REVIEW: The Jewel by Amy Ewing

From Goodreads:

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 opulen16068780ce 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.

The Jewel is one of the books I won at the Epic Reads fall book tour, and I was told by the HarperCollins people to expect The Selection, but darker. Naturally, I was thrilled. I liked The Selection, but I did feel it lacked severity and depth, two things which The Jewel has in excess.

Violet is raised to be a surrogate for the royal class. She is auctioned off like a painting and ordered to be quiet and look pretty (also like a painting), and eventually, to give birth to a royal child (not so much like a painting). Her mistress is cruel and cold, and forces her to wear a collar and be guided by a leash. It is a severely degrading experience, one that is indeed much darker than most YA novels that revolve around a princess-esque narrative and setting.

And of course, there’s a boy. Who is off-limits. Which both Violet and the dude ignore. I was a little bit worried that Ewing might have tried to accomplish too much by including a love story subplot, solely because of the main story’s hectic and exciting plot, but she made it work for her and it is really well-done and convincing.

The funny thing about The Jewel is that it reminds me a lot more of The Hunger Games than it does The Selection. No spoilers, but The Jewel has a very Cinna-like character (male stylist who is the only person Violet wholly trusts) and a rebellious plan that I think will be redolent of the one hatched by Plutarch Heavensbee throughout the next two books in The Lone City trilogy. I’m not saying these similarities are a bad thing, I’m just saying that they are really present. It definitely feels like Ewing was influenced by Suzanne Collins’ series.

I personally like that kind of story, so I really enjoyed The Jewel. The writing is captivating and fast-paced, but still thoughtful and deliberate. I found the character of the Duchess most surprising, in that I was surprised by how invested I was in learning more about her.

I think Ewing has hatched a narrative that people will latch onto like they did with books such as Lauren Oliver’s Delirium and Kristin Cashore’s Graceling, both deeply relevant fantasy stories about things from falling in love to the nature of humanity. I’m very excited to see what she does with the next two books.