Book Review – Brother’s Ruin by Emma Newman (YA Historical Fantasy)

Here’s the blurb;

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 Archie’s life and their own livelihoods.

But Archie 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. However, maintaining the charade will mean masquerading as Archie’s assistant, and delaying or destroying her own plans for marriage.

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 a very quick read - more an introduction than anything to events which will follow in forthcoming books.
The story is well-paced and well-structured. The brief snatches of Victorian London that are revealed are well presented - the use of the term 'hansom' cab seems to almost be enough to conjure up the world of Holmes and Watson.
Charlotte Gunn, the main character for all the title is Brother's Ruin, is a likeable character from the word go, although she does have her little secrets, and wants nothing more than to live a normal life as a daughter and future wife of her fiancee. This seems to be impossible as she is a talented Mage, and Mage's must submit themselves to the Royal Society of Esoteric Arts and never marry or know love and so she's desperate to keep her gifts a secret. Not easy when she is capable of doing 'magic' without even thinking about it and is the cause of her brother's 'trial' with the Royal Society to see if he too is a mage. Worried about the consequences if he should fail - (this would result in the family being punished) she decides to help him and at the same time, help her father get out of debt, while at the same time discovering a magical plot which sees the moneylender being none too kind to his debtors. All in all, there's a lot going on for such a small book,  and the author sets up her main character well to have influence and prestige in future adventures.
I would recommend this book to people, but I imagine, many will want Book 2 to be available immediately after reading Book 1.

Brother’s Ruin is released on 14th May 2017.

Book Review – The Dark Days Pacts by Alison Goodman (Book 2 in the Dark Days Club)

Here’s the blurb;

“June 1812. Just weeks after her catastrophic coming-out ball, Lady Helen Wrexhall—now disowned by her uncle—is a full member of the demon-hunting Dark Days Club. Her mentor, Lord Carlston, has arranged for Helen to spend the summer season in Brighton so that he can train her new Reclaimer powers. However, the long-term effects of Carlston’s Reclaimer work have taken hold, and his sanity is beginning to slip. At the same time, Carlston’s Dark Days Club colleague and nemesis will stop at nothing to bring Helen over to his side—and the Duke of Selburn is determined to marry her. The stakes are even higher for Helen as she struggles to become the warrior that everyone expects her to be.”

The Dark Days Pact doesn’t suffer from a lack of intrigue and action. Far from it. Whereas The Dark Days Club was a little slow to get going – the author needing to show just how constrained society was for women at this period of time – Book 2 neatly sidesteps the problem by having Lady Helen learning to walk and talk just like a man, and indeed the descriptions of her being dressed as both a man and a woman, highlight just how ridiculous fashion was during the Georgian period.
As soon as that’s been accomplished, Lady Helen finds herself caught in the middle of a number of different intrigues as she tries to please everyone, and initially, fails quite magnificently.
If anything, my only slight problem with the novel is the Duke of Selburn, who quite simply, gets in the way time and time again. As others have mentioned – you can’t help wondering if he is The Great Deceiver but that is not answered in this novel, and possibly won’t be for a good few to go.
Bring on Book 3!

This is a Young Adult book but I was drawn to the first novel because of its historical setting – the early 1810’s. The author provides a fascinating glimpse of high society at the time and manages to weave contemporary events into the story in a deft fashion. I hoped it would amuse my own Young Adult in the family who is a huge fan of the Shadowhunters series (I prefer the series set in Victorian London), and it worked it’s magic, so much so, that Pride and Prejudice and Zombies is now being read. As such I think it appeals to those who like historical fiction with a slight twist, and also the younger generation, although some of the words are a little strange and I did have to point out that there was a dictionary on the kindle to look up what the words meant. Some of the storyline is also a little risque for the younger of the young adults but on another level it works to highlight how much has changed in society in the last two hundred years and how much more accepting today’s world is of well, almost everyone!

You can buy it here but read Book 1 first!