Author: Amy Ewing
Length: 358 pages
The Jewel means wealth. The Jewel means beauty. The Jewel means royalty. But for girls like Violet, the Jewel means servitude. Not just any kind of servitude. Violet, born and raised in the Marsh, has been trained as a surrogate for the royalty—because in the Jewel the only thing more important than opulence is offspring.
Purchased at the surrogacy auction by the Duchess of the Lake and greeted with a slap to the face, Violet (now known only as #197) quickly learns of the brutal truths that lie beneath the Jewel’s glittering facade: the cruelty, backstabbing, and hidden violence that have become the royal way of life.
Violet must accept the ugly realities of her existence... and try to stay alive. But then a forbidden romance erupts between Violet and a handsome gentleman hired as a companion to the Duchess’s petulant niece. Though his presence makes life in the Jewel a bit brighter, the consequences of their illicit relationship will cost them both more than they bargained for.
Protagonist: At the start of this book Violet is just about to be entered into the auction where she will be bought by one of the upper-class to carry their unborn child to term before being shipped away never to see her family ever again. Violet is under no illusions that her situation is desirable or in any way glamorous. She knows what awaits her and she knows she will hate every second of it. That spirit and perception is what instantly drew me to Violet and into the story. While Violet does have her faults and messes up her fair share in this book, she isn't overly flawed or annoying (except when it comes to her romance but we'll get to that.) Her growth and development over the course of the book is nothing particularly noteworthy, it doesn't happen fast and there isn't vast amounts of growth, but it is there all the same.
Romance: So, the romance, *sigh* so the romance is the only part of the book I really didn't like. Look, it takes way to long to even establish the love interest for Violet and then things just move too fast. If there was more build up, no insta-love, and the love interest for Violet had been established in one of the earlier chapters instead of over halfway through the book I would have been on board. Instead though by the end of this book I feel purely apathetic towards to love interest and the romance in general.
World-Building: The world-building really surprised me, Going into this book I had a basic understanding of the premise, though not one as detailed as the actual synopsis, I felt I had a good grasp of the world-building going in. However, I was wrong, while I did understand the very basic premise, I couldn't have even thought that this would not only be a dystopian book, but one with paranormal attributes as well. In this world, those born as surrogates have these abilities, called Auguries, that affect Color, Shape, and Growth. It's because of these abilities that the surrogates can bring the unborn children of the upper-class to term. In addition to that the city in which everyone resides is an island surrounded by a great wall that protects it from being overrun by the ocean outside. The world-building in this book is richer and more developed that I ever imagined and I can't wait to see how it's expanded on in the future books.
Predictability: So since I went into the story essentially blind I was really surprised by nearly everything that happened. I had this idea in my mind of how things would go, using classic tropes and patterns I've noticed in other YA novels. However while there is evidence of tropes being used, there was a lot that I was just not expecting. The ending is one thing that held my attention and nearly gave me whip lash with how everything twisted and turned.
Ending: So, all I had really heard about this book prior to reading it was the twist at the end, twist singular. What I wasn't expecting was that since I was expecting a twist I saw twists everywhere. I mean it's not as if they weren't twists, but I was so intent on finding out what the twist was that by the time I got to a point that could have been called the "ending" the first twist tricked me into lowering my guard so that all the crazy stuff that happened after that I just wasn't expecting. Oh, and the actual twist, yeah I don't know if I would have ever seen that coming. Very intense.
So, while I may have loved most aspects of this book I really have to take off a star for the romance alone. There isn't very much of it which is why it's only one star, but it failed to make me feel anything for the couple, there's no chemistry and not enough romance and romantic tension before things got serious.