Violet Lasting hasn’t seen her family, or herself, in five years at this prison called The Southgate. She was mandatorily tested and her blood proved she was to be a surrogate: you see, The Jewel is the name of the city in the middle of all that’s known of the people in this world. It’s surrounded by oceans and one big Hoover-Dam-esque wall holding the world back from a flood, and The Jewel is right in the middle. But Violet always lived in The Marsh as a kid and had to leave her mother and two siblings against her will. Why? Well, some girls have special manipulation abilities. Nothing that superpowerful but it shows real health. And these girls are turned into surrogates by the time they’re old enough to produce a baby. They are auctioned into a particular high class house, and then they are forcefully impregnated, and they’re supposed to even not have a name. Violet’s a special case, though. She’s not afraid to share her name and is investigating a cut in the thread, somewhere.
In terms of using clever words and phrases, The Jewel certainly shines under the light. This is a well and carefully written book for sure. And the side characters, such as Violet’s friends from Southgate have enough time on their own to make them stand out reasonably. If anything, there’s a very similar vibe to Keira Cass’s The Selection trilogy, not just because of the similar covers and the same publisher but also the feeling of the protagonists doing their best to sit still and think things through. I also thought the idea of bearing children was inventive and realistic; so many people are greedy these days and are probably the same on an alien planet, and if there’s a possibility of having the perfect kid, I can see people going to dastardly lengths to get exactly what they want.
And the Duchess, who ends up buying Violet, is, like Celia from Half Bad, supposed to be the main antagonist and does things that make you want to build muscle so you can overpower and choke her, but she has a history that Amy Ewing shares with us and gives her moments that show she’s not the complete pure evil that would’ve been convenient for the plot. Ewing’s debut trilogy starts off with a well-written fantasy drama with an unconventional flavouring in its familiar setting diluted by unremarkable romance and an inability to emphasize the terror of forced childbirth enough.
Every book, from what I know, with a woman wearing a dress in it, will have a romance. And I don’t mind that. Very few books have plots not centered around romance and I’m used to it by now. But the attraction thing just doesn’t work for me anymore at all. The couple we’re supposed to ship talks about how they looked at each other from across the room and thought about fonder memories and the idea that the world could be a better place. For once, I wish two characters would meet, say “Bye see you later” and think about something else the next chapter, and let the friendship and eventual romance develop better. It’s really not that hard to do. Violet and her crush say sweet things together but it’s just not enough.
As for the pregnancy issue, I don’t know what that’s like and I never will, so I don’t really have an authority to critique. Much. But I’m sure girls who have a baby in their bodies against their will can feel like a part of their soul belongs to a stranger or someone radical and has that soul up for sale. It must feel terrible. And I can’t help but feel there wasn’t quite enough to feel that way.
Something else I’m kind of tired of is having perfect characters. Raven is perfect, Annabelle’s perfect, Lucien’s perfect, yeah. Lucien especially. He risks everything to help Violet out because of a reason that felt convenient and petite, and he becomes instantly a father figure whereas he’s clearly met other surrogates in the past. Violet didn’t seem special enough, in my imagination of what those others may have been like, for her to seem like the very tipping point out of his tough life.
The ending is okay, and cliffhangs the eff out of everyone, but for now, this series is put on hold.