Thursday, 27 November 2014

Review: The Jewel by Amy Ewing

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.

This book was intriguing, with a brilliant premise, but unfortunately the execution was lacking and turned the concept into something more problematic.
With such a brilliant and horrifying idea at the heart, it was incredibly frustrating that half way through a love interest was brought in for Violet which then became the focus. The love interest itself was problematic – there was no build up of the relationship, no real relationship to speak of that the reader can see develop. Just a few stolen moments and then suddenly, ‘we’re in love!’ which has been done to death in fiction, particularly at the moment. It then provides a truly ridiculous springboard for a climactic end to the book, another cliff hanger for the sake of trying to keep readers hooked rather than a natural end to the book with a lead into the next one. The romance really slows down the story and takes away from the focus of the story which could be brilliant with a bit of work.

The premise is horrifying, twisted and dark, but also has the opportunity to handle a lot of issues that most books shy away from. It gives an opening to look at agency, consent and a lot of the issues that come with that. Instead it cotton coats those things with a light fluffy romance that ultimately takes away from the main story and everything that it could become.

As with so many books, there is so much potential, and it just isn’t fully realised. Instead making it more marketable with a romance. I really hope that with the following books the romance is pushed to one side and the social system and problematic issues with the Surrogates is addressed. Before the romance comes in the book is fantastic. It’s engrossing and horrifying, but also incredibly compelling with some wonderful characters. The class system and the way the Jewel is made up is fascinating and I loved the expansion of the world as Violet was trotted out and put on show – I wanted more of that!

It’s a light and quick read and shares a lot of similarities with so many other books in the Young Adult market at the moment – The Selction by Keira Cass and Wither by Lauren DeStefano with shades of The Hunger Games creeping in with other elements. You can see the Capitol creeping in once Violet reaches the Jewel and is repackaged and sold.

Definitely an intriguing read, but not without its problems. Fans of the three series mentioned above would probably enjoy most of the elements, but be warned about ridiculous romance subplots and frustrating cliffhangers.

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