Well, who would have thought that artificial insemination would make for a great young adult topic? Not me, that's for sure, but I'm sure glad it did! I'm not exactly sure what I expected after reading the synopsis, but what I received turned out to be wholly original, and something I enjoyed reading. I should have guessed from the cover that the plot would be amazing, but somehow I forgot to make that conclusion. 'Jewel' is a very well-written debut novel, and I can honestly say I can't wait for the next book to be released!
It seems to me that royalty and I, we have an affinity for each other. If there are Highnesses, Duchesses, or Ladies in a story, then it's a safe bet that I'll end up enjoying the novel. 'The Jewel' happened to have Dukes, Duchesses, an Elector, and an Electress, and the dynamics of their relationships was really interesting to read about. The novel was filled with drama and intrigue, and the dynamics between certain people were unusual, especially that of the Duchess and Violet; trying to figure out where they stood in terms of each other was one heck of a roller-coaster, and even though they end makes it clear who is the boss of who, it doesn't exactly explain their relationship. It's something you have to have your own opinion about, I guess.
While I can't imagine a book like this without romance, it wasn't the best of romances either. The romantic interest was a companion to the duchess's niece, Ash, and while he was kind and interesting enough, he just wasn't boyfriend material. He was too nice. I remember reading about his and Violet's first meeting in class, and frankly, I was doing my best not to swoon right then and there. As the story went on though, I realized that he didn't exactly live up to my expectations. I could accept him as a friend, just not as a friend. Personally, from the very beginning I was rooting for the Duchess's son, and I'm keeping my fingers crossed that he shows up as a potential love interest in the next installment. Nevertheless, Ash's role in the plot wasn't major - though the cliffhanger would beg to differ - and so it didn't really detract my interest in the story.
Like I said, this book is unique, and even if there's nothing quite like it, it still reminded me of several other well-known young adult books out there; it seemed to me the novel is a combination of 'The Hunger Games', 'Divergent', and 'Wither'. Most of the similarities came from the former. For one, there was Violet's father. Like Katniss's father sang, Violet's father read, and what do you know, they both died before the events in the book took place. Then there's Violet's original stylist, Lucien. He reminded me so much of Cinna, bless his soul, except for the fact that he wasn't as kind. Similar to Cinna, Lucien chose Violet as the surrogate he wanted to dress up, and not only that, but he plays an essential part in the rest of the story. Like Cinna. And where Katniss had an Avox, Violet had a mute servant/friend. The similarities between the two novels blew my mind, really.
The multitude of unusual things in this book served to make it that much better, and no matter if I was scoffing at the characters or wanting to slap them, they never stopped grabbing my attention. I can still recall my surprise at the facts that 1) young girls were actually excited that they were to get pregnant with a stranger's child, and 2) with the Auguries, the surrogates could influence the physical and mental features of their children. It's wrong, yes, but that doesn't make it any less cool.
Amy Ewing has created a fascinating novel about a girl's courage in trying to escape a life predetermined by her birth, and about the family and friends she must be willing to give up in order to stand up for thousands of others. While the romance and plot didn't go into too much depth, the cliffhanger sets up a lot of potential for the next novel, which will hopefully dig deeper into the distinguished city of The Jewel, and the mysteries surrounding the people living there. Any fan of the YA genre is likely to appreciate the story, and I'm glad the book turned out better than I had previously anticipated.
Book Synopsis: 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.