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.The Jewel by Amy Ewing
Series: The Lone City #1
Published by HarperTeen on September 2nd, 2014
Genres: Dystopian, Fantasy, Young Adult
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.
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.
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 »Yeah, and how the growth part translated into controlling the baby’s personality traits? DIDN’T REALLY GET THAT. « Hide 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.
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 »She looks like his dead sister who rebelled against the surrogate system, but for serious, he picked her out as his first move to break the system just because of THAT? It was all just a bit too coincidental and obvious. « Hide 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.
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.
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 »Okay, HOW EXCITED AM I THAT GARNET IS HELPING LUCIEN?? SO EXCITED. Because throughout the whole book I was sitting there going, “This would be SO much more interesting if Garnet was the love interest.” So, in spite of how meh I feel about this book I may still pick up the sequel if I can expect some chemistry between Garnet and Violet, mmmmmmmhmm, though probably not because the romance in this one was so sappy and gross. But overall I’m just SO pissed that nothing at all is revealed or resolved, other than that the surrogates die after childbirth. That wasn’t really a mindblowing thing for me to suspect. And since I didn’t care about Ash at all, I don’t give two shits about his arrest or possible execution. Sorry not sorry. Ash can go die. « Hide 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!
Should’ve known to stay away.