I received this book as an ARC at the American Library Association’s Annual Conference in Las Vegas. I picked this book up as a curiosity, since I had heard nothing about it before I talked to the pleasant ladies at the HarperCollins booth. I was told it was a cross between The Selection and some other book I can’t remember. I really loathe when people compare things to other things, but in this case, the nice lady was kind of right. Here we go, because this book was CRAZY.
Synopsis: “The Jewel means wealth, the Jewel means beauty – but for Violet, the Jewel means servitude.
Bought at the surrogacy auction by the Duchess of the Lake, Violet (now known only as #197) is quickly thrown into the royal way of life. But behind its opulent and glittering facade, the Jewel hides its brutal reality, which is filled with violence, manipulation, and death. Violet must accept that she will bear a child for the Duchess, as well as the ugly truth of the city…all while trying to stay alive. Before she can accept her fate, though, Violet meets a handsome boy who is also under the Duchess’s control, and a forbidden love erupts. Toeing the line between calculating and rebellious, Violet must decide what, and whom, she is willing to risk for her own freedom.”
1. The world is insanely screwed up.
The royalty in this world is so crazy. The women are all sterilized, hence their dependence on the surrogates and the auction. However, instead of like in our world where surrogates volunteer and get paid for their services, these surrogates are tested when they come into their womanhood, and are sent away to a facility until they are charged with being skilled enough to go to auction. Basically, they are cows raised for slaughter. The royalty is sterilized since their own attempts at having children failed miserably. The royals in this book are so EVIL. I absolutely love to hate them. There was a scene with placing leashes on human beings that had me feeling physically ill. This is probably one of the most messed up worlds I’ve seen in YA.
2. There’s magic!!!
The last thing I expected in this book was magic! Magic is called the Auguries. Once to see it as it is. Twice to see it in your mind. Thrice to bend it to your will. Violet chants this before every piece of magic she does. Really, it’s more like altering reality, but it is so awesome. The only downside to their magic is that old school thought of a pain tithe in order for it to work…exists. The girls get bloody noses, migraines, or they vomit. It is not pretty, but the results are.
3. So much political intrigue just in the social circle of a few women.
It is absolutely sickening how these women treat each other. The surrogates themselves are ranked on a scale of 1 to 200, 200 being the highest rating. They’re rated based on their skills, Auguries, and genetics. The Duchesses and Ladies are all competing to get a higher number than their friend. They are all determined to have a daughter (born first) to marry the Elector’s newborn son (yes, the surrogates are able to determine the sex of the baby and how long – or short – it takes to give birth to a healthy baby). These women are ruthless. Sticking to my spoiler free guarantee, that’s all I’ll say about that. Read the book. You’ll most definitely see what I mean.
4. You never know who to trust.
As with any book and universe like this, you never really know who the antagonist’s friends are. Sometimes, though, Violet does. Her friends are sold to friends of the Duchess so she is always able to see her best of friends: Raven. Until something starts to happen to Raven (no spoilers) and she can do nothing about it. There is a plan, there are secret methods of communicating with the man with the plan, and the HUGE shocker at the end (again, spoilers redacted). This was a ride and a test of my trust.
5. I’m a horrible reader for not knowing whether or not Amy Ewing is a debut author, but if she is, WOW.
This writing was so great! The embarrassments and harassment and absolute shame felt by the surrogates had me in tears. I could feel the awful things happening to these girls and it is not often that I connect that deeply with someone’s writing. If Ewing is not a debut author, I NEED ALL OF HER BODY OF WORK THIS SECOND IN MY HANDS!
Overall: FIVE STARS!!! I know I’ve been giving a LOT of five stars, but these books have been so super great and I have been so glad. I was kind of in a slump when it came to new books. But this one was so fun. The only downside is that I have an ARC which is currently unreleased and now I have to wait for the next books in the series because wow. I am very very excited to see where this series goes. This book is in the world on September 2, 2014 so clicky clicky on the link to pre-order. You should totally pre-order.