Published by HarperTeen on September 2nd 2014
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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.
Violet has known her fate for quite sometime. Destined to become a surrogate for some unknown royal. While the idea of being taken care of sounds great on paper, Violet quickly learns that the Jewel is far more dangerous than she could have ever imagined.
Let’s talk world-building. The Jewel has it!
Hands down, one of the best aspects of The Jewel is its world-building. It is lush, complex, and, in subtle ways, completely terrifying. These girls (the future surrogates) grow up being educated, well fed, trained in the art of Augury all to make themselves more desirable as a surrogate. Once the time comes, they are auctioned off to the highest bidder. The higher your Lot number, the more desirable you are. Violet is #197 of 200. Being part of the top 10 should have made things easier for Violet, but it’s not. Entering into a world of royal intrigue, Violet is out of her element. A pawn in a game she has no idea how to play with her new mistress, the Duchess of the Lake, moving all the pieces.
The Jewel paints this world as a truly terrifying place for the surrogates. Oh sure, you can live like a royal, but you will also be leashed like a dog. Possibly treated well, or in some cases horribly, only to be paraded around in public. Talked about as an object, not a person. Have your name taken away from you. To these royal women, surrogates are a means to an end. A brief house guest of sorts only there to please them. Make them the child that they desire, often at a great cost to the surrogate. Once their use has been fulfilled, they are discarded like trash. I was appalled at the views towards the surrogates, but it is like a car crash you cannot look away from. You don’t want to enjoy these girls’ suffering, but you are just so fascinated with the whole idea.
Everything works so well with The Jewel… except for a few things.
The backstory. While The Jewel does well in the here and now, the explanations of how things got to be how they are is a little sparse. A sentence or two about why surrogates are used, but not really as to why. The Jewel explains that surrogates are used due to the royals (any of them) not being able bear children. Past results of royals bearing children resulted in either miscarriages or sickly, sometimes deformed, children who die very young. Therefore, surrogates system came to be. Now, in The Jewel, this society seems pretty advanced. So why surrogates? Why not some other method? Where other methods tried? Who knows. For me, there are quite a few unanswered questions.
The Augury. If I had to pick one topic to have my questions answered about in The Jewel, the Augury would be it. While it is much talked about and shown, the Augury is one of the great mysteries for The Jewel. Why do they have it? Where did it come from? Why only is it with the surrogate girls? I have so many questions about it, but there are next to no answers. The convenient answer seems that the girls only have it to either make their mistresses happy by performing parlor tricks, or to help them to make the “perfect” baby for their mistress.
The romance. The biggest failing for The Jewel is the romance. I am not going to go into great detail about how frustrating this was since I probably could be here forever talking about it. So, let’s leave it at silly, stupid insta-love to the max and that it was a huge letdown.
A terrifying and thought provoking read with a lush world. Highly recommend in spite of its silly romance.