Review: The Jewel by Amy Ewing
Release date: September 2nd, 2014
Series: Yes, #1 in the The Lone City series
Source: eARC via Edelweiss/ARC from BEA
Length: 358 pages
Rating: I quite liked it, despite some flaws... until the instalove rained all over this shiny parade.
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 just can't resist the lure of a shiny, pretty cover. The Jewel has been accurately described as a mix of familiar dystopian tales (though The Jewel is, to my eye, NOT classic science fiction dystopian. I'd classify this as a fantasy with dystopian elements.). I'd break it down as The Selection with a splash of The Hunger Games and heavy helpings of The Handmaid's Tale. As you may or may not know, I have a... um... complicated relationship with The Selection. So what does that mean for The Jewel?
What it mean is that I was REALLY, REALLY looking forward to this book, since the issues I had with The Selection were basically all in the execution. I adore the concept, and couldn't wait to read about an opulent royal world full of cruelty and beauty and romance and pretty dresses. I am a SUCKER for the pretty dresses.
The book gets off to a bit of a shaky start, with far too many THG parallels (Lucien is completely one hundred percent Cinna), too little Violet personality (that never really changes), and an inordinate number of instances in which people are described with food (almond eyes, caramel skin, etc). But once Violet actually in installed in the Duchess of the Lake's household, and has to deal with all her Duchessery and the scheming of the royals, things pick up. I actually sort of enjoyed myself for a while there. This book is most certainly fantasy fluff, and while things weren't perfect, they also weren't terrible. I enjoyed this twisted world that is so beautiful on the surface and hideous, devious, and corrupt underneath.
Violet is mostly a blank scrabble tile of a protagonist and embodies one of my issues with a certain type of non-plot: a lack of agency. I know the cornerstone of this book is that Violet has all her choices taken away and is a prisoner and a forced incubator, but within that, she needs to make some choices because choices = plot. And towards the end, poor little Violet tries (and makes THE DUMBEST CHOICES EVER OHMIGOD GIRL THEY WILL KILL YOU AND YOU WILL DESERVE IT). It's not that compelling to read about a girl who is shunted here and there and has terrible things happen to her.
But anyway. Fantasy fluff. Forget about the fact that Violet doesn't do too much, that she is prodigiously talented at music and HAS VIOLET EYES (of course) (I have a theeeeory about what this means), and this becomes a rather enjoyable read. The plotty shenanigans, the pretty dresses, the funness of the albeit a bit silly worldbuilding. For instance, everybody in the Jewel is named after A JEWEL. Beryl, Alexandrite, Sapphie, Carnelian, etc. Basically, I was super enjoying myself.
And then... the instalove.
OH, THE INSTALOVE. This romance was so astonishingly terrible that it's hard for me to impress upon you what a disservice it does to this book. This book I was actually quite enjoying. If I could carve this forced, limp, silly instalove right out of the book, I would.
So we meet supernaturally gorgeous "companion" (aka escort, because Evil Royals Iz Taking Away Choices) Ash Lockwood, who was clearly developed in some YA love interest factory because how else does one acquire such a name. They gawp at each other for a bit, and then they're in love. Boom. Third conversation ever (all quotes are taken from an advance, uncorrected proof):
"When I woke up this morning, it was like I could breathe again. Like some weight has been lifted and I felt like myself for the first time in years."
"I look at you and I feel human again. I look at you and I feel whole. You don't know me that well, Violet, [OF COURSE YOU DON'T YOU MET EACH OTHER LIKE THREE DAYS AGO] but trust me when I say I was broken before I met you. I can't go back to that."
This is what it feels like to belong with someone.
|Blair Waldorf has no time for yo shit.|
This book ends a bit suddenly, without much explanation, and is clearly mostly set up for whatever is coming down the line, including what I hope is a Love Triangle, since Bachelor Number Two has an actual personality. Seriously, I am Team Love Triangle. Anything to get the horrid, drippy, useless Ash out of this book. Unfortunately, the possible future love interest is named Garnet, but beggars can't be choosers.
Because gods help me, I want to read the second book. Who knows? Maybe Ash will DIE! That would be fun.