Garth Nix, Newt’s Emerald, Allen & Unwin, October 2015, 256pp., $18.99 (pbk), ISBN 9781760112653
When the Newington family emerald is stolen, eighteen-year-old Lady Truthful appeals to her aunt Lady Badgery to help her find it, determined to protect her three cousins from suspicion. To pursue the mystery Truthful has to pretend to be a man – this is Regency London, where young women must behave themselves or lose their reputation – and is assisted in her derring-do by a Major Hartnett, who is not quite what he seems. Of course, the emerald is discovered; of course, Major Hartnett is the perfect foil for Truthful; and of course, there is a happy ending.
Nix tells us in a note that he first wrote the first version of the book between 1990 and 1991, but this is entirely re-imagined. He quotes the queen of Regency romances, Georgette Heyer, and myths and legends as influences and both sources are highly discernible in Newt’s Emerald. There is magic mixed in, and enough revelations of trickery and deceit to keep the reader intrigued. It is all tongue-in-cheek, and Lady Truthful is an innocent abroad, with Hartnett a dashing Scarlet Pimpernel type. Nix is a clever writer in the plain style who builds character with assurance.
Reviewed by Stella Lees