Monday, August 4, 2014

Book Review: The Jewel by Amy Ewing

My chest tightens and I fight the urge to gnaw on my lower lip. Then it happens.
Do I hear six million diamantes? Six million?
The woman with raven's eyes holds up a tiny blue mirror.
The candle goes out. 
Sold! The auctioneer cries, and all my muscles turn to jelly. Sold for six million diamantes. To the Duchess of the Lake.
SOLD. The word revolves around my brain without really making sense. 
I am sold.

In Violet Lasting's world, the poorest girls are tested to determine whether they have the special power known as "the Auguries." If discovered, they are removed from their family, placed in a facility, and trained to become a surrogate for the royal families within The Jewel. Royals, unable to bear children of their own, pay a high premium for a surrogate with the power to manipulate and create "perfect" children. The surrogates, in return for their bodies, are promised comfort, wealth, and prestige. Freedom, however, is never an option.
When Violet is sold to one of the wealthiest families in The Jewel, the Duchess of the Lake, she begins to realize that being a surrogate is far more dangerous and frightening than she had  previously believed; she realizes that each day is a fight to survive. When a sudden romance blossoms between Violet and Ash, a member of the Duchess' staff, Violet is given a small ray of hope despite knowing what their romance might cost both of them dearly.


I first heard about The Jewel when I listened to the ARC Party TeaTime video through Epic Reads. They compared it to The Selection meets The Winner's Curse. Seeing as I loved both of those books, I was a little like this: 

I must have trolled Edelweiss and Netgalley every day for a sign of The Jewel! When I finally got the chance to read it, I was sad to realize that it wasn't as fantastic as I had hoped. I didn't connect with the main character, which is insane because all of the horrible things she faces should have immediately made me her number one ally. It didn't. Frankly, I found her boring and all of the other characters seem to fall flat as well. The Duchess' cruelty really only translated into extreme immaturity, and Violet's intense attachment to people within the book seemed forced and strange. Additionally, her relationship with Ash is extremely underdeveloped. They have about five conversations in the entire book, fight constantly about trust and loyalty, and then they're suddenly willing to die for each other. I'm sorry... that's just not realistic enough for me to get behind. I didn't feel the passion. Quite honestly, the only characters that piqued my interest were barely in the story (here's looking at you, Raven!).

I think what dissatisfied me the most was the way that the author handled the extremely mature content within her novel. I love YA authors that try to tackle intense subjects and ideas, but those intense ideas should be written with intense examination. I didn't fully see that happen here. You have young girls being basically forced into slavery, men who are hired as prostitutes, babies that are manipulated and altered in the womb, political, social, and economic oppression, yet none of it had an ounce of gravity that I felt was needed to make this plot move me. I believe that, if handled correctly, this novel could have made some significant stepping ground into the examination of serious social issues.

On a more positive note, I liked the plot twist/cliff hanger ending. It surprised me enough to capture my attention and look out for the next book in the series (which is still a while off). Another aspect that I found intriguing were the Auguries, or the special powers that all of the surrogates possess. With this power, they are able to manipulate and create objects, whether they change their color or size. If they can imagine it in their minds, they have the power to create it. I loved the scenes where Violet used her Augury power; they were mystical and beautiful! Imagine having the ability to spin vines and flowers (or anything really) from your hands that fill an entire orchestra chamber. I loved this aspect of the novel. Hopefully, we will see much more of this side of Violet in the future books. I'd be much more intrigued.

Overall, I rated The Jewel at a 3 out of 5 stars. I needed more, and what I got just didn't enthrall me.

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