Cover Lust: I’m in love! I didn’t think I would love another book cover as much as I love the covers of The Selection series, but the cover of The Jewel is breathtaking. The sparkling silver dress is absolutely stunning, and the mirror overlay with Violet’s reflection is beautiful. At first it looks likes it’s just framing Violet like a picture, but after reading the book you realize that it has more meaning. The mirrors surrounding Violet represent the overwhelming beauty inside of the gilded cage that imprisons her. I bought the hardcover edition of the book, and the dust jacket is textured and feels like expensive wrapping paper you would get from a fancy boutique. I love, love, love this beautiful book!
Back Blurb: The Jewel means wealth. The Jewel means beauty. The Jewel means royalty.
But for girls like Violet, the Jewel means servitude.
Violet, born and raised in the Marsh, has been trained to work for the royalty. And she 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. When an unlikely friendship offers her an opportunity she never dreamed possible, Violet clings to the hope of a better life–-until a forbidden romances changes everything. Suddenly, Violet finds herself in a different kind of danger, one that may cost her more than she bargained for.
The Book: Amy Ewing enchants YA readers in her dazzling debut novel, The Jewel, Book One of her new series, The Lone City. Set in a dystopian future where royal debutantes are the majority, the Jewel lies in the center of the Lone City. It is a an extravagant version of Oz’s Emerald City; palaces of stone and glass that house the royal families. The Jewel is beautiful: everything is made from precious stones, dazzling colors, and flowing shapes. Its people are also named after colors, flowers, and jewels. The people themselves are beautiful as well, but sometimes beautiful people can be very ugly.
Inhabitants of the Jewel descend from royal houses whose women are unable to reproduce, so they purchase young women with mysterious powers to become surrogate mothers to continue their bloodlines. The surrogates are given wealth and royal status, but they are essentially prisoners to their owners. Violet Lasting is a surrogate who refuses to accept her existence and is determined to escape the Jewel. But when Violet is given a chance to elude her mistress and break free, she realizes that she is a pawn in a game that began long before she was born.
This book was amazing! Yes, it was a little complicated, but I’ll get more into the plot later. A lot of readers are comparing this book to The Selection series, which I will say is a fair comparison. It is similar in many ways, including all of the opulence, cattiness, and cruelty that happen in the palace walls. Violet befriends her lady-in-waiting, Annabelle, the way America befriends her maids. There also seems to be elements similar to those in The Hunger Games and The Chemical Garden series. Violet is purchased, much like Katniss is reaped and Rhine is sold as a bride. Violet also undergoes horrifying human experimentation like Rhine. The overwhelming beauty of the Jewel, the terrifying conditions in which Violet is kept, and the shocking secrets held by the royals makes for a thrilling and enjoyable story.
So after getting about halfway through the book, even though I was really enjoying it, I was completely lost. I had to reread a few pages to understand the story. The plot with the surrogates was difficult to understand, but it gets explained a little at a time throughout the book. The royal houses, duchesses, and countesses were listed off by the dozens; after a while I had to start mapping them out. After reading several reviews, I realize other readers probably had the same struggle so I’ll try to explain the plot:
Hundreds of years in the future, he Lone City is an island surrounded by a menacing ocean. Four royal houses (from whatever used to be there, it is not really explained) are fighting for control of the city. There are two houses of Dukes and Duchesses: the House of the Lake and the House of the Scales. The other two are of Counts and Countesses: the House of the Stone and the House of the Rose. Throughout the book, at least a dozen other houses are named, but they are not the founding houses and are irrelevant. The four founding houses allied when two people from each side were married. They became the first Exetor and Electress, who are like the King and Queen of the Jewel. The founding houses created a Great Wall that encircled the city to keep it safe from the surrounding water. The city was divided into five burroughs: The Marsh, the Farm, the Smoke, the Bank, and the Jewel. In the center of the Lone City lies the Jewel, made up of massive stone palaces that house the royal families. The Marsh encloses the city and is the poorest section.
Several generations before, the royal families began dying out. Babies were not surviving due to disease, deformation, or malnourishment. Many royal women became barren, and those who carried their babies to term were often stillborn. Somehow, a genetic mutation occurred in some girls living in the Marsh. The mutation gave the girls the power to perform Auguries, which are magic acts that can alter the shape, color, or growth of objects. The Auguries allowed for repair of the royal women’s embryos, thus ensuring the royal lineage would carry on. After the Auguries were discovered, genetic testing became mandatory and all girls who were diagnosed as “surrogates” were then taken into custody of the Regimentary (the government forces), to later be sold at Auctions to the royalty.
Violet Lasting is purchased by Pearl, the Duchess of the the Lake. Her best friend Raven is bought by the Duchess of the Stone, and two other girls she follows are sold to the Houses of the Scales and the Rose. Violet’s mistress, the Duchess of the Lake has an intense hate for the Electress because she did not descend from royal blood; she married into it, like Kate Middleton. The Duchess is intent on overtaking the Electress and asserting power over the city. The only way she can do this is to ensure that her future daughter is married off to the Electress’s new infant son (the heir’s marriage is always arranged shortly after his birth). She has purposely chosen Violet because she believes that Violet’s Augury skills will quickly produce a beautiful daughter worthy of the future Exetor.
Once you get the basics of the plot, and who everyone is, the story is much easier to read. It is enjoyable all the way through, even when your head starts spinning because of all the royal names. The world that Amy Ewing creates is both beautiful and tragic. Violet is a strong character who is also compassionate, and your heart aches for her as she struggles through her slavery under the Duchess. Her love story is heartbreaking, especially after the cliffhanger ending. I really loved this book and can’t wait to read the next. Unfortunately, information on the next novel hasn’t been released, but there will be a novella that will tell us Raven’s story. The House of the Stone (#1.5), will be released on July 28, 2015. The second book does not have a title (or a cover!) or release date yet. I will check back anxiously each day, while I simultaneously await the reveal of the new Selection book cover, The Heir (#4). If you can’t wait until then (which I can’t), there is a free extra on Epic Reads. It’s a deleted scene that tell the story of The Wishing Well, the story that Violet and her sister Hazel used to read in the Marsh. Hopefully soon we’ll find out when the next book will be out, because I seriously need to know more of Violet’s story. Thank you, Amy Ewing, for your amazing book!