Brother's Ruin is the first in a new gaslamp fantasy series by Emma Newman. “Newman reworks the familiar idea of magical schools, breathing some new life into the premise by exploring the darker corners of London and their murky morality.” Publishers Weekly
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.
About the Author
EMMA NEWMAN writes dark short stories and science fiction and urban fantasy novels. Between Two Thorns, the first book in Emma’s acclaimed Split Worlds urban fantasy series, was shortlisted for the British Fantasy Awards for Best Novel and Emma was nominated for Best Newcomer. Her latest novel is Planetfall.
Emma is a professional audio book narrator and also co-writes and hosts the Hugo-nominated podcast ‘Tea and Jeopardy’ which involves tea, cake, mild peril and singing chickens. Her hobbies include dressmaking and role playing games.
Read an Excerpt
Industrial Magic Book 1
By Emma Newman, Lee Harris
Tom Doherty AssociatesCopyright © 2017 Emma Newman
All rights reserved.
CHARLOTTE GUIDED HER BROTHER to the right position on the pavement, ignoring the glares from other Londoners as they stopped the flow of people hurrying about their business. Soon she and Benjamin became like a little rock in the stream of people, moved around with ease now they were predictably still.
"May I open my eyes yet?" Ben asked.
She could feel his arm trembling. Anyone else and she would have assumed it was the cold; the bitter November wind had teeth today. It was the furthest Ben had walked in weeks, and she feared she'd taken him too far from home. His lips were pale beneath his brown moustache, his cheeks still rather gaunt. She would hail a hansom cab to take them home. There were plenty clattering up and down the cobbles behind them.
She lined him up in front of the display, leaving her hands wrapped around his arm to steady him. "Now you can open them."
He blinked at the sight of the shop window, a slight frown creasing his brow as he took in what was displayed on the other side of the glass.
"Charlie, is that ...?"
She beamed. "Yes!"
"I'd recognise your work anywhere!"
"Shush," she whispered, glancing at the people walking past them. None of them seemed to have heard him.
"And you did all of the illustrations?"
"Every single one. It took months. It's already in its third printing and it's only been on sale for a week." She didn't mention that she had walked to this very shop every day to admire the display. There were several copies positioned over a luxurious pile of green velvet, artfully arranged to hide the boxes positioned underneath to give the display several platforms for the books. Three copies were clipped open, to show different examples of her artwork. One of them was the illustration she was most proud of: a medieval knight kneeling at his true love's tomb. The collection's title, Love, Death and Other Magicks, was displayed on a large board behind the books, as if the embossed covers were not sufficient, with A collection of poetry by Thackery Brown, illustrated by Charles Baker written underneath in elegant copperplate. "The sales are because of the poetry, of course, not my small contribution. It really is the best collection I've ever read."
Ben looked down at her, his left eyebrow spiked upwards. "Darling, the collection is exquisite and successful because of your substantial contribution. Your illustrations do far more to form the first impression than anything else." He rested his hand over hers and pressed it against his arm. "I am so proud of you. And so very grateful."
Charlotte felt the heat in her cheeks and looked away. "It's nothing."
She felt his kiss on the top of her head. "You deserve recognition. I'm not talking about everything you've done for me. I mean as an artist. You're so talented."
Her heart flipped unpleasantly at the thought of anyone else other than her brother and her agent knowing about her secret career. Not even George, her fiancé, knew about it. "I earn more under a male pseudonym, you know that."
Ben waved a hand at the display. "This collection is the talk of London. I heard that the Royal Society of Esoteric Arts ordered fifty copies for their library, and there are rumours that the Queen herself has been seen with it. If you revealed your identity as the illustrator, then ..."
"Don't be silly, Ben. I need the money — we need it! My agent can only command such high fees when the publishers think I'm a man."
"But you're not listening to me, dear heart. If people knew you were the one who illustrated this collection, you wouldn't be disadvantaged by your sex. Times are changing! The Royal Society has proven that women are just as able as men. They —"
Charlotte pulled away, looking for a cab. "It's one rule for the magi, another for everyone else."
"Magus Magda Ravensthorpe has a female accountant. I read it in the Times only this morning! Even for the magi, she's one of the wealthiest people in the Empire. She's making a statement. Perhaps you could do the same in the arts."
"I'm not wealthy enough to make a statement." Why were there no cabs now she needed one?
"But you're talented enough. I've a good mind to write to the Times and tell them who Charles Baker really is. It's in the public interest!"
She scowled at him. "You'll do no such thing, Benjamin Gunn. I would never forgive you. And if my wishes are not enough to dissuade you, consider our parents. Mother would be appalled that all those times she thinks I've been tutoring young ladies have actually been spent drawing pictures, and Father would be embarrassed. I already earn twice as much as him per commission and my agent believes that will only increase thanks to Other Magicks. I couldn't bear it if he felt upstaged by his own daughter."
Ben shook his head. "They would be proud. They'd be relieved! At least one of their children is capable of making something of their life!"
She clasped his hand, gripping it tight. "You are perfectly capable, too! You've just met a bump in the road, that's all."
The fear in his eyes didn't need to be voiced. She tried to look confident, to look certain that he would be able to complete his studies, all the while desperately hoping he couldn't see her doubts. She was just about to say something when the clang of a bell cut through the noise of the street and made her gut cramp with terror.
"Let's cut through to Bond Street," she said, doing all she could to hide the panic from her voice. "There must be cabs there."
But Ben was craning his neck, using his height to peer over the heads of the women on the street and even some of the top hats. "I think that's an Enforcer's bell."
But how could they have found out what she was? She'd been so careful. "You look pale and I've brought you too far, too soon." Charlotte pulled his hand. "Time to go home."
"Gosh! It is the Enforcers! They're heading this way! How splendid! I've always wanted to see the gauntlet. Charlie, stop pulling! Don't you want to see it, too?"
"No. It isn't any of our business." Charlotte feared her heart was going to punch its way through the bones of her corset if she didn't get away. The bell's mournful clang reverberated through the street, bouncing off the stone of the buildings until it sounded like it was coming from all directions at once. Her lips started to tingle and it felt like the blood in her veins was somehow seeping through the soles of her feet, into the pavement. Had someone reported her? Why? She never did anything to give anyone cause to summon the Enforcers.
Ben wrested his arm from her grip and she staggered away, taking a moment to right herself. She wanted to run, but she couldn't leave her brother, so frail, to make it back home without her. No doubt he'd forgotten his coin purse, and besides, he was dreadful at summoning cabs. If it hadn't been for the prospect of a dramatic spectacle, she was sure he would be swaying by now. But above any concern for his health was the simple selfish fact that she didn't want him to see her being dragged off, weeping and screaming.
She backed away as the dark shape of the horseless carriage came into view, a sliver of black glimpsed between the shoulders of the gathering crowd. It was large and, like any normal Clarence carriage, fully enclosed with the capacity to carry several passengers at once. But unlike a Clarence, there were no horses pulling it. A driver sat at the front as usual, but he was masked, dressed in black and moving the wheels with his esoteric knowledge. Only the fact his hand was held out in front of him, holding a Focus, suggested he was involved in driving the vehicle at all. Whatever the Focus was, it was too small to be seen, cupped as it was in the magus's hand.
Charlotte's legs almost gave out from under her at the sight of the driver's mask. It was dark red, featureless with only holes for the eyes, covering the entire face and positioned over a black veil so not even any hair or skin on the neck could be seen. Every couple of seconds, he — or she, perhaps — clanged the bell that hung from a hook at the side of the carriage, there to warn pedestrians of its approach in lieu of the clattering of horses' hooves.
The carriage was slowing. They must have spotted her. Ben forgotten in her blind panic, Charlotte span around and tried to make a dash for the nearby cut through to Bond Street, but too many bystanders had gathered behind her. She bounced off a portly gentleman in a half-caped coat who scowled at her and didn't move an inch. Behind her, the carriage was drawing to a stop and she could barely breathe. The man grabbed her by the shoulders and just as she was about to berate him for his rudeness, she realised he thought she was fainting. "My wife has some smelling salts!" he said, the words puffing over her face with breath that smelt of liver and onions. Her stomach heaved as the doors of the carriage opened mere yards away from her.
"Charlotte, are you quite well?" Ben was at her side, gathering her away from the well-meaning man as his wife rummaged in her reticule.
"Tell Mother and Father I'm sorry," she whispered as the sound of boots landing on the cobbles behind her made her shiver violently.
"What was that?" Ben leaned closer but she hadn't the breath to speak again.
Charlotte closed her eyes, waiting for the moment they dragged her from her brother's arms. She should have given herself up. She should have thought of her parents, how submitting herself for testing would have been so much better for them, for Ben, too. She could have solved their financial woes more honestly, could have lived without fear all this time. But no. She was too selfish for that. She'd always felt her love for her fiancé was something beautiful, that wanting to be his wife and make him happy was a far more noble pursuit than magic. Now she understood the depth of her cowardice.
"It's someone in the bakery!" Ben said, and Charlotte listened to the stomp of the boots pass her completely. Stunned, she turned back around to see the Enforcers streaming towards the bakery on the opposite side of the street. "And there's the gauntlet!" Ben whispered to her, wrapping his arms tightly around her so they could lean against each other as they watched, both trembling for very different reasons.
The gauntlet was being carried on a bright blue velvet cushion by someone masked and veiled like the rest. Whoever the bearer was, Charlotte assumed he was a man, judging by the height and broad shoulders. The polished steel glinted in the winter sunshine and they were so close that Charlotte could see the intricate etching that decorated it.
"That's the one the Queen granted to the Royal Society when it was created," Ben whispered in her ear.
"I know," she whispered back.
"The other of the pair is held at the Tower of London," he continued.
"It symbolises how the power of the Royal Society can only be fully effective ..."
Charlotte sighed and elbowed him gently to make him look at her. "... when used in concert with the Crown. I know, Ben." She also knew how powerful that symbol was. The Royal Society and the Crown had never needed to unite for military action on English soil, but they had in the far-flung reaches of the Empire, to extend Her Majesty's power across the globe. The Royal Society was eager to demonstrate loyalty and put to bed any rumours that its fellows coveted rulership of the Empire. No matter how many times the tabloids speculated about the power struggle between the nobility and the magi, there was certainly no sign of treason yet.
Ben gave her his best lopsided smile. "Sorry, Charlie. I forget you take much more of an interest in these things than Mother does."
The bearer went to the bakery's door across the street, the other magi fanned out in a semicircle behind him. Three customers leaving the shop with their warm loaves paused briefly on the threshold and then scurried away, clutching their purchases to their chests. On the other side of the line of magi, people who had clearly been about to enter the shop changed their minds. Soon it was empty, save for the baker and one other inside who Charlotte couldn't see.
"It must be the baker's son," Ben said. "He's still in there."
There was a movement inside as someone came from behind the counter and Charlotte listened to the bolts on the door being slid shut. She bit her lip, feeling so guilty being merely a bystander when someone's life was about to be changed forever.
"That was a mistake," Ben said. "Locking them out will only make it worse."
"They're frightened," Charlotte said.
"Cowardly," Ben replied. "Better to face up to it. These reports aren't made lightly. There must be some truth in it."
One of the magi stepped forwards, passing the gauntlet bearer to rap on the door. A formality. Everyone on the street knew it wasn't going to be opened, but the gesture had to be made first. The magus waited a few moments and then returned to the semicircle.
A murmur passed through the crowd, a palpable excitement building. Charlotte wanted to be anywhere but here, surrounded by people feeling so fortunate to have been in the right place at the right time to see an actual arrest. It was nothing but a bit of drama to them, something to talk about in the pub or over dinner, to make other people listen. How could Ben even think of making her career as an illustrator into a similar thing? The scandal of a woman earning as much as a man in the arts would be the same fodder for conversational cattle.
Ben's hold tightened as the gauntlet bearer stepped forwards, making the faint noise of the crowd sink away to silence.
"We have requested entry and it has been refused," the bearer said, his voice a deep, rich baritone.
"We have witnessed it," said the magi in concert with both male and female voices.
"We have knowledge of a threat to the Crown and to the safety of the public. It is our duty to act."
"We will witness it."
The bearer took another step forwards and raised his gloved hand. The gauntlet rose from the cushion, making the thrilled crowd gasp in awe. With his other hand, the magus passed the now superfluous cushion to his nearest colleague, his attention never leaving the gauntlet hovering in the air in front of him.
From where they were watching, Charlotte could only see that and the corresponding movement of the magus's hand. If the magus was doing anything else, she couldn't see it, nor the Focus he was presumably using.
Charlotte felt a pull in her chest, a need to get closer, and quickly suppressed it. She looked away, preferring to study the mutton chops on a man's face nearby than be tempted towards something rash.
A loud thud and the breaking of glass drew her attention back to the bakery. The gauntlet was drawing back from the door and then was propelled towards it again with enough force to splinter the wood around the lock. The small pane of glass in the top of the door was already broken. The door swung open on the third strike.
The gauntlet and the magus who controlled it moved into the bakery, with his colleagues closing in around the doorway.
The crowd shuffled forwards as the magi advanced and Charlotte was pushed ahead with them. Ben kept his arms around her, knowing she wasn't fond of crowds and probably holding himself up in the process. There were screams and pleading and Charlotte felt tears prick in her eyes at the sound of a mother's distress. Would that be her mother one day?
"Give him up!" a man in the crowd shouted, and others jeered their agreement.
"I always thought he was an odd one," said a woman behind them.
"He isn't odd, just thick," said a jowly faced man. "Too thick to be a magus."
"Hiding his light under a bushel, I reckon," said the woman. "The mother probably put him up to it. Silly old tart. She could have been rich!"
"Maybe she didn't want her son to be taken away," Charlotte said, rounding on them. "Maybe she just wants her son to have a normal life."
The woman, whose cheeks were a lurid red, pursed her lips. "A normal life? What you on about? Who wouldn't want to be rich?"
"That selfish woman was holding him back," the woman went on. "I hope they hang her."
Excerpted from Brother's Ruin by Emma Newman, Lee Harris. Copyright © 2017 Emma Newman. Excerpted by permission of Tom Doherty Associates.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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