From Goodreads: 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.
An advance copy was provided by the Publisher via Edelweiss in exchange for an honest review.
I should warn you right now that if you’re not comfortable with rants, then you should not read this review. There are no spoilers.
If you’ve read Wither or The Selection then you’ve obviously already read this book. Where Wither or The Selection went wrong, this book goes even worse because it includes the most ridiculous amount of insta-love that not only emphasizes the shaky world building and annoying protagonist, but it also includes a cliffhanger that felt added for shock value than anything else.
Violet Lasting is the protagonist of this book. She is a special snowflake. Her eyes are a beautiful color, she’s a beautiful specimen, her cello playing is beautiful, her body is beautiful, and she is all around beautiful. Beautiful, beautiful, beautiful. Despite all the beauty and praise she constantly receives from pretty much everyone, Violet’s life is horrible. She lives in a horrible mansion where she has her own room, her own lady in waiting, marvelous food brought to her whenever she pleases, a huge library that she can visit whenever she wants, and gardens so vast that she can walk around. Not to mention the fact that she attends balls, goes to parties, intoxicates herself with champagne, plays the cello, gets primped and pampered constantly, and is protected from the “horrors” of The Jewel. Violet’s life is absolutely tragic, don’t you think?
Despite reading 358 pages where I’m being told how horrible being auctioned off in the surrogacy auction is, I really couldn’t believe it. Violet’s life is absolutely privileged and she, more than anyone knows it. Never once in all those pages does she ever stop and think, “Wow, this place is horrible. I need to leave here immediately”. Hell, I’d volunteer for that life, since I am never shown any legitimate reason to feel fear whatsoever.
My main issue with Violet is the fact that she is so compliant. She never stands up for herself, never acts rebellious, and never tries to escape her household situation. She was sold in an auction. She is treated as no more than a uterus to bear a child. And yet she does absolutely nothing. Katniss she is not. Never once does she ever make a decision for herself. Everything that happens is because someone else decides it for her or because she’s told that it’s the best decision she can make. She was more preoccupied in admiring the mansion or walking through the gardens than about her own life. Was she even a little bit distraught because she was going to have to bear someone else’s child? Absolutely not.
The world-building is very poor. We get some small details here and there from info dumps conveniently placed within the story, but other than that we know little to nothing about the setting. How did the world come to be like this? Since when has it been like this? Is this even set in America? We’re expected just to take this as it is because Violet’s story is apparently much more important than actually building a believable setting.
The surrogacy theme is by far the most unbelievable part of the book, and this has to do with the fact that the world building was so flimsy. We are never given a legitimate and believable reason as to why girls from poor cities must be used as surrogates to give birth to Royalty. There’s also a small paranormal aspect that is used as a way to try to explain this, but it was also completely vague and basically looked over until it was necessary to keep the plot moving along again.
Then to add icing to the cake, as if the annoying protagonist and flimsy world building were not enough, we have a case of insta-love that’ll make you question Violet’s sanity (if you weren’t already).
One, very short, conversation between Violet and Ash about music begins this love story. Violet’s every thought is consumed with Ash just because he totally understands her. His beautiful eyes can see right through her. Violet becomes possessive and jealous from one little conversation about cellists. She’s jealous when he does his damn job of accompanying the Duchess’s niece; she becomes possessive when he doesn’t glance at her when she knows that they can’t have a romance because it is forbidden. BECAUSE THEY CAN BE KILLED IF ANYONE FINDS OUT.
“He doesn’t look at me. His eyes seem to skip over me, as if I’m not even there. Like I’m invisible. The pain of this is a sharp, physical thing.”
It doesn’t matter if later on in the story we can actually see why they love each other and “cannot live without” the other, because by that point I was already annoyed with the couple who can go from “my favorite cellist is…” to “I think I love you” based on one conversation.
The story in itself was very simplistic. There were many repetitive descriptions and similar situations. The dialogue seemed contrived and superficial when Violet wasn’t the one speaking, and it really felt more tell than show.
Nothing much happens other than Violet angsting over Ash and going to parties and getting makeovers. There are actually a lot of descriptions of dresses and makeup and hairstyles.
At one point I really believed that this book was going to be amazing. And I’m pretty sure I would’ve forgiven most of its flaws if it weren’t for the ending. We reach the 300-page mark, and suddenly everything is going at break-neck speed, there is plot twist after plot twist after plot twist and revelation after revelation after revelation until all of a sudden, it ends. I felt like everything was still left out in the open and like pages were missing from the book.
I honestly cannot recommend this because I couldn’t find anything about it that I could like or that I could say I had never seen before. If you’ve read Wither or The Selection, then you’re not missing out on this one.
If you were somewhat entertained by my review, then please consider “liking” it on Goodreads.