SUMMARY: As Surrogate to a royal family, Violet has very little freedom. Known publicly as “Lot 197,” Violet has lost her family, her friends, and even her own name. Though Violet is pampered with rich foods, beautiful gowns, and exquisite luxury, Violet is a slave with no choices of her own. Punishment is harsh, and “the doctor’s” experiments unbearable. In order to stay alive and whole, Violet must keep her ears open and maintain a low profile while awaiting her one chance at escape.
IF THIS BOOK WERE FOOD, IT WOULD BE: fried calamari–sometimes yummy, sometimes too chewy
REVIEW: My feelings for this book are best summed up with punctuation:
! (the first quarter)
I was drawn to The Jewel‘s gorgeous front cover and its comparisons to The Selection, The Handmaid’s Tale, and Wither, all of which I adored. At first, I thought I was going to absolutely LOVE The Jewel. I liked the idea of the island arranged in concentric circles, with The Jewel and its royalty at the center and the poorest citizens along the outermost edges. I love all the dresses and pageantry and balls and luxurious estates. And the auguries, special abilities only the Surrogates have, provide a cool supernatural twist to the story.
? (the second quarter)
About 100 pages in, I started losing interest a bit. Questionable world-building left me scratching my head. I’d like to know more about the ocean overtaking the island and how the wall came to be. I don’t understand why royalty can’t have their own children or why they are only allowed two children. If the royal men are so powerful, why are they so uninvolved? Why would they marry these hag women at all if Surrogates could do the work of the children? Why wouldn’t the men just skip the marriage part and buy themselves a young, healthy Surrogate for the childbearing? I just have trouble buying into this world.
Despite all my questions, Ewing includes lots of lengthy descriptions of dresses and ballrooms and royal chitchat. While at first I loved all the descriptions of ball gowns and hairstyles, I started skimming them in this second quarter. I wish Ewing had devoted more space to world-building than to descriptions of opulence. The Duchess and her ilk are stinkin’ rich. We get it.
… (the third quarter)
Enter the romance. It’s not quite insta-love (they do talk for several weeks before the “I Love Yous” begin), but it’s pretty darn close. Garnet, son of the cruel Duchess, has far more personality than Ash, Violet’s love interest. While there’s plenty to complain about with the speed of the romance, I actually ended up enjoying it okay. While I never liked him as much as Garnet, Ash grew on me eventually, and by the end, I was starting to believe in Ash and Violet’s relationship. My only wish here is that the romance started earlier and developed more slowly than it did.
Once again, the third quarter offers up even more descriptions of gowns and other useless details while failing to address major world-building holes. Sigh.
! (the last 50 pages)
The cliffhanger. I actually liked it! It seems Ewing finally found her feet in the book’s last 50 pages, and I definitely want to know what happens next.
THE BOTTOM LINE: Overall, it’s kind of a roller coaster. I liked the beginning and the ending, but worldbuilding gets lost in the middle. Readers who don’t look too deeply for answers will likely enjoy The Jewel; even with all my complaints, I will probably read the sequel.
STATUS IN MY LIBRARY: Concept is too mature for middle school. Optional choice for high school, but as with Kluver’s Legacy trilogy, the sequel has potential. Give it to fans of The Selection and Wither.
- Overall: 3/5
- Creativity: 3/5
- Characters: 3/5
- Engrossing: 3/5
- Writing: 2/5
- Appeal to teens: 4/5
- Appropriate length to tell the story: 4/5
- Language: none
- Sexuality: medium–vertical and horizontal kissing, one incident of off-the-page sex, teen pregnancy is a major plot point, references to menstruation; gynecological exam (nothing specifically described)
- Violence: medium–some blood/bruises from domestic abuse and heavy-handed soldiers
- Drugs/Alcohol: mild–champagne at parties, mild hangover