Author: Amy Ewing
Genre: Young Adult | Dystopia | Romance
Publication Day: September 2, 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 (goodreads).
To be honest, I went into The Jewel expecting to hate it...but I kind of liked it.
Plot: The Jewel has all the notes of a typical YA dystopia. Some shady magic power that exists only in a few, an unbalanced political system, and an unexpected love between two statuses. This does not mean that it's boring, though. You may ask yourselves, "well why do these rich people need surrogates?" and that is a good question to ask. Surprisingly Ewing doesn't answer that right away which isn't as unnerving as it may seem. There is just enough mystery balanced with backstory that you don't feel lost in the story. The one aspect that kept me reading was the political alliances and betrayal. There are some blood-thirsty royal women who will stop at nothing to get on top - murder is not so uncommon.
Characters: First thing's first. Everyone has ridiculous names. We have a "Violet," "Raven," "Cinder," "Pearl," "Ebony," etc. If you can get past that, you'll get to enjoy the characters. Violet, while naive, is a pleasant narrator. Her hesitance and reactions are believable and there are small moments of growth as she delves deeper into the madness of the Jewel. Only a handful of characters are truly fleshed out, and I would have loved to learn more about Garnet - the Duchess' "unpredictable" son who has no time for anything.
The romance is, without a doubt, the weakest element to The Jewel, although I was pleasantly surprised that the young man didn't make a scene until halfway through the book. I liked this because it gave Violet time to care about her friendships and explore her surroundings. But that insta-love romance.....Ewing could have kept that.
Worldbuilding: The Jewel is that interesting mix of fantasy and dystopia that we see a lot. There is technology but only for the elite few and it seems not as advanced as it presently is. There isn't a lot of backstory as to why it is the way it is, nor does it make sense of where the island physically is. But I liked the idea behind it and Ewing's vision for the Founding Houses.
Short N Sweet: The Jewel is an intriguing story that would have been a lot stronger if the romance was left out.