Age Group: YA
Publisher: Harper Teen
Publication Date: 2 September 2014
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.
This book is one of those dystopia-esque novels that I had a really hard time getting into recently. It was not a terrible read but it also is not a book I would tell someone to run out and go buy either. I did find the idea of the story to be about an interesting subject matter; the idea of forced surrogacy and servitude was intriguing to me and made it seem like a book I could really get into, but unfortunately, it fell short of my expectations.
I have been in a bit of a slump with dystopian novels recently, and this one definitely falls into the disappointing category. I just felt like the world is one that I have seen in so many other novels. Nothing felt new or innovative, even the main characters family and home felt as if it was something I had seen before. The only part of the plot that I felt was interesting was the auguries and the concept of the surrogacy in a dystopian society, but for me, this just wasn't enough to really keep me engaged with the storyline. On top of all this, the plot was a little too slow for my liking. I felt like much of the story was just Violet reacting to things the Duchess did.
Another issue I had with this book was the characters. I was not a fan of Violet, I really wanted to be but I just could not get into her character. I just could not connect to her inner dialog. I felt like her character was on autopilot for most of the book and was just letting things happen to her. personally would rather have had a main character like Violet's friend Raven, who was spunky and actively fighting back. On top of not being able to connect to the main character, I was not a fan of her love interest Ash at all. I felt like his character came into the story a little too perfectly, and his character flat and unrealistic.
And as if not liking the characters wasn't bad enough their romance an example of Insta-love at its finest. Violet literally starts to obsess over him after their first encounter, and they seemed to fall in "love" not more than 30 pages after that! Am I the only one who finds this to be very unhealthy? The entire romance was cliche and unrealistic.
Not everything was bad about this novel, however, Ewing does an amazing job with her descriptions. For me, this was her saving grace. I often found that I could tolerate the cheesiness because I was so interested in the different description of buildings, dresses, and events. Another positive for me was just how well the author described the dehumanization that these young women went through. I felt that she did an amazing job describing the auction and the treatment of these surrogate as sub-human. She managed very effectively write about a hard topic, that many would not want to touch, even when set in a dystopian world. For this, I do have to commend her.
While this book is definitely not my favorite, it was not horrible either. I am curious enough to see where the story goes and will probably continue on with the series. I am hopeful that the next books will get better.