Amy Ewing’s debut novel, The Jewel, is the first book in a planned dystopian fantasy series. She’s off to a good start with a unique setting and a familiar, time-tested dystopian concept – a world where the upper class can no longer have their own children and must rely on surrogates from the lower classes.
Sixteen-year old Violet is one such surrogate, pulled from her loving family in the Marsh, the poorest of the “circles” where lower level, working-class families live, to fulfill her destiny as the baby-carrier for a royal family in the Jewel, the inner circle. This is Violet’s fate not only because she is fertile but also because mandatory genetic testing as a baby revealed that she has special powers, known in this world as Auguries.
Violet has spent the past four years with her fellow surrogates in the Southgate Holding Facility, being trained to use her powers to their greatest potential and perfecting the Auguries. Now, the big day has arrived – the older girls, including Violet and her best friend, Raven, will be auctioned off to the highest bidder from the Jewel, so that the royal families can use them as surrogates. Given her special talents with the Auguries, Violet is given one of the highest lot numbers in the auction, #197, and is purchased by the Duchess of the Lake, a member of one of the Jewel’s most prestigious families.
All her life, Violet has heard that the Jewel is an amazing place of riches and luxury, with no poverty or hunger, but she soon discovers that its glittering façade hides all kinds of not-so-pretty secrets. The more Violet learns – about her surroundings, her friends’ circumstances, and her own fate – the more frightened she becomes. She knows she must find a way out of this horrible situation, but she becomes distracted when she meets a handsome young man, with a similar background to hers, who is also a prisoner in his opulent surroundings. Their love is forbidden but irresistible.
I enjoyed listening to The Jewel on audio. It’s a fast-paced, intriguing story in a fairy tale-like setting that will appeal to teens who enjoy dystopian novels with a helping of romance. Violet and her friend, Raven, were both likable characters, and I was rooting for them to figure a way out of their chilling fates. If you like your endings to wrap up neatly, then you probably won’t like this one – this book is clearly a set-up for the series, and it ends with a surprise but nothing resolved. I guess I have to wait for book 2 to find out what happens to Violet and her friends. I don’t always read sequels, but I think I will read or listen to this one.