Book Review of The Jewel by Amy Ewing
The Jewel means wealth, the Jewel means beauty—but for Violet, the Jewel means servitude. Born and raised in the Marsh, Violet is destined for the Jewel. She is trained as a surrogate for the royalty and is bought by the Duchess of the Lake at auction. And she quickly learns 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 life . . . all while trying to stay alive. But before she can accept her fate, Violet meets a handsome boy who is also under the Duchess’s control, and a forbidden love erupts. But their illicit affair has consequences, which will cost them both more than they bargained for. And toeing the line between being calculating and rebellious, Violet must decide what, and who, she is willing to risk for her own freedom.
Has the makings of greatness, but ultimately underdeveloped.
While I was searching for a YA series similar to The Selection, I found The Jewel repeatedly listed in many of the Listopia Goodreads lists. I’ve been in the mood to read about royalty and fancy dresses and a place where change is clearly needed because the world has strange practices, and this book fit the bill.
The pull of this book was the idea of surrogates being the only ones who can bear children, and that they are auctioned off to royal families. But of course, these girls never had a say in the matter.
The beginning of the book pulled me in right away because it set the stage well. I enjoyed the setting, seeing what life is like in the present, what it was in the past, and the idea of what it will be in the very near future. It began at the inciting incident and gave us a reason to fear what will come ahead. It was a great start, and I found myself swept up in the first few chapters.
However, as I continued reading, there were a few things that felt underdeveloped to me. In this book there is a romance that builds between our main character, Violet, and a boy she meets in the palace. This meeting was very love-at-first-sight-esque and with all the strange, prison-like things going on in the palace, I felt that this was trivial in comparison to the rest of the book. The love story that built was not built on much, in my opinion. And most of it happened off-screen, which kept me from caring about it as much. If romance is to be included, and to be a big part of a book, then I want to see that romance unfold. I want to see the chemistry and see how they are better together, than apart.
Then, there was a character in the book that we meet pretty early on, and he becomes a trusted friend to Violet, and he is someone who wants to help her because life as a surrogate is much worse than what she could know. It’s worse than being forced to have someone else’s child and being imprisoned (even if it’s in the best clothes and jewelry). I liked this friend, but at the same time the problems I had with the romance are the same problems I have with this friendship. It happens too fast and without enough on screen for the reader to see and feel, so I didn’t connect as well as I know the author intended. I felt distant from some of these relationships and things that were important to the main character.
I think some of that had to do with the main character herself. She was enjoyable to hear the story through, and I do like her, but she’s also not as unique as she could be. She’s pretty much the same throughout the story and I want her to be driving the story forward. I wanted to see more of a change in her. At one point in the second half of the book, she (the main character) points out that she’s changed and that didn’t work for me. She is too self aware, and it’s like the character (writer) has to tell us she’s changed, because we (the readers) haven’t seen it for ourselves. Violet started this book as a fairly strong character who knows what she wants (and doesn’t) and many of those desires don’t change from beginning to end. I couldn’t pin point a growth in her. Her internal dialogue may not have been quite as developed as I’ve seen of first person character’s in other stories. Also, there were only a few times I truly felt Violet made choices that resulted in a change to the story and drove it forward.
Overall, I enjoyed this book and I found it to be a fairly fast read. I’d read the next book in the series.
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