Author: Amy Ewing
Genre: YA dystopian
Length: 358 pages
Published by: Walker Books Australia
Source: received for review (thanks Walker Books!)
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.
Even before reading this book I went on a rollercoaster of liking it and not liking it.
Phase 1: requesting it for review
Because, you know, PRETTY COVER and AWESOME DESCRIPTION.
Phase 2: reading A LOT of negative reviews and getting worried that I won’t like it if I’m sent it for review.
Crap, crap, crap, I’m going to hate it, I’m going to HATE THIS BOOK.
Phase 3: Thinking I might not have been approved, and feeling relieved because I don’t want to give this book a horrible review!
Oh gosh, sometimes not being approved can be good, especially with my TBR.
Phase 4: Receiving book for review. WHAT IF I HATE IT?
It sat on my shelves staring at me for…quite a while.
Phase 5: Really, really, really enjoying book.
This is not a popular opinion, so far as I’m aware.
The weird thing is that if I like a book that’s fairly unpopular with book bloggers, it will probably seem even BETTER than a book with lots of hype. That’s what I think happened here. If people loved this book I probably wouldn’t have liked it as much.
But I did. So let’s talk about that.
It has a really interesting concept.
I haven’t read The Selection, but I intend to read The Handmaid’s Tale. So basically in this book, girls are made to be “surrogates” for royalty. It’s never really explained why the royal women can’t have children (I’ll explain more about this lack of world-building in a sec) but I thought it was a really frightening and awful situation. But really fascinating as well (yeah, I’m fascinated with weird things). It really made me think about feminism, sexism and the de-humanisation of females that often happens in many societies.
Okay, yeah, there were some parallels to The Hunger Games here, which was disappointing (Lucien was pretty much the same person as Cinna), but I could ignore that because the rest was really unique. I LOVED Violet’s friendship with Raven, and the way they had to be apart was so cruel and sad.
Then there was the Duchess.
I SHOULD HAVE HATED HER, because she did awful things, but I didn’t. I was too busy being intrigued by her character, and how complex she was. Kudos to Amy Ewing for creating such a multi-faceted villain.
It was also a surprisingly quick read.
I knocked it over in a day because, well, it’s school holidays and I’m not going to go OUTSIDE, am I? Plus, it was a really fast-paced read, and the writing flowed so well that I finished it in no time.
I did have a few peevish moments.
Why yes, that IS Peeves the Poltergeist. I’m definitely going to use this image whenever I’m talking about peeves.
1) Similarities to The Hunger Games.
I mean, I don’t think it was copying per se, I just think that it needed more originality. Lucien was similar to Cinna, they had trains that took them to their new lives, the world was split into different sections, they had a form of the Mockingjay salute…just stuff like that. And the rest of the book was so excellent that it annoyed me a little.
Plus I got really confused with all the different Duchesses.
2) Some plot holes
Yeah, there were quite a few of these. I definitely intend to read on in the series, and I’m assuming (hoping) some of these would be explained, but I had a LOT of questions – questions regarding the surrogates, the royalty, the auguries…the worldbuilding felt a little incomplete.
3) The romance
It wasn’t too prominent or cringey, so I forgave it, but this story definitely could have done without the romance – I’m going to write a post sooner or later on why not every book needs a love interest, but suffice it to say that it was NOT needed here.
But I did really, really enjoy this book.
It was a thought-provoking, fast-paced novel that didn’t condescend to its audience. YA doesn’t need to – we’re the ones reading The Handmaid’s Tale, after all. Well, okay, not me. But teenagers. And I like that there was no censorship of the idea, that it didn’t “dumb it down” for teen readers.
Can’t wait for the next books!
Rating: 4/5 Wonderkitties