Young Adult Book Review: The Jewel by Amy Ewing
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 by Amy Ewing
Series: The Lone City #1
Published by HarperTeen
Release Date: September 2nd, 2014
Genre: Young Adult Fiction, Dystopian/Fantasy
Rating: 4 Stars
The Jewel is the first book in Amy Ewing's new series The Lone City that sucks readers into a dystopian world where magic is both a curse and a blessing. The story follows young Violet as she is taken from her family to be trained as a surrogate to one of the royal houses that make up the heart of The Lone City, known as the Jewel. Here, she will be showered with wealth and riches, but the price she will pay is high as Violet must learn how to outmaneuver deadly intrigue and cruelty among Jewel's ladies of nobility. Can Violet escape the Gilded Cadge she has been thrust into? Or will she hall victim to the Jewel's deadly machinations. Magic, forbidden romance, and murder surround Violet in this page-turner.
What I liked:
Violet, the heroine of the story, is born to the poorest caste of The Lone City known as the Marsh. A strange mutation in the girls from the Marsh makes them invaluable to the aristocratic. They are able to bear the royal children as surrogates and bring the births to term, unlike the royal ladies who somehow have lost this ability to carry their own children.
Violet is trained at a young age to become a surrogate and the readers can easily see the strength and resilience she has as she endures being taken forcibly from her family to the harsh testing of magic where she learns to control the auguries (a form of magic) to the moments of conflicting life as a surrogate which alternates between beauty and danger. With no family, but the bond and friendship of the other surrogate girls, Violet bravely learns to navigate smartly the challenges presented as a member of the Jewel and possibility of being forced to bear a child for her owner. At once submissive and strong, Violet fascinated me through the entire story. I kept wondering what she would do next. It was her little secret rebelliousness that kept me guessing.
A villainess that you love to hate. The Jewel truly has a villainess that you can sink your teeth into and hate. The Duchess of the Lake brings new meaning to cruelty and strangeness. Her complex nature unfolds before the reader as her interactions with Violet go from cruel one moment to moments of almost kindness (bribery) the next. You can't help but have strong, angry feelings towards the duchess and like all good villains, there's a crack in her veneer, an underside layer that makes us hate her, yet we see something beneath, a hint of what made her this way. Which is sad in itself.
Filled with tension, backstabbing court intrigue and cruelty The Jewel read like an addicting page-turner. One thing is sure, Amy Ewing knows how to elicit strong feelings from her readers. From the moment Violet steps onto the train to be auctioned off to the highest bigger for surrogacy to the last page, I could not put this book down. The tension kept building as Violet was alternately pampered then treated with cruelty. The lavish lifestyle and beauty of the Jewel are deceptive. The aristocrat's ladies are mean and vindictive, and watching how they treated their surrogates like pampered pets one moment then abused them physically and emotional the next was shocking. Just when I thought they could be no crueler, a new horror was introduced to Violet. The Doctor Visits.
Magic. The auguries. The big surprise for me in this book was the fact that there's a really interesting form of magic known as the auguries that many girls of the Marsh are born with the ability to manipulate. These gifts are trained in order to help the surrogates bring forth healthy babies for the royal families. But, there's much more to the plot than using magic to help birth healthy babies. Violet is exceptional in the use of them, and therefore invaluable. I was fascinated as Violet learns to harness these powers. I suspect some major possibilities beyond what the reader glimpses in The Jewel (I hope) in just what she is really capable of.
What I did not care for:
The romance. I'm sad to say that I just did not feel the romance as much as I wanted to in The Jewel. Violet does not meet the character until over halfway through the story, so there's not much time to feel any build-up in my opinion and it all feels very fast and instant. Given the circumstances, I can understand the attraction, but it did not evoke any deep swooning on my part. In fact, I had hopes for another young gentleman which did not come to play yet ...
What I would have liked more of:
The world-building has some really interesting concepts with a circular, sectioned and walled city that is surrounded by water that looms threateningly in the backdrop. How each section is formed and the social castes that live there is briefly touched on, but I would have loved to know more about both and the Jewels history.
My ending thoughts of The Jewel:
This book is much more than just pretty dresses and is actually very thought-provoking and filled with tons of tension. With a major cliffhanger and a surprise twist, I'm eager to discover what Ewing has in store for us next. The magic, the boys, that damn evil duchess (I will not feel sorry for you) and Violet's growing abilities all make for a fast and very entertaining read.