newt's emerald

Wednesday, April 30, 2014 |
Garth Nix is one of my all-time favorite authors.  I have an entire shelf of his books in my living room (including one duplicate copy of Lirael, but who’s counting?).  I await each of his books with a sort of glee, because I *know* I’ll love them.  It was funny/shocking to realize that I’d somehow missed news of Nix’s Regency romance Newt’s Emerald.  It contains: a girl posing as a boy, adventures magical and mundane, and FUN.  It's also exactly what I asked for on my reading wishlist in January.

newt's emerald by garth nix book cover
After the Newington Emerald is stolen at the height of a conjured storm, eighteen year-old Lady Truthful Newington goes to London to search for the magical heirloom of her house. But as no well-bred young lady can hunt the metropolis for a stolen jewel, she has to disguise herself as a man, and is soon caught up in a dangerous adventure where she must risk her life, her reputation... and her heart. 

Balancing twin roles as a young lady coming out in her first season and as an intrepid young man up against an evil sorceress isn’t easy, but Truthful has to manage it. Her father’s life and even the fate of England may depend upon her recovering the Newington Emerald!

Truthful Newington is a young lady of eighteen, and she is about to make her debut in Society.  You might think she lives in the Regency England so often co-opted as a setting by romance novelists like Georgette Heyer, but in fact her England is different: it contains magic.  When a famous family jewel (the Newington Emerald, don’t you know!) is stolen in the midst of a storm, Truthful sets out to recover the heirloom.  To do so, she’ll have to pose as her own (male) cousin.  Shenanigans ensue, mistaken identities abound, and all the adventure leads to the requisite happy ending.

Whether you’ve read romances for years or are new to the genre, you likely know that a happy (and romantic) ending is the norm.  Garth Nix doesn’t take any chances in that regard with this tale, but he does include rather more adventures than the traditional romance novelist.  The best fun, of course, is in playing with a cross-dressing female.  There’s more freedom of choice, movement, and even thought for the heroine when she can go about life as a man.  And Truthful, while not exactly meek or docile, worries about making a good impression and finding her feet.  Nix surrounds her with interesting people, and in (and out of!) her alternate identity as Hénri de Chevalier adventure soon breaks out. 

While I enjoyed the book as a frothy, fun read, my favorite bits tended to be about side characters like Lady Badgery (Truthful’s great aunt, who has hidden depths), Lord Otterbrook (a chance encounter), and the three Newington-Lacy cousins (young scoundrels all, in different ways).  I appreciated the book at novella length, but I wished for a bit more time with Truthful’s merry band of friends and family.  Though he describes Truthful’s stubbornness and the struggle keeping her double life alive very well, Nix’s writing is strongest in the action scenes, which mostly cluster toward the end of the book. 

On the whole, Newt’s Emerald is an amusing adventure wrapped in a mystery.  Its strengths are the setting, active writing, and secondary characters, though the central romance has its own delightful moments, too.  It’s the perfect introduction to Regency romance for aficionados of young adult fiction who may be unfamiliar with the genre.

Recommended for: fans of Georgette Heyer, Patricia C. Wrede, and Mary Robinette Kowal (and Scott Westerfeld’s Leviathan series!), and anyone looking for a few hours of pure reading fun.

7 comments:

Juju at Tales of Whimsy.com said...

Coool. The art is way fun.

Cecelia said...

Juju: Isn't it, though?! I think they did a great job for self-published (or v. small press... I can't tell with this one).

Katie Cross said...

I've never even heard of this guy before. I'm on my way to amazon now . . .

Liviania said...

How did I not know this existed? I love cross-dressing romances.

And it's free through KLL! Yes.

La Coccinelle said...

Ooh... sounds cool. The description makes it sound like it's in the same vein as Jennifer Bradbury's Wrapped, which I really liked.

Kristen M. said...

This does sound really fun! I was thinking about a Sorcery and Cecelia reread but this seems like it would be a good substitute.

Jess said...

When I was younger I think the first series I binged read was Nix's Seventh Tower. It was SO different from anything I'd ever read.

I adored the Levithan series so this book seems right up my alley !

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