Emerald St. John is in trouble. She has been condemned to marry a man she hates. Her enemies are conspiring to have her pet bear Molly torn apart in the baiting pits, and the man she loves is far away on the high seas. And she has stumbled into a web of spies with a plot to poison Queen Elizabeth I. To save herself and the kingdom, she must beat the spies at their own game - which means transforming herself from a country girl into a Court lady. Can she do it in time? Set against a detailed and vivid recreation of a great Elizabethan manor house, EMERALD will bring to life a world where the most sophisticated rules of etiquette went hand in with brutality and superstition.
You may not know this about me, but I love a good historical. It's for this reason that Emerald first drew me in. well that and the completely gorgeous cover, I mean I know girls in pretty dresses are all over YA book covers these days but I will honestly say this is on of the most beautiful covers I've ever seen and the dress and the background just screams HISTORICAL, which is why I've been coveting this book ever since.
This book did really impress me. I thought that the start was a bit slow and Wallace took a while to build up the setting and the characters before throwing us into the world of political intrigue, but after that I was totally absorbed. I like my historical to have lots of mystery, lots of deception and traitors and plots and scandal, it's the only genre where I love these things, so when it got into that I was totally drawn in. The story is deep and involved, with lots of scandals and double-crossing, but it isn't too complicated that you struggle to follow it, a common issue with historicals, in my opinion.
I also totally loved Karen Wallace's writing style, which doesn't seem as though she is trying too hard to sound historical but still doesn't sound too contemporary (does that make sense? Maybe?). I loved how she told the story through Emerald's eyes, giving us vivid descriptions and really setting this historical tone but also making Emerald's opinions relateable and enjoyable.
I did find a few small problems with this book. I struggled to connect with any characters apart from Emerald, which meant that I didn't really dislike the bad guys, or respect her brother, or empathise with her cousin, they were just... there. This is probably a result of Wallace putting so much into the story and not enough into the characters. I also did feel as though the relationship Emerald had with Sam happened very fast with little development, so I was never rooting for them.
Overall, Emerald was an exciting read full of political intrigue, plots and scandals. I loved the fantastic writing and the effortless setting. I would go as far as to call Karen Wallace the Phillipa Gregory of Young Adult fiction.
Overall Rating: B+
Stand alone/Series: Stand Alone
Release Date: 4th August 2011
Publisher: Simon and Schuster
Book received from publisher in exchange for an honest review.