Series: The Lone City #1
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.
2.5 Drink Me Potions
I must say, I had such high hopes for The Jewel. The synopsis was brilliantly intriguing. And the plot line was definitely unique. Come on, our protagonist is a human incubator–I mean, a surrogate for the royalty’s babies. You don’t see that kind of idea popping up everywhere in the YA genre these days.
And that’s about all the genuinely great things I can think of to say about this book.
It was disappointingly slow. It took a long time to even get the Auction started. I mean, I totally get that it’s very important to set the background of this place known as the Lone City.
Oh, and that wasn’t done very well either. World building. So it’s basically broken into 5 rings of society with Violet’s family coming out of the poorest group (of course). And the royalty is broken into 4 founding families with the ruling couple known as the Exetor and Electress. First of all, what’s with those names? Originality, I suppose. Like, I think of circuits whenever I saw the Electress’ name pop up. Not sure if that’s what Ewing was going for.
So the pacing was SLOW as crap. And after reading the whole novel, I look back and think to myself, “What the heck really happened in this book?” . ‘Cause seriously, it’s basically a bunch of gossiping among the royal ladies who brag about their purchased surrogates like they’re freaking furniture or pets they could care less about. Oh, and the odd backstabbing and political scheming. But nothing really EXCITING ever happens. Except maybe about the potential plannings of a rebellion….which is so overdone but at least it’s something beyond gossip, right? I’ll get back to this point later.
Anyway, world building wasn’t great. I still barely know anything about how it all came to be or how the Auction even started. If I thought the history of the Lone City was weird, the idea of Auguries and these “magical powers” that surrogates were born with mystifies me 100 times more.
Being a science person, it’s genuinely confusing. A genetic mutation found ONLY in people from the Marsh (aka the poorest ring of society) gave these girls the ability to become surrogates for the royalty who seemed to be making defective babies as of late. Okay, I can accept that. But uh, a genetic mutation also gave rise to 3 magical properties that could change colours, shapes and growth of things? Is this a fantasy novel or a science fiction story?
This was the randomest thing I’ve read in a long time. Being incubators wasn’t enough, they had to be “magical” too? I guess the story wouldn’t have survived very well if these girls were just “normal”. Harder to overthrow a society, hmm?
And apparently in this society, men are absolute pathetic and weak excuses for human beings. Don’t get me wrong, I do enjoy having such strong female presence for a change. After all, nearly every character with a personality beyond something equivalent to a boring piece of cardboard was, well, female . Those backstabbing ladies in the royalty. The other surrogates. The Electress, of course. But the men don’t have to be written so….I don’t even have a word for it. Disrespectfully? We don’t really know much about the Exetor beyond the fact that he rules. The Duke of the Lake is definitely the submissive half to the Duchess. Most men, in fact, are described as either frail or desperately drunk at dinners to tune out the schemings of their wives.
What is with this? The only male even worth an inkling of respect is Lucien, an unexpected and only friend of Violet’s in the Jewel. And he’s a lady-in-waiting, so maybe that’s why he appears to be the exception to this. I guess in a world dominated by surrogacy in the royalty, the women are in charge of their own destinies and have more pressure in securing their bloodline. But still. No excuse for not giving many males even the slightest backbone of a personality.
And that , my dear friend, leaves me with our love interest. Ash. I have nothing against him. Nothing at all. He seems like a decent guy who also got wrecked by people from the Jewel. They own him, although not in as obvious a way as how Violet and other surrogates are.
He pops up midway in the novel, and oh my goodness, it’s practically LOVE AT FIRST SIGHT. In the weirdest way. Like, Violet, I get you haven’t spent much time with males your own age that aren’t related to you because A) you’re a surrogate and held in some holding facility since you hit puberty and B) you don’t have time to think about your own love life when you’re a surrogate. But HELLO, here’s some fairly attractive guy and BOOM. Instant-love.
Literally. She sees him and all of a sudden, she can’t get him out of her head. Or the itching desire for him to hold her or whatever. It was slightly nauseating to read.
Oh, and if that wasn’t awful enough, Ash fell for her rather fast too. I just couldn’t understand their dying love for each other when I practically did not know Ash all too well myself. Like I said, he popped up midway in The Jewel. We never had the time to get to know him beyond the fact that he was a lonely companion screwed over by the royalty. Like who wasn’t really screwed over by these people at the end of the day? Even the royalty screwed each other over. He wasn’t all that special just for his sad history.
So for the first time in my life, I was VERY excited about everything EXCEPT the romance. I’m a huge romantic, so this is saying a HUGE something.
Sigh. And right when the rebellion, or whispers of the rebellion, was starting to heat up….I flip the page and it ENDS there. With one slightly surprising twist that maybe I should’ve seen earlier, but still. Now I’m gonna have to read book 2 ’cause that was maybe the only highlight for me.
All I can say is, I think The Jewel is gonna be a hit or miss for you. Especially if you hate insta-love romances. This was 100% in that category, and I’d like to think that I’m a sucker for most romances as long as they’re written somewhat decently. You have been warned. Don’t get misled like I did. You’ll just be facing a huge disappointment by the end of it.
The Jewel presented itself with a unique idea: girls being sold as surrogates to carry babies to full term for the royalty. And in this society, there are political unrest and stirrings of change for the roles of the surrogates. What could’ve been an amazing fantasy novel with a crazy concept just didn’t hold up to the awful insta-love romance and slow pacing of the story. Violet was a decent protagonist with strong powers (I know, these surrogates are also magical?) and may just have what it takes to be the “saviour” for all the other surrogates, but nothing really happens in this first novel beyond a glimpse of an underground rebellion stirring in the Jewel, the heart of the royalty and the wealthy. I wouldn’t recommend this novel unless you may find the synopsis intriguing enough to try it. I don’t hate it enough to not continue the series out of morbid curiosity, but it really is a hit or miss.