by Amy Ewing
Expected publication date: September 2nd 2014
Received from: ARC from Liberty Bay Books
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.
I am trying to control myself here enough to write a decent, clear cut, and honest review, but there are a lot of feels here and so this might get ugly...sorry.
-The concept. It is a really cool idea! It's creative, imaginative and provides all kinds of literary opportunities for the writer that could stun the readers if used right. The idea of it all is intriguing to almost anyone.
-I wanted to read more (through most of it.) I really needed to know what happened!
-The world building was quite nice. Very vivid. Amy Ewing was smart to include just the right amount of history/background so that I could understand the world, without getting bored or overwhelmed.
The Bad and The Ugly:
-The writing. The writing wasn't really bad or ugly, but I certainly didn't love it, so I put it down here. It was a bit bland and unimpressive. It also used a lot of cliches, redundant descriptions, and repetitiveness. It also lacked the depth that I thought would have been accomplished with such a concept.
- The way you learned about characters. This kind of goes with what I said above but I really want to elaborate. When a character's physical appearance was described it was all told to you in great detail and often you were told the same description again later on (of the same character) in the book in almost the exact same words. For the most part everything about characters was told to you flat out.
-The world building. I know, I know I just said I liked it, and I did! I liked about 98%-99% of it. I had one big issue. I couldn't figure out a time period or get a grasp on how advanced they were. At first the whole thing seemed almost medieval, but then they had some technology and science that was far more advanced, but then I'd read more and everything else didn't seem advanced. I couldn't figure it out! It was a bit distracting. I get that it's a whole new world so obviously the time periods and advancements wouldn't match up with the ones we know from our world, but I still wanted some kind of an idea as to how advanced they were as a society. I think that only stuck out to me or bothered me because it was so inconsistent. Somethings were modern others became obsolete decades-100s of years ago.
-Violet and the characters in general. The characters weren't very well written. I was unimpressed with all of them. They were like cardboard cut outs of real people/characters. They were under developed and I kept waiting for them to grow or open up, or to have the opportunity to get to know them better somehow, but it never came. They felt flat and limp so the story was less interesting and I was less attached to them all than I could have been. Violet, I had the same issue with her as I talked about above. I couldn't pick words to describe her really. I didn't get a sense of personality from her. I knew she loved her family, especially her sister, and her friends and playing cello, but I didn't know anything about what type of person she was or what her personality was like. I'd say she was strong and courageous, because I think she was supposed to be, but she was horribly weak and a coward a lot of the time too. She was stuck somewhere in between the two like most average people. Above all, my biggest issue with her was that she was a bloody idiot sometimes. It wasn't that she messed up or wasn't flawless or anything. Generally she wasn't stupid, but in this one part...well I actually facepalmed in real life while reading it. That's all I can say without spoilers. Read here to find out the spoilers... So she is in "love" with a gigolo ( The word used in the book is companion but it works exactly the same.), and she sees him kissing the girl he was hired to be a companion for and is supposed to kiss to save his sister (all of which she knows. It is very apparent she knows or should know. She has been flat out told several times in a very clear way that should get through even the thickest of skulls.) and then she runs off crying and we have to read a whole scene of him explaining himself, her crying, and then them making up.
- Speaking of characters, the character development was nonexistent. This was frustrating for me because there was so much opportunity to make violet grow, but since she was so underdeveloped to start with the growth didn't happen. Then towards the end I actually read a paragraph of Violet talking about how strong and wise she's grown, how she's grown up, and changed....
What?! When did that happen? Am I missing some pages or something? I went back through the book and thought through it some but I still don't see how or where she grew because she seemed to lack a personality for the entire book!
-Everything romance related. I was loving the book, devouring it, that is until the romance hit. I actually had to put it down for a day because I was so furious and disgusted.
It was every book worms worst night mare. There was a horribly done, cheesy, cliche, predictable forbidden love. As I talked about yesterday forbidden love can be done right, this was absolutely not one of those times. Not only do we have to deal with this horrible, melodramatic situation, but it is also insta-love! I have never ever read an insta-love that was so instant and shallow, and quick. It was unrealistic and it undermines the characters's feelings making them come across as fake. I wanted to puke and punch someone at the same time for the entire middle section of the book when all of this was so prominent. I still can't get over how awful it was to read. I don't have words for it.
-The Romeo and Juliet "allusion." The thing was, Ewing didn't just offhandedly mention or reference Romeo and Juliet, she tore a page right out of the book. Spoiler: Violet is given the opportunity to escape by taking something that puts her in a death like sleep and she'll be retrieved from the morgue after they pronounce her dead and taken off to freedom. Also, her "love" almost doesn't find out what she was going to do. I guess it bothered me that it followed Romeo and Juliet so closely.
-The plot and ending. The plot was pretty good for a while, then about half way through it slowed to a screeching halt. The end was supposed to be shocking, but I already had a pretty good guess as to what was going to happen so it wasn't that surprising. During the last quarter of the book, all kinds of problems were introduced, and by the end not one issue was resolved. So there was this overwhelming amount of conflict just thrown in at the end AND nothing was solved ever from any part of the book. It was a bad combination.
Overall/general thoughts and opinions:
As I said at the start, it was quite entertaining for the first half, but once that romance hit it went downhill fast. I can't really say that I'd recommend it anyways, but :m not going to stop you from reading it. A lot of other people enjoyed it so you might, but personally, I just can't promote it and outright encourage others to read it. I give it one or one and a half stars.