I received this book for free from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.The Jewel by Amy Ewing
Series: The Lone City #1
Published: 2014 by HarperCollins
Genres: Fantasy, Science Fiction, Young Adult
Source: the publisher
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The Jewel is a young adult novel set in a world where the privileged social class has become so inbred that they can no longer have their own children. However, some poor children are born with a genetic mutation that gives them the power to influence an object’s characteristics, including color and growth. These girls are taken from their families and sent to a training facility where they are prepared to become surrogates for wealthy women in the Jewel, the city’s central district.
Violet is one such surrogate. Although she grew up impoverished, her family life was happy, and she isn’t tempted by the wealth and prestige associated with the Jewel. Instead, she resents the loss of her freedom and the dehumanization faced by the surrogates. On her auction day, Violet is sold to the Duchess of the Lake, a power-hungry woman who wants Violet to bear her a daughter that she feels is certain to become the next ruler. Violet wants no part of this, but she doesn’t have a choice. The Jewel is a cruel place, and the royalty will stop at nothing to get what they want. They don’t consider the surrogates’ feelings and think of them as disposable pawns to be manipulated in their schemes.
Then Violet meets a handsome young man while wandering around the Duchess’ house. Ash is basically a male escort. Like Violet, he is seen by the royalty as an object. Ash and Violet see each other for who they are, and their forbidden love brings them a small bit of relief in their otherwise bleak lives. But Ash and Violet’s relationship would have dire consequences if anyone was to find out, and it is hard to keep a secret in the Jewel.
The relationship between Ash and Violet did fall into the instalove category, and I wondered if part of the reason why it progressed so quickly was because it was a form of rebellion for both characters. I was actually rooting for Violet to fall in love with Garnet, the Duchess’ reject son, but that is neither here nor there, and I’m hoping that the next book doesn’t turn into a love triangle.
The Jewel reminded me of a cross between A Handmaid’s Tale and The Hunger Games. You’ve got a smallish society that’s divided into different industrial districts, and the presumption is that this is all that’s left of humanity because there is a sea wall that makes it possible for life to exist at all. There’s the whole issue of reproduction and the idea that women’s bodies are treated as a commodity. The setting of the book is harsh, and surrogates have a rather bleak existence. I think that part of the appeal of such dark young adult novels is that they put one’s own problems into perspective. Yes, school/work/life may be rough, but at least you aren’t being subjugated to make designer babies for a person you despise.
The Jewel was positively unputdownable, and I won’t hesitate to recommend it. One word of caution, however. My reaction when finishing The Jewel was to scream and then to immediately jump on the internet to see how long I’m gonna have to wait to learn what happens next. The ending is a major cliffhanger, and I don’t have a release date on Book 2 yet, but I’m keeping my fingers crossed that it will be sooner rather than later.