Books, Reviews, YA Fiction

The Jewel, by Amy Ewing


3.25 Stars

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 greetedj 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. 

 I guess I should have severely disliked this book to a certain extent, but I truly don’t think it’s as terrible as everyone makes it out to be. It all depends on what kind of writing, world-building, or romance you prefer, and obviously certain elements can either make or break the book for you. Yeah, there are a number of flaws, but I personally found it quite entertaining and addicting.

The story takes place in the Lone City and The Jewel, which are separated into several sectors based on social class and occupation, respectively. The Lone City is categorized into areas such as The Marsh, The Farm, and The Smoke, which contain the common people (who are incidentally being treated like dirt by the wealthy in the Jewel) contrary to the Jewel, where the nobility and royalty reside in prosperity. For some unknown reason, all the nobility have lost the ability to reproduce and properly give birth, so they utilize “surrogates” to do it all for them, all the while treating them like newly acquired pets. Violet Lasting, our heroine, is from the Marsh, the poorest region of the Lone City where the “surrogate test” is required for every girl to take.

It’s pretty clear that Ewing has her concept and terminology figured out, and I actually thought the world building wasn’t bad. There’s even a separate page to explain the sectors and their allies, qualities, and occupations. I would still say that the background of the world, meaning how it came to be, needs a ton of work, as well as the added fantasy element. All surrogates have a special ability named augury, which is… well, I don’t know. What is explained in the book, is the fact that surrogates may use this power to create designated characteristics for their incoming babies. Besides little traces of magic and facts here and there, there are no explanations of the general background and idea of it, which is a shame. It’s not often that you see an added fantasy element to a dystopia, and this was clearly an opportunity wasted. It’s not very political either, reminiscent of The Selection series, but it has potential to develop more, which I hope to see in the next books. Some of the elements definitely try to be more serious and daunting (as if the “surrogate” idea isn’t daunting enough), but it comes off as a tad silly to me, probably due to the underdevelopment of the background in world building. The writing is certainly a bit amateurish, it’s choppy and tries too hard to be philosophical at times, but surprisingly addicting. I truly don’t know what kept me so entertained, but I’ll take it in stride. I always think to myself: A boring book is far worse than a bad book. You might not think the elements presented in the book are the most believable or accurate, but if it’s entertaining, it makes it a little less harder to bear.

The characters can be viewed as a different story — completely different from the dynamic, disturbing premise, bordering on one-dimensionality. Our main character, Violet Lasting is laughably easy to mark as a Mary Sue judging from the first few pages, but she’s not unlikable. Violet seems to be cast as a typical YA heroine in a dystopian novel, there is not much to her besides the “perfect-like” attributes assigned to her character and the ordinary actions she takes to move along the plot. Hopefully the challenging elements of the next book push her to develop a personality. The other characters are honestly not that memorable, sometimes there are many characters that are unnecessarily assigned characteristics by Violet, it’s hard to keep track. I will say that the Violet’s owner, the Duchess of The Lake, seems interesting, she would be one of the few characters I’m looking forward to in the next book.

I’ll be truthful, the romance gave me cancer. It’s one of the worst cases of instalove ever to exist in YA, and it is SO BLATANT. Violet and her love interest, Ash, have barely had a full conversation before they start lusting after each other to an irritating extent. In fact, Violet hardly glances at him before concocting fantasies of them sucking face. After two days of barely any interaction, they actually do suck face. From there on out, they are incredibly in love and Ewing even tries to use this “romance” as a plot device toward the end, to motivate Violet’s actions obviously.

Whether you like The Jewel or not depends on what you find entertaining and what you don’t. I, honestly, will read anything as long as it doesn’t bore me to death, and thankfully The Jewel isn’t as bad as everyone’s making it out to be (at least that’s my opinion). Even if you don’t like it, that CRAZY cliffhanger is going to have you curious anyway.