November 30th, 2014

Review: The Jewel by Amy Ewing

The Jewel
by Amy Ewing

First book in a new young adult trilogy

Raised in the Marsh, outside the glittering city known as the Jewel, Violet is chosen to be auctioned. At the auction, the wealthy women of the Jewel bid on girls to act as surrogates, hosting the children that the barren elite can’t carry. Known only by her number, #197, Violet is purchased by the Duchess of the Lake, one of the most powerful women in the city. The Duchess is a harsh woman who explains Violet’s status clearly: if she acts well, she will be awarded with a luxurious life and relative freedom. If Violet misbehaves, she will be severely punished. Although Violet chafes at being a slave, but with no other options available to her she begins to adjust. Her acceptance of her status falters when she falls in love with a boy beyond her station. When a friend offers her a chance at freedom, will she take it or choose to stay for the sake of her forbidden romance?

It’s a little unfortunate that many descriptions of The Jewel compare it to The Handmaid’s Tale, because compared the Margaret Atwood’s classic Amy Ewing’s debut novel can’t help but come up short. The world-building isn’t as deep or as realistic as the Atwood novel.

But compared to other young adult novels, The Jewel holds up fairly well. The surrogates are chosen from the lowest ranks in society because they are gifted with a sort of psychic ability that allows them to not only carry their babies to term, but they can nudge the child’s growth to enhance certain strengths and eliminate flaws. That’s pretty darn cool, and a bit freaky, too. In a market flushed with dystopias, including several revolving around teenage fertility, the series stands out.

Heroine Violet is intelligent, but no genius. While her psychic powers helped her gain a high ranking at the auction, her ignorance of manners and customs in the Jewel makes life even more difficult for her. While some of her gaps in knowledge are the result of coming from a lower social class and from information being intentionally withheld from surrogates, Violet must also take responsibility for her faults: she chose not to pay attention during her lessons about the prominent families of the Jewel, and now she can’t always keep up with the politics that are so crucial to her survival.

Her romance with Ash, a servant of the Duchess, doesn’t quite mesh with the rest of the story. It feels a bit rushed and shoehorned in, an instant attraction that doesn’t have time to develop. When the lovers fight later on, it seems staged, because how can they claim such passion and betrayal when they barely know each other? I hope that this can be remedied in the sequel.

The book ends on a killer cliffhanger, which is always aggravating, especially when the sequel’s publish date hasn’t yet been announced. I don’t mind loose ends and unanswered questions at the end of a novel when I know another book will come, but there should always be enough resolution so that if something happens and the next book never arrives, the story can stand on its own.

3 out of 5 stars

To read more about The Jewel, buy it or add it to your wishlist click here.

Peeking into the in:
2013: Movie: Catching Fire (2013)
2012: News: Shopping for pearls in a bookstore?
2011: Clara and Mr. Tiffany by Susan Vreeland
2010: Unwritten Vol. 1 by Mike Carey and Peter Gross
2009: Going on hiatus...
2008: News: New game in Europe brings books to Nintendo DS