Goodreads: Newt’s Emerald
Published: October 13, 2105
On her eighteenth birthday, Lady Truthful, nicknamed “Newt,” will inherit her family’s treasure: the Newington Emerald. A dazzling heart-shaped gem, the Emerald also bestows its wearer with magical powers.
When the Emerald disappears one stormy night, Newt sets off to recover it. Her plan entails dressing up as a man, mustache included, as no well-bred young lady should be seen out and about on her own. While in disguise, Newt encounters the handsome but shrewd Major Harnett, who volunteers to help find the missing Emerald under the assumption that she is a man. Once she and her unsuspecting ally are caught up in a dangerous adventure that includes an evil sorceress, Newt realizes that something else is afoot: the beating of her heart.
I took a break from Garth Nix after the disappointment of A Confusion of Princes and was tempted to pass on Newt’s Emerald after seeing lukewarm reviews. However, it’s hard for me to say no to a magical Regency romance, and Nix did blow me away with the Abhorsen trilogy, so when I saw this one sitting on the “New” shelf at the library, I gave it a chance. My verdict: A solid story I would have liked a lot more as a teen, before I’d read a lot of books similar to this one. However, the stories I’ve read are in many cases backlist titles at this point that teens are no longer reading, so Newt’s Emerald would probably do well with the target audience, if not with adult YA readers who sometimes feel as if they’ve already seen it all.
The romance is billed as one of the main points of the story, and, technically speaking, Nix tries to make it so. However, the characters fall in love quickly even for a standalone where I tend to be more forgiving of near-instalove, and I never really felt chemistry between the characters. They’re both nice enough and have similar interests and even compatible social standings, so all the best to them, but I just wasn’t personally invested in their story. Add the fact there’s some “drama” readers are alerted to since almost the opening of the story and know isn’t really a problem at all, and things are really getting forced.
The plot line about the magical missing jewel is similarly “okay.” The characters get into some minor escapades trying to track down the artifact, with protagonist Newt humorously disguised as a Frenchman. This is the Regency era, after all, and proper women don’t gallivant across London trying to solve magical mysteries! Again, this is something I would have been a lot more entertained by earlier in my life, when “girl dressed as boy” was less of a trope, but I think it will work for some readers.
The side characters are mildly interesting, but I didn’t feel as if anyone was fully developed. Newt’s cousins are somewhat interesting, as is her aunt, but the villains are singularly disappointing. Beyond being generically power-hungry and determined to take revenge for something that happened a long time ago, I can’t really say what their motivations were. I skimmed the climatic scene.
Overall, not a bad book, just one I think needs to find the right audience.