Book Review | Newt’s Emerald by Garth Nix

Newt’s Emerald by Garth Nix

Published by Katherine Tegan Books on October 13, 2015

Genres: Young Adult, Fantasy, Historical Fiction

Format: ARC

Pages: 304

Source: Book Expo America


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.

In Newt’s Emerald, the bestselling author of Sabriel, Garth Nix, takes a waggish approach to the forever popular Regency romance and presents a charmed world where everyone has something to hide.


I received an ARC of Newt’s Emerald while attending Book Expo America in 2015, and was excited to read a book by well-known fantasy author Garth Nix for the first time. Newt’s Emerald is a magical fantasy story that takes place in London during the Regency era. The book follows Lady Truthful as she turns 18-years-old. Her father shows her the emerald she will inherit during her birthday dinner, when suddenly a big storm occurs and the emerald is stolen. Truthful travels to London to visit her aunt, and to help find the emerald.

I thought the idea for Newt’s Emerald was a lot of fun, but unfortunately the book fell a bit flat for me. My first issue is with the writing style. Nix does an excellent job of writing in the British English of the time period, but it was difficult to adapt because there was a lot of vocabulary I didn’t know. While there is a glossary in the back of the book, many of the words I looked up weren’t listed there. Similarly, Nix assumes that the reader is already familiar with the magic system in the book. Perhaps if you read a lot of books in this genre you would be, but I would have liked a lot more world-building. This is especially true for a young adult novel, in which many of the readers might not be familiar with this particular magic system.

Moreover, I also found that the book’s short length held back the story. The characters were underdeveloped, as was the romance. A longer book would have also helped to build suspense. This is especially true at the end of the novel. I won’t spoil the story for you, but I will say that I was very disappointed with the ending. The book built up to a climax that happens in the last couple of pages. Then, the book is suddenly over. This sudden ending really detracted from my enjoyment of the story. This could have been solved with a longer book, or even an epilogue.

That being said, there were still some things I liked about Newt’s Emerald in addition to the plot idea. First, I loved the character of Truthful’s aunt, Lady Badgery. Ever since becoming an aunt, I’ve loved aunts in literature. Lady Badgery is sassy and smart, but also quite loving. She really takes Truthful under her wing, and I loved seeing how their relationship played a role in the book. In addition, I loved the glamorous setting of Newt’s Emerald. Not only was glamour a part of the magic system, but I really liked all of the balls Truthful attended, as well as the careful attention to fashion. I don’t believe I’ve ever read a book in the Regency era before, and this definitely piqued my interest.

All in all, I was quite disappointed with Newt’s Emerald because it was underdeveloped and slow-going. It reads more like middle grade than young adult, so I would recommend it for younger readers. While I thought the story had a fun plot, it just wasn’t done well for my tastes. I am interested to hear your thoughts on Nix’s other books. I know his Abhorson series is well-loved, so I might give that a try in the future.


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