Title: The Jewel
Author: Amy Ewing
Published: Month Day, Year
Series: The Lone City #1
Genre: High Fantasy, Dystopian
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.
I’ve seen a lot of reviewers comparing The Jewel to The Selection, but I have to say that I found it to be completely different (aside from the girls in gorgeous dresses on the covers). Born to a poor family in the Marsh, Violet is special. Born with special abilities that make her an ideal surrogate for the royal families that live in the Jewel, Violet has spent her adolescence living in a group home for other future surrogates like herself. In an event called “The Auction,” Violet is purchased by the Duchess of the Lake and brought into the Jewel.
Upon arriving to the Jewel, Violet’s entire existence is incredibly contradictory. On the one hand, Violet is essentially a slave to the Duchess, required to obey at all times and sacrifice her body to bear a royal child. Now known only as “the surrogate” or “#197,” Violet isn’t even allowed to tell anyone her name (presumably because it would give others an identity for which they could sympathize).
But all hope is not lost for Violet, because while she is in the Jewel she meets someone who can help get her back to freedom–maybe even safety. The only catch is that Violet can’t seem to stop breaking the rules, especially after she falls in love.
I found The Jewel to be quite enjoyable. It was a very unique concept, and the world-building was pretty stinkin’ good. I love when authors get into the history of their world–it makes it more real to me when an author explains just why the government is so bad or how that obscene policy came to be. Crazy, dystopian governments don’t just happen without a reason, even in a high fantasy (human nature is to fight what we deem to be unfair), so some explaining has to happen for crazy situations like the Auction. I thought Ewing did a pretty thorough job explaining how the Auction came to be.
Violet was a wonderful female MC; she was full of spunk and had disdain for anyone who tried to tell her she was worth less than she believed she was. She made her own rules, regardless of the system, and she refused to let anyone break her.
One aspect that I found to be cliche to the point of being dull was the romance between Violet and Ash. Although I enjoyed their dynamic, I didn’t like the way their relationship developed; it seemed very forced and juvenile (granted she is a teenager and experienced with boys, so maybe this is normal). However, as he is experienced with women–enslaved or not–he shouldn’t be so hurt by some of her actions. I would expect better behavior and more maturity in the relationship from him than he shows.
I also thought it was a little bit odd that the men in the Jewel seem to just let their wives control everything–the surrogates, the killing of surrogates, etc., and yet the Duchess refers to the Elector as the one with real power. It seemed a little contradictory because I didn’t really see the men as making any of the decisions.
I would give The Jewel a very strong 3.5 out of 5 stars, and I would recommend it to readers of high fantasy and dystopian fiction. I would definitely recommend it to a YA audience due to my qualms with the romance, but a teen reader may not have the same issues that I had.