by Amy Ewing
Expected Publication Date: September 2, 2014
Length: 358 pages
Source: I received a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. This is no way influenced my final opinion of the work.
Format Read In: E-ARC
View from the Traffic Light:
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.
The Jewel could have been so much better. I’m still in love with the premise and potential of this book, but let down by the final product. I was hoping for an interesting, complex look at a futuristic society with surrogates, inequality, and a focus on social issues. The Jewel manages a little bit of this, but it all feels pretty shallow. Slavery is bad,inequality strips people of their voice, etc. Not that I expected The Jewel to say the opposite of those things, but I was hoping it would explore it more, instead of keeping everything on the surface.
That’s not to say there were no redeeming qualities to The Jewel. There’s a quick pace and addicting storytelling in here. While the writing wasn’t stunning, I think Ewing has real potential as a storyteller, because man was I on the edge of my seat, even when I hated what was happening. It was addicting and I read it all quickly, desperate for more.
I’m torn on my feelings towards the characters. Violet had real potential to be a complex protagonist, but I don’t think she ever quite reached that point. Indeed, I was immediately turned off my her inner monologue at the beginning, though I came around eventually, especially when she was interacting with her family. I do find it a little ridicolous that she has actual violet eyes, because combine that with her high lot number(the higher the number, the more “desirable” the surrogate is seen as being. Out of 200 girls, Violet is 197), the fact that she’s a wonderful musician, and the fact that she’s the best at one of the three “powers” surrogates all have. . . well, it screams Mary-Sue. I think her characterization is deepened enough by the end that I wouldn’t consider her a complete Mary-Sue, but she definitely starts the book on the fast track to being one.
I found many of the secondary characters much more interesting, including the Duchess of the Lake, who buys Violet. At first, she appears to be a complete villain(and she does some pretty terrible things), but her motives and desires are really interesting–she was the character I wanted to know more about.
By far, though, the worst part of The Jewel was the instalove. Up until that point, I was enjoying the book. It wasn’t going as deep as I wanted and some things were irritating(Violet’s violet eyes, for instance), but I was addicted to the story, slightly horrified, and intrigued. Once Ash entered the picture, though, it was downhill from there. There are cases of instalove that are annoying for being instalove but you grow to like the couple anyway. . . and then there’s the other kind, the kind you want to burn with a great big bonfire. The instalove in The Jewel is the second kind. They have one conversation, Ash acts repulsed when he finds out Violet is a surrogate, and then somehow he gets over his prejudice by the second meeting. Violet is willing to throw away everything for Ash, even though she barely knows him.
On some level, I could understand instalove on Violet’s part. The fact is, Violet exist in her world to be used. Period. Once she was selected to be a surrogate, her entire life has been grooming her to be a tool for someone’s ambition. She has no control, no agency, no power. So when someone is kind to her, of course she’s going to take to that person. This could have been an interesting exploration–but that’s not how it’s treated. Instead, it’s reciprocated in equal measure and both Violet and Ash make dumb choices because of it.
While the instalove was the worst part, the world-building also left me wanting. It’s clear that there’s a lot about the world of high society that Violet doesn’t know about–which I expect. What I don’t understand is how she seemed to know so little of her world beyond that, and how gullible about her world she could be. It also drove me insane that the different circles where people lived/worked had such standard names–like how the place where merchants lived and worked as called “The Bank”, and then there’s “The Farm”. It’s like naming places “City 1”, “City 2”, “City 3”. A relatively minor complaint overall but it bugged me while reading.
Overall, The Jewel had a lot of promise but went downhill quickly once the love interest showed up. I’m interested in the next book of the series because I want to believe it could get better, but this one was just okay.
Ewing knows how to spin an addictive story, but there were so many elements I was disappointed in. I found the characterization often flat and felt the secondary characters were all more interesting than Violet. The instalove, though, was what took this book out of the “like” territory for me. It was so ridiculous that it dropped my final opinion by a lot.