The Jewel by Amy Ewing (The Lone City, #1). | My copy: Hardcover, 358 pages, HarperTeen, HarperCollinsPublishers, 2014. | Source: Library. | Add to your Goodreads TBR here!
The Jewel was a disappointment. I was at first excited to read it (well, I’m always excited to read everything, so that’s not news), but after hearing some negative reviews recently my expectations dropped a bit. However, I went into it with an open mind–maybe I’d really enjoy it. Maybe I’m just different from those other readers. Well, it turns out The Jewel, while not something I detested, was very mediocre, sad to say.
Violet lives in a world where royalty have surrogates. All girls are tested for signs of special powers, called Auguries, when they physically become women, and these Auguries are then used on the developing baby during pregnancy to enhance the child’s appearance, health, and personality. The city Violet lives in is divided into five different zones, with the Marsh–the poorest region–on the outskirts, and the Jewel–the place the royals reside–in the very center. Only those who live in the Marsh are born with Auguries, but it’s never explained why, nor is any hint of back story about these strange abilities ever brought up. The powers are interesting and, while seemingly basic, unique, and I wish there had been more information about why they appeared and why only certain people possess them.
Anyway, Violet is auctioned (!) off to the Duchess of the Lake. She is one of 200 girls (!) being sold (!) to become surrogates (!). Her new life is one of horror. She is not a person, she is an object, the Duchess’s property, her pet. All the surrogates are viewed like animals, like slaves. It was terrible reading about how Violet and the other girls were treated, being forced to keep silent, being walked around on leashes, being punished whenever they did something displeasing. I absolutely detested the people who “owned” them, and never had one ounce of sympathy for the Duchess when the author would make her occasionally open up and give vague hints about the troubles in her own past.
Much of The Jewel is about the political (and personal) tensions between the royal houses. There were way too many dinner parties that the house matriarchs attended, where they gossipped about so-and-so, spread rumors, lied, and revealed the murders that they had been behind. I’m normally one who likes political (fantasy) stories, but this wasn’t as much a political battle as it was just a gossip fest, and not even a full-fledged catfight. The banter wasn’t interesting and I didn’t care who was aligned with who since there seemed to really be nothing at stake except status (and having a prettier/smarter baby). Plus, I couldn’t keep all the houses straight, and I’m usually very good at keeping huge casts of characters organized in my head. I guess everyone just felt so two-dimensional that I had nothing to attach to anyone in particular. It was quite tedious.
But… the part that was the most ridiculous? Violet’s love interest (the description says “a forbidden romance”, so it’s pretty obvious there’s going to be a hot/perfect guy somewhere) doesn’t show up until more than halfway through. I literally did the math and found out he, Ash, doesn’t pop into the story until a few pages after the halfway mark. And as soon as Violet lays eyes on him, she’s in luuuuuuurve. Oh, he looks at her differently, oh, he sees her as a real person and not a “thing”, oh, he understands what it’s like to be completely denied any sort of freedom, oh, he has the same interests as her, oh, oh, oh! Bam. They’re madly in love. Cripes. If there’s anything I hate more than love triangles, it’s probably instalove.
Also, upon thinking about this extraordinary case of instalove (I mean, gosh, they barely know each other and yet they know they’re meant to be!), I realized that if Ash had never showed up (or any person of romantic interest to Violet), this book may have been a bit better. Then the story would have been solely Violet’s journey and her struggle to survive and try to escape the horribly twisted world she’s in. Or, if Ash had popped up much earlier, at least the two of them would have had more time to bond and build a real relationship (however forbidden it may be).
And speaking of forbidden, just that word tells you something bad’s going to happen at the end concerning them both. You know their forbidden relationship is going to be discovered. You just know it is. So (this honestly isn’t a spoiler because of the word FORBIDDEN) when they were found out, I wasn’t shocked at all. I was looking forward to it, actually. I was thinking, How’s it going to happen? How are they going to get caught? Let’s get to it! I will mention, though, that the very last page of the book was definitely a surprise. That was an interesting card to play, and I’ll admit my attention was grabbed for real that (possibly… first?) time. The sequel could have a lot of character development in it for a particular person or two, and will hopefully have a change in scenery–I just couldn’t stand the Jewel because of how horribly the surrogates were treated there. Those royals were absolutely cruel, vicious, and despicable.
I liked a few of the supporting characters. Raven, Violet’s best friend and another surrogate, changed so drastically over the course of the book that I’m honestly very worried and sense that something dreadful is going to happen to her. Dahlia, ranked the most powerful surrogate of the batch of 200 girls in terms of Auguries, was very interesting because of the fact she had such strong abilities. I wish she’d been in the story more–she was also really nice! And then there was Lucien, a very mysterious character–who sadly lost a lot of his appeal by the end.
The Jewel wasn’t absolutely terrible, but it was dragged-out and drab. The case of instalove seriously annoyed me, and I didn’t like the lack of world building and vagueness about the magic’s back story and how it worked. I guess other readers were right when they gave it negative reviews… Well, I’ve experienced it myself. I’ve formed my own opinion. And that’s that. ♦