Everybody has a secret, everybody hides something. That’s the main theme of Newt’s Emerald. It’s a good theme, but that’s not why (or only why) I like it. I love it for its Victorian England meets magic setting, for its light touch and humor. And for Garth Nix because he’s a fantastic writer, one of the rare males that can write a romance into a book without it falling flat (sorry male writers everywhere; this is—mostly—true).
This book takes place in the early 1800s, not too long after Napoleon’s last stand at Waterloo. Newt, Lady Truthful Newington, is just about to embark upon society. But before she takes the Ton by storm (something she’s unsure she actually has the ability to do—modesty is always a plus in a heroine), she celebrates her 18th birthday by viewing the super-valuable and somewhat magical Newington Emerald that she will one day inherit. Alas, during that brief moment when the emerald is unprotected, it gets stolen, and Lady Truthful goes on a quest to find it. This quest involves disguises, magic, villains, and an undercover spy who might also be a keeper.
I loved this book. It was sweet and fun, not too serious or intense. Just enough action. The characters were well-developed and rounded, their personalities real (unlike so many characters).
Lady Truthful is spunky, but not necessarily sassy. She has grit and determination. When the emerald goes missing, she doesn’t hesitate to exchange her gown for a pair of trousers and go searching for it. Along the way she meets Major Harnett, a war hero who’s strangely interested in helping her. Why? Well it couldn’t be that there’s more to the emerald than Newt realizes. Lady Truthful’s great-aunt and Major Harnett’s military superior are two fun supporting characters.
The Storyline. (Spoilers)
After the emerald is stolen, Newt goes to London for the season and her come-out. During the nights she goes to balls and parties, and during the day she dresses as her cousin (helped out by an illusion provided by her sorceress aunt). It’s when she’s dressed as a man that she meets Major Harnett. But he has an agenda too, because the emerald is extraordinarily powerful, and his superiors are afraid that it’ll be used…to free Napoleon from the rock in which he has been placed for all eternity.
It’s while the two work together to uncover the emerald stolen by a jealous, somewhat mad woman of the ton who also happens to be sorceress, that Newt’s disguise is uncovered, straining the relationship between the two even more. It doesn’t help that Newt is perfectly capable of rescuing herself and Harnett, a difficult pill for a man of action to swallow.
The good guys chase the sorceress to Bath where there’s a showdown. Newt comes into her own and discovers that her feelings for a certain impossible Major Harnett (who’s in disguise himself) might not be as contentious as either thinks.
The writing was fun and harkens back to an earlier age. In other words, it’s not modern English set in the 1800s (which happens quite a lot, actually). The book is also filled with some interesting nuggets like this one:
“One thing I did learn early on was not to put all my trust in magic. If it can be done without magic, it’s better done without magic.”
Maybe magic isn’t the answer?
The only complaint I have is that I’d like to know the hero and heroine on a deeper level. I felt that this book could have been a little longer in order to delve into some of the deeper emotions. Plus, the love story could have been emphasized a bit more. (So I guess that’s two complaints.) Other than that, it was very enjoyable. Sweet and fun and a nice escape from reality.