HarperTeen, 358 pages
US Release Date: September 2, 2014
Format/Source: ARC, via Around the World Tours
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.
“Hope is a precious thing, isn’t it” she says quietly. “And yet, we don’t really appreciate it until it’s gone.”
Largely, The Jewel was interesting and unique, if not a little…flat. I’ve not encountered a Dystopian world like this yet, but I felt like I knew so little about The Lost City. It had a lot of elements similar to other books—the circular levels and districts that determined your worth, the past of a war that made it this way, the element of a Power (or Augury, in this one) that becomes the ticket to elevating your status. And that’s all well and good, I just don’t really get a good sense of this world around it. I couldn’t figure out how far in the “future” it was, if even in the future…I guess it’s more of an alternate world? I’ll settle on that one, for ease and clarity.
I liked the element of Auguries and how that affected their Lot number, and opened up a whole unexplored territory of what the Surrogates could do. It was interesting to have Surrogates be a little reminiscent of slavery but still be living in the lap of luxury with their own ladies-in-waiting and maids. If I searched for it or felt like linking it, I could find a lot of historial parallels here—and while I don’t think that was really an intention, it was something that held my interest.
However, I really did not like the romance in this. It’s very much insta-love, and entirely expected. All their parts felt rushed and clichéd, without any real development. It just was. While the idea of Companions makes sense, I never liked when Ash and Carnelian were together. I hated Carnelian as a character—she’s too despicable for me to ever get a feel for her, and it made me have no sympathy for any of her parts. I just resented every time she was on the page, because I felt like she was a device meant to make me feel some way without really getting to discover that feeling.
I think what bothered me most about this book was the writing—not that it’s weird or terrible. I just felt like it wasn’t developed well, that a lot of the plotlines that happened did because it was supposed to be that way. Not much of this felt like a natural, flowing story. Like The Duchess was this evil character, but she had moments of weakness and humanity—but those moments felt so fake and calculated. Every time that would happen, it was because I knew she had been too evil and we were just waiting for a “positive” so we would get a rounded character from her. A lot of characters are that way for me; they’re constructed to be just-so and it didn’t feel natural at all.
In the same regard as The Selection, I feel like there is a lot of potential for this series. A lot of the plot itself is interesting, if only because I want to know what’s going to happen, how it will all happen. There’s a lot that can grow from here, that we can eventually learn…I just don’t quite know if it will ever get there.
I’m a bit torn about The Jewel, just because I felt so much that way while reading it. There would be small parts I was into, but it would quickly follow with parts I couldn’t stand. And while I’ll definitely pick up Book 2 just so I can know, I know I’m going to have reservations and doubts going into it.