Newt’s Emerald | Garth Nix

Kernel Morgan reviews the delightful book NEWT’S EMERALD from Garth Nix, one of my favourite Australian authors. Nix is the author of such masterpieces as Old Kingdom, Seventh Tower and Keys to the Kingdom series. NEWT’S EMERALD is what I would describe as an English ditty that is full of magic, wonder and fine language and is amazingly suited to the entire family. It is out now from the fab folks at Allen and Unwin, you will find this in most bookstores in the Young Adult section or you can obtain it from HERE. Enjoy Kernel Morgan’s review…..all the best…..JK.


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NEWT’S EMERALD is a children’s fantasy novel by prolific Australian author Garth Nix (SABRIEL, THE RAGWITCH, TROUBLE TWISTERS). This Regency romance follows eighteen-year-old Lady Truthful Newington on the search for a magical stolen jewel during the London social season. It departs from real history, but is based on a time period – from 1811 to 1820 – during the madness of King George.

Nix gives an amusing and revelatory Authors Note at the end of the book where he explains the genesis of the idea – a Regency romance manuscript that contains clues for a modern criminal thriller – and his discovery of a cache of Georgette Heyer books when he was thirteen. He also references owing a debt to the works of Jane Austen, and Patrick O’Brian’s Aubrey Maturin series.


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NEWT’S EMERALD is the kind of book I would have absolutely eaten up as a child. The comedy of manners. The adventure. The mystery. And the character names. Just splendid. Agatha, Reginald, Dworkin, Culpepper, Edmund Hetherington, Lady Ermitrude Badgery, Lord Otterbrook, Lady Portia Troutbridge, Major Harnett, Dr Embury, Mr Trellingsworth Parkins, Lady Amelia Plathenden, Sir Evelyn. It is all so very English. The archaic formal names really set off the imagination when picturing the period costumes and setting.

There are ruffians and thugs, a scarlet cluster of marines and a throng of armed seamen, boats and coaches, brooms of hyssop and rue, gloves and spider-gauze sleeves and cloaks. This is a jolly good rollicking romp through the English language, a great vocabulary builder for young readers. It feels sophisticated because of the level of detail, but it is not a difficult read.

There is a Glossary at the end to give readers some definitions of the more period-specific terms, such as flummery (a sweet pudding, but used in slang to mean empty, sugary talk), on-dit (a rumor or piece of gossip), and high grig (in good spirits), along with historical explanations about the Bow Street Runners, and the Napoleonic Hundred Days. These little additions make the book an educational experience as well as a ripper yarn.


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The idea of magic and fairies is introduced in the first few pages:

“’Mmmmf,’ muttered Agatha, who was holding several pins in her mouth. The pins were old and hints of bronze were showing through worn tin plating, which, to someone with an arcane education, would indicate Agatha could not touch iron, that there was fay blood in the older woman. Truthful had not had such an education. She had never noticed Agatha’s particular pins or how the maid would wrap her hand in her apron to turn a key, should it prove absolutely necessary. If she had, it might not have alarmed her. Even some of the higher nobility had fay blood from the distant past, and not all the old fairy folk were by nature inimical to humans.”

NEWT’S EMERALD has all the great bedtime story sensibilities of a classic Enid Blyton book, with the pacing of a modern kid’s movie like MALEFICENT or PIRATES OF THE CARIBBEAN and the mincing poodle stylings of PRIDE AND PREJUDICE or VANITY FAIR. It lends itself to being read aloud, either by a child, or from a parent to a child. At 232 pages long, the story is segmented into 22 chapters – all with delightful descriptive names like Lady Badgery’s Fez and Surprising Revelations From Curious Quarters – with most chapters running about 10 pages long. This will keep your family entertained for many evenings and is the perfect selection if you are trying to make reading fun for the little people in your house.


4 Pops


Kernel Morgan is an author of short fiction, an anthology editor, and a technical writer. Her books include SNIGGERLESS BOUNDULATIONS and SPROUTLINGS. She enjoys scowling at children and bursting bubbles. She can be tweeted at @queenboxi

** All images courtesy of various sources on Google or direct from the distributor/publisher – credit has been given to photographers where known – images will be removed on request.