The Jewel by Amy Ewing
Synopsis: 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.
Amy’s Ewing’s ‘The Jewel’ just misses the mark for me. The dystopian world (in this case, dystopian city) is divided into five circles– the Marsh, the Farm, the Smoke, the Bank and the Jewel. The royalty, who live in the Jewel, are unable to have children for some reason and instead have a yearly auction to buy surrogates. The surrogates are ‘special’ and for some reason, all come from the poorer sections of the city, the Marsh and the Farm. There are special buildings in each circle to house these surrogates till they are sold. The story follows Violet Lasting, a teenage surrogate from the marsh as she is bought and sold to the Duchess of the Lake and must learn how to survive in the cut-throat world of royalty.
We are repeatedly told how special Violet is, named after the unusual colour of her eyes. She plays the cello, is drop dead gorgeous and has almost mastered the three magical Auguries. However, with the book being in first person, the reader is in Violet’s head and except for the parts where she is told she is special, she doesn’t seem that great.
Another thing that brought the book down was Violet’s love interest, Ash. It just moved a bit too fast to seem believable. Ash, a ‘companion’ to the Duchess’s niece meets Violet by mistake and they instantly click. The key word here is instantly. Violet talks to him for about five minutes and can’t stop thinking about him. Soon, they’re confessing their love for each other.
One thing that bothered me was how every single person in the book was either portrayed negatively or victimized. There were exactly four men in this book who spoke and every single woman was either evil or had to be protected according to Violet.
The two characters I didn’t mind were Violet’s best friend, Raven, and the Duchess’s son, Garnett. Raven was a well thought out spunky character and I only wish I got to know her better. Garnett was the typical black sheep of the family, yet had surprising moments which really made his character three- dimensional.
The world so created by Ewing, while a bit shaky, would have been acceptable if only there had been a better plot to inhabit it. Magical teenage surrogates were something that I was skeptical about from the word-go, but halfway through, the book just went from bad to worse. I simply could not understand the need for a YA dystopian novel about surrogates and this book failed to convince me otherwise.
The book has been compared by many to The Selection series and I cannot emphasize how wrong this is. The Selection has a great world and each character is unique. Where in The Jewel, the love story is instant and completely illogical; The Selection follows a girl who does not want to fall in love with the prince. For fans of Selection, this book is nothing like it. The Jewel and the Selection can only be compared because there are pretty dresses and a competition of sorts. And that’s about it.
I didn’t particularly enjoy reading the book till almost the last page, where there was a twist in the tale. It genuinely surprised me. Ewing manipulated the entire story so that the twist would not be guessed and I would have to say she wrote well, even though the plot did not do justice to her writing.
The writing style is definitely commendable, and I read the book relatively fast. I just wish she had written a different story. If she ever writes a new series, I would pick it up.