Title: The Jewel
Author: Amy Ewing
Genre: Young Adult/Dystopia
Publisher: Walker Books
Publication Date: 2nd September 2014
Rating: 4.5/5 stars
Auctioned as a surrogate.
Imprisoned in the palace of the Duchess of the Lake.
Destined to carry the child of a woman she despises.
Violet is trapped in a living death, her name and body no longer her own. She fights to hold on to her identity and sanity, uncertain of the fate of her friends, isolated and at the mercy of the Duchess.
Then she meets another captive – Ash, the handsome royal companion. Drawn together, Violet and Ash are puppets in the deadly game of court politics, each the other’s jeopardy – and salvation.
I was drawn to this book primarily because it dealt with the subject of surrogacy, which has been a prevalent issue in the media recently. And I am so glad I read it. Ewing creates a fascinating dystopian world, with a city divided into circles – those on the outer circles are poor, while those who live in the centre, the Jewel, are the royalty and nobility.
For some reason, noble women aren’t able to carry their own children and therefore require surrogates. Certain girls from the poorer districts – those who have strange abilities called the Auguries – are best suited to carrying healthy children and are taken from their families at a young age to be trained in these skills.
I really enjoyed the first part of the book which explored Violet’s loss of identity as she becomes nothing more than a commodity to be sold off at auction. The girls are dressed and primped to attract the best price and their lot number shows their desirability as surrogates.
There is definitely some court intrigue – the Electress (a position similar to a queen) has recently had a son and all the noble women are desperate for daughters. They aim to somehow use the Auguries each surrogate possesses to increase their children’s desirability in looks, intellect and personality. Violet has not been taught any of this in the holding facility where she spent her teenage years and it works very well that we learn alongside her, with all her feelings of horror and fear.
I did feel let down by the blurb a little, which mentions the character of Ash. While he is certainly interesting, he doesn’t actually appear until halfway through and therefore I don’t think he really merits a whole paragraph to himself. Their relationship also detracts from the story, I feel. I’m not a big fan of romance though, so others may not feel the same way.
There is something sinister going on throughout the book and we are never quite given the full picture, only snippets, but this serves to enhance the story with tension and fear. The book does finish on quite a cliffhanger and it is a bit of a wait for the next one – scheduled for September 2015. However, I would still definitely recommend the book, if just to explore the notion of surrogacy from a different angle. The world-building is pretty cool too, especially for people who liked the Divergent series – there are some similarities but also vast differences!