Saturday, August 23, 2014

Review: The Jewel by Amy Ewing

I had seen this book all over other blogs this past year.  And how beautiful is that cover?  So I was very excited to see that the author was going to be at BEA this past summer.  I was lucky enough to get in line and meet her, as well as get an autographed ARC.  I do mean lucky, because really I loved this book.  It is a dystopian novel, and yes, there are many similarities to others already out there, but there are also some very unique bits in it.

The main character is Violet, or at least that is her name until the day of the Auction, when she will be 197 out of 200 girls, with 200 being the best.  And after she is bought, she will no longer have any name, she will just be a surrogate.  In Violet's case, she will be the Surrogate of the House of the Lake.  The House of the Lake is one of the four original founding families of The Jewel.  The Jewel is the center of an island, the wealthiest, most important people live here.  Surrounding them is the Bank, a ring around the Bank is the Smoke where all the factories are.  Around the Smoke is the Farm, well, you can guess that one, and the very outer ring is the Marsh, where Violet comes from.  Surrounding the Marsh is a giant wall that keeps the ocean from coming in and ruining everyone's life.  In this future world the people of the Jewel have become unable to have babies.  And so they search through the lower rings for girls who still are able to do this, as well as ones that have kind of psychic powers, called Auguries. These powers have to do with being able to change the color of things, the shape of things, the size of things.  As well as the final one, which has to do with creating life.  Violet has earned some of the highest scores on these powers.  That is one reason she has such a high number for the auction.  She has been at a type of school before being sent on to the auction.  So should mostly know what to expect.

But once she is purchased, she finds that the woman who she is now a surrogate for, the Duchess of the House of the Lake, does not seem like a very pleasant woman.  Why?  Well, one of the first things she does to Violet is slap her.  The Duchess reasons that if she does that to start with, then hopefully the surrogate will not want a repeat and so will be obedient and not have to deal with that again.  When Violet does things that please the Duchess, she is rewarded.  First with a cello, an instrument that Violet loves to play.  Later it is more freedom to even wander around the house, including the outside, but only with her lady's maid, a mute girl named Annabelle.  She finds Annabelle to become mostly a friend, although there are times Annabelle also is scared of attracting the wrath of the Duchess, and does things that are not so great.  She is unable to even talk to her former friends who are surrogates for other wealthy women, that is forbidden.  She soon learns there is lots of animosity between all the women, all of them are hoping to have a daughter that will be betrothed to the ruler, the Exetor's son, and become the highest link for their family.

Along the way she will learn how to use her powers to communicate secretly with one of her friends.  She will find her first love, in a boy who isn't a possibility, as she has to bear the Duchess's child.  But he does understand her, as he also comes from one of the outside rings, and has come to do what he now does only to save his youngest sister from dying from Black Lung.  She will find an ally in someone else, even though their motives may not be clear at first.  The ending was a total cliffhanger, and I really can't wait to find out what happens next.  As there is a surprise in who she hears the voice of at the end.

A really good story.  Yes, a lot of it is the same in a way as other dystopians, but there is so much that is unique in it that it worked.  Her one ally does remind me a bit of Cinna in The Hunger Games, although I liked Cinna, and I'm not quite sure how much I liked or trusted the one in The Jewel.  I highly recommend this to dystopian lovers like myself.  Great read.  I was able to read all 350-some pages in really about a day and a half, that includes working my high school library job, as well as my part time job at Barnes and Noble.  And on another note, here I am with the author at BEA this past summer:
Amy Ewing and I

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