Okay, so this ticks two of my major reading boxes – Regency romance with magic, and Garth Nix! I’ve been a fan since Sabriel, so this was a must-read for me, and it more than lived up to my expectations!
Book: Newt’s Emerald by Garth Nix
Read before: No
Ownership: Review copy sent free of charge by Hot Key Books. All opinions my own.
Ahh, this is just such a perfect book. Straightaway it’s obvious that it’s got that perfect, slightly tongue in cheek, Georgette Heyer-esque tone. Lady Truthful (Newt to her cousins), our main character, is a young lady more on the smart-and-sassy end of the Heyer heroine spectrum than the waifish-orphan-needing-rescue end. And, best of all, there’s magic right from the get-go – it’s Truthful’s eighteenth birthday, and time for her to inherit the family treasure, which is an emerald containing untold magical power. Which is brilliant. Until it goes missing.
Truthful’s reaction is to disguise herself as a young gentleman (French, of course, to cover any faux pas or accidental femininity!) and travel to London to find the gem. Hijinks ensue, obviously, and we meet some more wonderfully Heyer-y characters: Truthful’s great-aunt, Lady Badgery, is the perfect kind of raffish old dowager, who finds the whole disguise idea delightfully diverting; Major Charles Harnett is a stoic, attractive young man with his own secrets, who becomes entangled in the investigation and finds himself strangely drawn to the young Chevalier. They’re all brilliant – the kind of characters you expect from a Regency piece, certainly, but brought to life by Nix’s charm and talent for pithy dialogue and quirky description.
The addition of the magical and mystery elements keep you turning the pages, and it’s all just so much fun! The mystery is solved in a very satisfying and unexpected way, and the romance has a perfect balance between sweet and funny (and if you’re wondering, it’s all perfectly PG). I can’t think of anyone I wouldn’t recommend this to – it’s a perfect first introduction to the genre, but also a fantastic read if you’re an old hand in this period, as there’s plenty of little references to pick up. It left me beaming, and it’s definitely going to become a comfort read for me.
This is now one of my favourite Regency magic books, as well as possibly my favourite Garth Nix book (though I do have a real soft spot for Frogkisser!, and The Old Kingdom will always be formative). If you love Stephanie Burgis’s Snowspelled or A Most Improper Magick books, then you need to read this immediately! Five out of five stars.