ARC Book Review: The Jewel by Amy Ewing

Posted August 25, 2014 by Debby in Reviews / 21 Comments

I received this book for free from Book Expo America in exchange for an honest review. Thank you!! This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

ARC Book Review: The Jewel by Amy EwingThe Jewel by Amy Ewing
Series: The Lone City #1
Published by HarperTeen on September 2nd, 2014
Genres: Dystopian, Fantasy, Young Adult
Pages: 358
Format: ARC
Source: Book Expo America

The Jewel means wealth. The Jewel means beauty. The Jewel means royalty. But for girls like Violet, the Jewel means servitude. Not just any kind of servitude. Violet, born and raised in the Marsh, has been trained as a surrogate for the royalty—because in the Jewel the only thing more important than opulence is offspring.

Purchased at the surrogacy auction by the Duchess of the Lake and greeted with a slap to the face, Violet (now known only as #197) quickly learns of the brutal truths that lie beneath the Jewel’s glittering facade: the cruelty, backstabbing, and hidden violence that have become the royal way of life.

Violet must accept the ugly realities of her existence... and try to stay alive. But then a forbidden romance erupts between Violet and a handsome gentleman hired as a companion to the Duchess’s petulant niece. Though his presence makes life in the Jewel a bit brighter, the consequences of their illicit relationship will cost them both more than they bargained for.

2 Stars

The Jewel was one of those typical cases for me where I can scream, “THE COVER MADE ME DO IT!” Seriously, much shiny, very want. But I knew before I got into this that it most likely would not end up going very well for me – for one thing, the book is blurbed in comparison to The Selection, and we generally know about the quality of that series. In the end, though, The Jewel had both moments where it surprisingly impressed me and moments where it was worse than I expected.

First of all, I gotta hand it to the author, because for a debut, I thought the writing was pretty good. She has a great way of describing the splendid opulence of the world that she created, which made it very engaging to read. I was pretty impressed with the world building overall (given my low expectations), and I liked the concept of the tiered society, surrogates, royalty, and auguries. I felt most of it held up well, and I was tempted to look for places where I could poke holes in it, but I couldn’t really. Well, maybe aside from all the stupid character names. But though it stood up well as a whole, particularly after some reveals and crucial questions FINALLY being asked at the end of the book, it still felt a bit BIZARRE. Particularly the way that the royals treat their surrogates kind of gives me pause – and the fact that there’s been no revolution before now leaves me baffled. Of course, much of what goes on is kept secret… but still. I need some more answers.

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But okay, we follow the main character, Violet, as she is chosen to be the surrogate for the Duchess of the Lake. Not… much… happens. The book is basically one big world building set up – which I kind of appreciated. I mean, I like reading about elitist luxurious societies and such, and this world is truly extravagant. I appreciated seeing these royals and their scheming to each other – it’s the political bitchiness that I can appreciate and helps to add an element of mystery about what all their motives are. But I thought that this would all lead up to something. It’s clearly a dystopia – you know it right from the start – because these girls are forced to be surrogates, without any choice in the matter, and Violet frequently expresses her fear about it. There are enough parallels to The Hunger Games in how the girls are basically abducted, get one day to say goodbye to their families, and then are whisked off on a train to the luxurious “Jewel” district, where the royals live. After the auction, they are even paraded around with collars – while their families thought they’d live cushy lives, they’re actually more like slaves for baby-making. *shudders* I don’t even want to think about how horrifying that actually is to me.

So Violet ends up in this lush palace and the Duchess and her doctor start prepping her to spawn the greatest baby in the world – quite literally, they’re hoping it’ll someday marry into the supreme royal family. And that’s where it all gets a bit cliché – because Violet starts looking like a little Mary Sue. She’s extremely gifted in auguries – basically magical powers. The surrogates have something special in their DNA, basically, that gives them these powers which is why they’re selected to be surrogates (yeah, this is where the world building didn’t really hold up, but I wrote it off as a fantasy). These powers let them change the color, shape, and growth of different objects. View Spoiler » Obviously, Violet is amazingly good at this. Her personality, on the other hand, is rather nondescript. She has some moments where she flares up and seems to show some fierceness, but mostly she’s living in fear. But people keep seeing something in her that makes her extremely special for some reason.

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Point one being Lucien – or, Cinna Mark II. Lucien first meets Violet when he preps her for the auction – by, you guessed it, making her all pretty. He’s immediately taken with her – for a reason that later becomes apparent as being appearance alone. Whereas Cinna had seen Katniss’s bravery and bold defiance before meeting her, Lucien had nothing to do with Violet beforehand, so I found it very irksome how he suddenly decided that he wanted to help her, save her, be her friend – you name it. There was no real build up for this, I mean, he’d been prepping girls for years for this but Violet is just oh-so-special. View Spoiler »

Point two being… the romance. *headdesk* You know, I’d heard this book had some pretty bad instalove, but I was cruising along, reading about the world building for half the book, and I was pretty much enjoying it. And I thought, romance, what romance? I haven’t even really seen a legit love interest. But then in strolled Ash.

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After one conversation with Violet about music, they were in love. Seriously, okay, I’ll take you through it: they talk about a shared love of music, then he discovers who she is and that basically he shouldn’t even be speaking to her ever. They both stare because they’re both just so pretty. Then he hears her play her cello one day, and he pretty much kisses her out of the blue because he just couldn’t stay away. She then gets jealous because he kisses Carnelian (which he is basically hired to do, as a Companion), and he runs after her and they talk for two seconds before making out again. On their next encounter, he’s saying that his life was broken until he met her, he’s never met anyone like her, he’d risk his life to be with her, and the “I love you”s aren’t far off either. It’s your textbook case of instalove, that’s it. There’s no real chemistry, they don’t even really talk or get to know one another before they “know” they’re in love, and both their personalities are nothing special. I unship this ship something fierce. It can go to hell.

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Seriously, pass me a bucket.

So though the romance definitely took over in the second half of the book and dominated the plot, I kept reading anyway because I was intrigued by this world and Violet’s desire to escape. It was pretty classic dystopia, nothing really special about it, but it read really fluidly and did somehow keep me entertained. Though I might also write that off to the fact that I read it in almost one sitting. But I kept turning pages and noticing how little room we had left for a resolution… and basically all of my fears were confirmed.

The ending is majorly aggravating for the fact that, looking back, nothing really happened in this book at all – and it was all just one big set up for a series. If you hate cliffhanger endings, don’t even think about getting into this before the second book in the series is out. But I had other very excited and violent feelings about it, which calls for a spoiler tag. View Spoiler »

Summing Up:

It’s a mixed bag for me, because The Jewel both exceeded and failed my expectations. I was pleasantly surprised by the writing and world building, but the romance was more insufferable than I could have expected. I didn’t even really care about any of the characters – except for a mild liking for Garnet and Annabelle. I did think the fear and politics made it intriguing enough to stand up as a dystopia, and that did keep me reading but… the ending was a cop out and a cheap set up for a series. Will I read the next one? There is a slight possibility – but I think I’ll wait for the reviews first, like I should have done with this one.

GIF it to me straight!

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Should’ve known to stay away.

Recommended To:

You know, fans of The Selection would quite possibly like this still.

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21 responses to “ARC Book Review: The Jewel by Amy Ewing

    • If anything, I’d say get this book from the library or borrow it from a friend. It’s not the worst, but yeah… if I’d spent money on it, I would be pretty angry I think.

  1. Hahha, I love your use of gifs in your posts. It’s great! (:

    Anyway, I’ve had my eye on this book. I’ve read some pretty meh reviews, so I don’t know why it’s still so high on my TBR, but I want to read this book. so. damn. bad. Considering all the reviews though, maybe I’ll just check it out at my library. From your review, I’ve gathered that there’s instalove (ugh), bland characters (double ugh), and a rip-off of Cinna (unacceptable). And then the ending was aggravating? That’s not okay, either, in my opinion. Endings are a big deal to me, so when they’re not on point, the book is sort of “less” to me, if you get what I mean.

    Either way, great review!

    I saw Dylan O’Brien on the red carpet tonight on the AMAs, and he didn’t look so hot. In the movie though…he looks amazing xD Honestly, I read this book so long ago, and I wonder if I’ll even like the movie. So many read said that they didn’t enjoy The Maze Runner, so I don’t even know anymore. I don’t want to taint my opinion on the book by rereading it.

    I hope the movie is great! I want to go with my best friend 🙂 Thanks for the giveaway!

    Tori @ Bookish Affairs

    • Kimberly

      So even though I saw you didn’t mean to post the Dylan O’Brien stuff, I had to comment. Dude looks terrible right now. The scruff is not doing him any favors and someone needs to teach that boy how to properly deploy hair gel. But he’s looking amazing on Teen Wolf this season, which makes me believe that if he shaved and learned some hair gel technique, we’d be back in business!

      I read The Maze Runner a few years ago and actually really liked it. But I rarely read dystopias (I haven’t even read The Hunger Games, if that helps define rarely) so I’m not as over saturated as others. I also listened to the audio, which was great. The reader was amazing and the pacing was spot on. Maybe that makes a difference?

      Sorry to force myself into your comment thread! But I just can’t resist a Dylan O’Brien discussion.

      • Oh yeah, I know right. He doesn’t look good at all. He looked so drunk/high on the red carpet with the shades. He needs to shave that lil sucker off his face too, because it makes him look like he hasn’t slept in days or something. I actually don’t actively watch Teen Wolf, but my friend made me watch the episode before the VMAs, and he looked great, so I honestly don’t know what he’s let happen to himself. On the other hand, Tyler looks like a cutie, hahaha.

        Yeah, I think if I found it on my Kindle for cheap I’d probably purchase it and reread it, but as of now, I don’t think I’ll be doing that.

        I laughed so hard when you responded to this xD Discussion about Dylan O’Brien is always open!
        Tori recently posted Book Review: Charm & Strange by Stephanie KeuhnMy Profile

    • Yeah, I would definitely say get this book from the library – it’s totally not worth spending your money on. =/ I feel guilty saying that, but hey. I’m honest.

  2. So, funny story. On my last comment up there? I mean to paste the Tori @ Bookish Affairs thing. Not the Dylan O’Brien stuff and giveaway. I’m so sorry! I don’t mean to spam your comments, and I didn’t mean to copy and paste all of that. I don’t know how to edit the comment though, so… Feel free to delete both xD I’m so sorry!
    Tori recently posted Discussion: Rating Based on GenreMy Profile

    • Heh, no worries. Just do remember that with WordPress comments and commentluv I’ll always see a link back to your blog, so you don’t need to copy and paste that stuff 😉

  3. I’ve read so many cautionary tales ( 😉 geddit? ok…I’m just going to slink away now LOL) about this book and it’s not looking like a hit. But that cover! I just can’t stop looking at it O_O I’m falling for the whole pretty cover thing, aren’t I. But the news of insta love has already repelled me away…
    Jess @myreadingdress recently posted The Pre-bed RoutineMy Profile

    • There should be some law that the pretty covers can only go to the good books, hahaha, but sadly. *sigh* Those marketing folks at Harper are doing a great job, that’s all I can say.

  4. Kimberly

    I’m so tired of instalove in YA fiction. Why do so many YA authors rely on it so heavily? Are they just incapable of writing a slow build romance? Do they think teenagers only care about instalove? Or, even worse, do they actually believe instalove is acceptable? It’s so frustrating!

    Thanks for your review! I don’t really read many dystopian novels (I prefer realistic fiction and fantasy), but find myself recommending them all the time at the library. Reviews help me get a feel for which ones to recommend for which books. Clearly, this will not be a good pick for the kid who loves loves loves The Hunger Games…

    • Right? It makes me wonder, every single time, if there’s actually a reader out there who buys into this. And which reader is that? How? I can’t even.

      You’re welcome! You’re right, a fan of THG would not really appreciate this book. Fans of The Selection probably would. And I’ve heard it’s also a bit like The Handmaid’s Tale in its concept, so fans of that *might* like this.

  5. Completely agree with your entire review! I definitely found parts of The Jewel surprising in a good way, as you did, but then there were just some things that made me shake my head. Violet definitely had some Mary-Sue tendencies. I rolled my eyes in some parts because I was thinking “of COURSE she’s the best at this. And OF COURSE she has these stunning violet eyes.” But I could have handled all that and liked the book if not for the love interest. You’re right, this is a textbook case of insta-love. At first, I tried to be generous in my thoughts towards it because I get that Violet would latch onto someone who showed her genuine kindness without being forced to and I could see how she would get fixated on him. . .but it was just too much, especially when both characters were acting head-over-heels in love. I think I could have handled it if it hadn’t been reciprocated? That would have made sense for the character, I felt like, but once the instalove was *firmly* there and I couldn’t rationalize it away, I just grew very wary of the book.
    Stormy recently posted A Brief HiatusMy Profile

    • The violet eyes alone are like THE telltale sign of a Mary Sue. It was definitely ridiculous. And I so agree, without Ash, this book would have been infinitely better. I tried to rationalize her attachment to him, but with HIS behavior in the mix I really couldn’t. Garnet would be SO MUCH BETTER as a love interest… *sigh* I almost want a love triangle. What even is this.

  6. We already talked about this during the book club, but I wanted to let you know that your choice of gifs is flawless 🙂 That darn cliff-hanger with potential that makes me curious about the sequel.. and I know I probably going to hate it, but I still want it.
    Mel@thedailyprophecy recently posted Monthly recap. August.My Profile

    • Hahaha, thank you. When in doubt, New Girl gifs are ALWAYS applicable. I dunno about the sequel. A year from now I might not care at all, so… yeah. We’ll see.

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