12 September 2015

The Jewel

Author: Amy Ewing
Series: The Lone City #1
Rating: 2 / 5 stars
Verdict: Bury

It is hard to decide what I think about Violet Lasting, the main character and narrator of this story.  Her decision to be a surrogate is not one of her own choosing.  If anything, it is a product of genetics.  For Violet is born with the gift (and the curse) of the Auguries, which give her the rare power to be able to carry a child of royal lineage to term without the baby being all deformed and stunted and eventually dying.  So while Violet's life growing up in the slums in the outer, poorest ring of the Lone City may not have been the best, things certainly don't look up when she has her first period at twelve, gets the mandatory test, finds out she has the powers of these Auguries, and is swept away to a holding cell to hone her skills for the next four years.

Believe it or not, this beginning portion of the novel is actually the interesting part, even if I still don't really understand how the Auguries work, how they are possible, and what - exactly - makes Violet and the other surrogates special to have these traits in the first place.  To be fair, it doesn't seem like Ewing knows either, because the characters basically say 'Yeah, it's a mystery - just roll with it' every time it comes up.  Which, if you know me, you will realize drives me absolutely BONKERS.  But, I digress.  Let's get to the royally f*ed up part of this plot, where Violet and the others she has lived with for the past four years are auctioned off to the highest bidder in a public form, drugged, and dragged away to The Jewel - the inner most, royal part of the city jammed back with palaces, royal elitists, and just downright terrible people.

If you are like me, you would expect these surrogates to be revered in the Jewel.  After all, they are the only things that stand between the extinction of these royal bloodlines and thus the power these people hold.  But are they treated like the magical beings they are?  Errrr, no.  Instead, they are chained and handcuffed or - my favorite - given collars and pulled around by a leash with a bag over their heads.  Also, they are forced to use their magical abilities to show off in public, even though it causes them to have nosebleeds and pass out.  Because I'm sure that will be good for the baby's health.

To summarize, the plot and the character develop in this book make absolutely no sense whatsoever.  All the royals are heartless, evil b-words, and then they act all disappointed when their surrogates drop dead (sometimes by sabotage from another rich snob elitist) or - even better - when their demon spawn can't latch onto the inside of these poor girls vaginas and survive.

But, let's get away from the plot that steadily goes off the rails and focus on our "heroine", Violet.  As I started to say at the beginning of my review, it isn't Violet's fault that she was born with this genetic anomaly that turns her effectively into a slave.   It is her fault, however, that she is so bloody stupid.  What really, really, really made me want to reach into the book and punch her in the fact is her relationship/romantic entanglement in the story.  Because this is a YA dystopian story, so of course there has to be romance.

Let's look past the fact that there is absolutely no development of this relationship at all.  Let's ignore the fact that they meet twice, and then suddenly he rushes towards her, collects her into a kiss, and bam! they are confessing love to each other.  My fundamental issue with their relationship is that they both know why their are here in The Jewel/what their jobs entail.  And they both know the same about the other.  And yet, they seem to forget it.  When Violet sees him working, she goes raving mad, declaring immediately that she hates him, even though she knows his job details even worse things that she conveniently ignores.  And then he knows what being a surrogate entails - though he doesn't seem to bother to ask her any details, which just goes to show they don't spend much time getting to know each other.  Their entire relationship is ABSURD and yet it takes up the majority of the second half of the novel.  And the dialogue steadily becomes worse and worse as it shifts to their interactions, until the point where I almost wanted to throw up a few times.

Yes, there is a twist at the end, but for the majority this book rolls along with a rather standard plot that isn't difficult to guess.  The characters are either vapid and stupid (Violet, her gentleman friend, Raven...) or characterized only by their wickedness (pretty much everyone else).  And while the beginning part of this novel is interesting with this highly unique world, it doesn't take long for it to go completely off the rails.  So do yourself a favor.  Skip this one.

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