“Today is my last day as Violet Lasting. Tomorrow I become Lot 197.”
The Jewel is a shocking and compelling new YA series from debut author, Amy Ewing.
Sold for six million diamantes, Violet is now Surrogate of the House of the Lake in the centre of the Lone City, the Jewel. Her sole purpose is to produce a healthy heir for the Duchess – a woman Violet fears and despises.
Violet is trapped in a living death, her name and body no longer her own. She fights to hold on to her own identity and sanity, uncertain of the fate of her friends, isolated and at the mercy of the Duchess.
The Handmaid’s Tale meets The Other Boleyn Girl in a world where beauty and brutality collide.
The Jewel is one of those books I bought almost entirely based on the cover. Someone (I think it was Our Emily) posted a photo of it on her blog in one of her book mail round-ups, I realised it was spec fic, and I impulse purchased it next time I was at the bookshop.
I read The Jewel in a day. The prose was easy, and although the story isn’t action-packed, events moved along swiftly enough for me that I wasn’t bored. I also found the premise fascinating: the royalty in the Lone City can’t have viable babies anymore (probably due to inbreeding, although this is never stated explicitly). The surrogates possess a peculiar genetic mutation that lets them not only overcome these genetic defects in the royal baby they are implated with, but to customise how the baby looks to a greater or lesser extent.
So, so creepy.
Violet, or lot 197 as she is known at the auction, is bought for a ridiculous sum of money, mostly due to her particular genetic mutation, but also because she has violet eyes (a detail I honestly could’ve lived without as it’s such a cliche) and is beautiful. Being so unusual makes her quite the prize for the woman that buys her. At first glance, her new mistress — the Duchess — isn’t too bad. I mean, she has anger-management issues but, compared to some of the other royal women, she’s at least a shades of grey character rather than being all black. She was actually quite interesting, to my mind. Complex.
Violet on the other hand is very straightforward. She ranges between submissive behaviour and low-level defiance (unlike her surrogate friend, Raven, who is a much stronger personality). She knows she’ll never have children of her own, only one royal baby, so the idea of pregnancy horrifies her. She plays the cello and loves to lose herself in music. And she falls in crazy insta-love with Ash, pretty much the second she lays eyes on him. Seriously, this relationship happens so fast it’ll give you whiplash!
Now, I am not a fan of the insta-love plot device. But in a way I can see why she fell in love with him; she’s been so sheltered, to the point where until she was bought she hadn’t seen a male for four years. Ash is good-looking, and charming. I’m not 100% sure why he fell in love with her, though, unless it’s because it’s the first relationship he’s had in his life that he actually chosen. Either way, it left me a little uncomfortable.
Other interesting characters include Lucien (think Cinna from The Hunger Games) and Garnet, the Duchess’s wastrel son. In fact, the comparisons to The Hunger Games in this book come thick and fast: the Lone City is organised in rings, with the rich Jewel circle in the centre and the four production or living circles outside it, like the districts. The Jewel is reached by train. The surrogates have a salute that they do, crossing their fingers and holding them over their hearts, to show respect to other surrogates. Ash’s occupation isn’t that dissimilar to Finnick’s, although his background is different.
I’m not sure if The Hunger Games similarities were an unfortunate accident of timing, or whether there’s a bit of cross-polination of ideas here. But if you can ignore them, this is an interesting dystopian read with a dark premise underneath all the ball gowls and parties.
Cassandra Page is a writer and devourer of speculative fiction, especially urban fantasy and dystopian. She’s pretty tired as she writes this and can’t think of a funny line for her bio. Just pretend she said something hilarious.