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.
All right, so I’ve been decently excited about this one. I read The Selection and with most books that use that on the back of the book in their “If you liked…” section, I know what I’m getting into when I pick it up. It won’t be a hard hitting book; it won’t be a book that has a lot of moments that will make me stop and think about my own life. Now, don’t for a moment think that this means I don’t like the books, or even that I don’t think there are people out there that are changed when reading the books. I just know that for me, I won’t have much more at the end of the book than a refreshing cute story.
The Jewel was… different from that for me even. It’s hard to write this review because of how The Jewel worked for me. Or should I say it didn’t work for me. When I started The Jewel I got excited, because this time I really was falling in love with the world of The Jewel, I liked the idea of the surrogates and the girls being bought and treated as property. The way that the world was written was interesting and intriguing, sure I didn’t care much about Violet, but a lot of time was being spent on world building, surely I’d come to care for her soon enough, right? Unfortunately, no. The characters just didn’t work for me, at all.
There were also a few plot points that I just…wasn’t on board with. It wasn’t so much that I disliked the plot point, or that I felt uncomfortable with the book. (It is a book about owning people there were several moments I was uncomfortable, but I was supposed to be uncomfortable) Instead what I’m talking about are missed opportunities and open doors. A few moments had me getting excited, surely, surely we were going to take the character plot through Door Number Two! This was going to get really interesting fast! Then…nope, we skated right on past it with the same plot we’d been chugging along with the entire time. Honestly, I probably would have DNF’d this book if I wasn’t so in love with the world and the plot that involved the surrogates.
Normally this section is my most difficult section. This time isn’t any different, but unfortunately it’s because I don’t rightly know how to explain all of the things that didn’t work in The Jewel.
In most books there’s two sides that bring that book together and make it something special, those two sides are the plot and the characters. When one side falls flat, you feel it. As I said earlier The Jewel really lost me on the characters. Even though The Jewel was written in first person, I found myself forgetting about Violet. I didn’t care about her. I didn’t care about what happened to her. Personally, I found her annoying, and not even in the way that was like with The Selection, where I could at least see that America had social anxiety that was dictating her view on the world, that was even a point of view I could understand. Violet felt a lot of things, but as a reader I’m supposed to feel those things too, and I never did. I never really cared about her. I wanted her to keep exploring her new world, and I wanted answers to those mysteries.
Secondly, I was excited for a long while about the fact that I was reaching the halfway point and the love interest still hadn’t showed up. I was starting to get theories on maybe a slow building romance between Violet and Garnet. Then Ash shows up. Suddenly we caught a one way train to Insta-LoveVille. Most times Insta-Love doesn’t annoy me; I roll my eyes and move on. Sometimes I can even still ship the couple because they’re adorable, and sure things moved fast but the couple is adorable. But this time? Oh god this time… They were in love by the end of the first scene, and they kissed the second time they ever spoke. Violet and Ash weren’t just moving fast it was flat unbelievable, and I felt, that Ewing pushed the characters together rather than just let the characters be. It was so much more than the normal Insta-Love. At the end of the book I was even questioning if Ash was supposed to be more of a plot point rather than a true love interest. The fact that I’m questioning it is a sign of how badly the romance was written.
As I touched on earlier, the world of The Jewel was amazing. It’s the reason I kept reading when I couldn’t care less about Violet. It’s the reason I kept reading when this Insta-Love hit so hard. There were so many moving parts of the world, people with their own motives, murders to other surrogates just so their owners wouldn’t have a chance to raise a daughter. There was backstabbing, and plot twists. There’s a large amount of truth kept from the surrogates, which makes sense because these women couldn’t care less about them. I liked reading about how these girls are treated.
I actually found several side characters more interesting than the main characters, especially the Duchess of the Lake, I found her at a to be an interesting character. Same goes for the Electress; the way that the high society sparring worked together was fascinating. If Ewing could have nailed Victoria and Ash as greatly as she had her secondary characters we would be having a very, very, different conversation right now.
Unfortunately the world is only half of any book.
This time I can’t say “Yes! Go get it!” or even “Run away for your life!” because I don’t know. I think this is one book that you have to choose for yourself if you want to go pick it up or not. I do know that I’ll probably read the rest of the series, for the world alone, but I won’t be going out on release day to get it. In fact, I’ll probably wait until I manage to spot it at the library.