Magic! Romance! Intrigue! Mistaken identities! Swashbuckling adventures at sea! And much, much more in this short but delightful novel. When an evil magician steals the titular emerald (a priceless heirloom and powerful magical item) Lady Truthful Newington vows that she’ll get it back. However she quickly realizes that a young lady can’t run around London chasing jewel thieves, so she disguises herself as a man. Garth Nix says in the author notes at the end that he is a fan of Jane Austen, Georgette Heyer and Patrick O’Brien — and it shows. He’s having fun telling this story, and the result is an entertaining romp through Regency England.
I liked pretty much anything about this book, starting with the characters. Truthful is a sympathetic heroine, and while she was sometimes contrary and stubborn, she always was a lady of her time; Garth Nix didn’t fall in the trap of giving her modern sensibilities. I liked her interactions with her three cousins, and I particularly liked the elderly, fez-wearing, sword-cane-wielding great-aunt. The love interest started off by bickering with Truthful before clearing up all the misunderstandings, but the banter was enjoyable and the romance never overpowered the plot about the emerald. I was worried when he showed up that he’d take over all the adventuring and sleuthing, but Truthful was more than able to hold her own and the love interest wasn’t above admitting that Truthful saved his life more than once. Trust Garth Nix to write kickass female characters.
I was a bit annoyed at the fact that the quarrel between the love interest and Truthful went on for so long, when he could have cleared all misunderstandings with a few words, but that didn’t detract much from the story and I always like to read about matchmaking dowagers scheming in the background when the stupid young people are too busy pining to do anything productive. The one thing that did bother me was the several typos scattered in the book, it could have done with another round of editing. But, overall, a great short story and a must read for fans of the genre!