Monday, August 11, 2014

Review: The Jewel by Amy Ewing


Review: The Jewel by Amy Ewing
Goodreads
Release date: September 2nd, 2014
Publisher: HarperTeen
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.

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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.

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Shiiiiiiiiiny
Violet is a poor girl from the Marsh (aka the poorest area of the city) (the Jewel is the rich part) (this city is full of really dumb names) with the ability to perform magic. These girls (poor girls with magic skillz) spend their teen year in these boarding school-esque places, training their magic skillz until they are reading to be sold at auction to royal ladies (all with very dumb names as well) so have their babies. So Violet it sold to the Duchess of the Lake, a crazy ass woman who is by far the most compelling character, who basically controls every aspect of Violet's now very limited but very lavish life.

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.

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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."

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"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."

http://tvrecappersanonymous.files.wordpress.com/2011/03/blair-huh-face.jpg

This is what it feels like to belong with someone. 

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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.

13 comments:

  1. I am so rooting for Ash's demise! I felt that the insta-love was the very worst in this book but like you I was enjoying it before that! And a little during and after. I wish either the love part hadn't been there but better yet developed. I was rolling my eyes at their interactions. And yes, Violet's choices (when she FINALLY makes some) are so bad. Sigh. But, I'll be reading the next one too.

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  2. Ahhhh...we are so on the same page with this one! I have my review scheduled for next week, but you'll see that we make some of the same observations. The insta-love totally killed it for me. I mean, I was enjoying the book for what it was and then...UGH!!

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  3. I really want to read this, it all sounds so delightfully awful/awesome (awfulsome? awesomful?) Idk. Fun and fancy shenanigans, silly names, addictive crack fluff. I wants it.

    (Maggie Smith AND Blaire Waldorf? Truly, the gifing gods have smiled down on us. Thank you)

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  4. hahaha You write the best reviews. I have been hearing that a LOT of people are not a fan of the romance in this, it just sounds cringe worthy. I honestly can't decide if I am going to read it. Making choices are so hard.

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  5. I snorted at "HE DUMBEST CHOICES EVER OHMIGOD GIRL THEY WILL KILL YOU AND YOU WILL DESERVE IT". I think I'll be skipping this one which is a bummer because I am also a huge sucker for a pretty dress.

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  6. I actually liked this one and unlike a lot of people, I LIKED Ash *gasp* I felt like Violet clung to Ash because sneaking around to meet him and kissing him was a choice she made all on her own. Her right to make her own choices had been stripped away from her when she first learned that she was to be a surrogate. She did make some questionable choices, that I'll agree with. I DID also like Garnet, I felt like he has a lot of backstory that I cannot wait to watch unfold in book two.

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  7. Hahaha epic ness in review form! I still want to read this even if purely for entertainment purposes.

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  8. This review is PERFECT. Seriously just...EXACTLY how I felt about this book.

    I was really liking it until the insta-love happening and then it became like the worst book in the history of ever. The insta-love is so bad that I'm honestly having a hard time believing that anybody actually let her publish that shit. Like....it's just SO BAD. I can't.

    I'm just hoping that the next book the the series takes a turn for the better! This had such great potential to be a better The Selection...ugh, such a disappointment.

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  9. HAH :D Amazing review Gillian. <3 Thank you so much for sharing. Now I want to read this book even less.. hah. I have it via Edelweiss, but I'm considering not reading it at all. Not ever. The instalove sounds AWFUL. Love the teasers, hah, they would have been awesome, though, if they had known each other for more than THREE DAYS. Damn it. Sigh. I'm glad you liked other parts of the book, though. <3

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  10. "THE DUMBEST CHOICES EVER OHMIGOD GIRL THEY WILL KILL YOU AND YOU WILL DESERVE IT"

    I just guffawed BECAUSE THIS IS A FEELING I KNOW! Oh man, that turning point where you actively wish for the protag's painful death... So so SO so glad I listened to my gut and avoided this book.

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  11. hahahaha - "maybe Ash will DIE". I have this to read and am totally like you - in love with the gorgeous dress on the cover. i will see what I think but that instalove sounds pukeworthy....

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  12. You know, I am very curious about this novel. It sounds like The Selection 2.0, but without all of the hate and stupidity.

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  13. A friend loaned me an ARC of this and I had so many problems with it, I think it started strong-ish, because you do wanna know what they heck is going to happen in the jewel, but then Violet turned out to be very boring and then the thing with the insta-love, the only thing I kind of liked was the reveal at the end but I'm not sure I would read the second part.

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