt to fix her father's debt problem. This interacts with her efforts to make her brother succeed in his test, with the bad guy's plot to capture her Father's soul (or whatever they're after), and with Magus Hopkins's investigation of Charlotte herself.

The recruitment of mages by force seems harsh, but once we've seen Charlotte's powers almost get away from her, we see at least some of the wisdom in it. We can certainly see why Charlotte wants to stay clear of the Royal Society.

The magic itself is interesting, involving controlled motion on the microscopic scale (Thermaturgy), the small scale (Fine Kinetics), and the large scale (Dynamics).

Con: It's hard to sympathize with any of the characters. Charlotte seems to be smothering her brother, and many of her problems result from her not wanting to tell the truth. Her father and brother both seems like hapless idiots. Hopkins is a good guy, but never shows a trace of human warmth.

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4 comments (may contain spoilers):

  1. This was fun, but I found it a bit too open-ended - too much was unresolved for my liking. Compare it to All Systems Red, which is also to be a series but has a fully self-contained story with a hook for sequels.
    (Admittedly this is just a personal preference - plenty of people like the serial approach to series)

    1. I was originally giving two stars to incomplete stories, unless clearly labeled (in which case I didn't review them at all). Lately, though, I make do with a warning label.

  2. I loved it. It is a 5 for me. Emma Newman is a very fine writer. I will be getting the sequel too.

    This is a series and there is an over-arching plot which will get resolved gradually as the story progresses with each novella, but the way I see it...

    -Charlotte's situation is resolved.
    -Ben's situation is resolved
    -their father's debt problem is resolved.

    The main points in this story are resolved. The way I read it, it is self-contained for the most part. It did NOT finish on a cliff-hanger.

    I happen to agree with Charlotte's assessment of her brother's choices, but if Ben had picked sensibly, we wouldn't be getting a sequel (or it would be a very different kind of sequel).

    The way I read it, I think it implied Ben had what we would know today as glandular fever or chronic fatigue syndrome, which is very debilitating, so I can understand why Charlotte fussed over him.

  3. This novella has been short-listed for the British Fantasy Awards 2018 in the category of Best Novella. Congratulations!