The Jewel (Lone City, book one)
By Amy Ewing
Expected publication September 2, 2014 by HarperTeen
Violet is no longer allowed to tell anyone her name. Once she's auctioned off, she no longer has an identity of her own. She's now the property of the Duchess of the Lake, bought for her reproductive abilities. But it isn't long before Violet realizes that things are terribly wrong with the system in the Jewel. When one of the Jewel's elite reaches out to her, will Violet be able to find a way out of the system?
This is one of the newest in a long line of books with girls in pretty dresses on the cover, which more and more frequently are representing dystopian novels. It's a bit of a disconnect, though I suppose it works in this case. Presumably the girl on the cover is meant to be Violet, who, as surrogate of the House of the Lake, is quite often clothed in fancy outfits, showing how well the Duchess is caring for her. Anyway, enough about the cover.
This book is quite clearly inspired by The Handmaid's Tale but with a few twists. In this society, the royalty are no longer able to have children, so the lower class women are sold into service as reproductive vessels for the royal women. Only certain women have the right genetic capabilities, and there is also a propensity for magic known as the Auguries that comes into play as well. The Auguries don't really make much sense until further into the novel, so that's a bit frustrating.
Violet is an okay heroine - we are meant to get to know her a little better when she visits her family before the auction, but we really don't learn terribly much personal information about her. Mostly, she is just supposed to be representative of all the lower class women conscripted into the service of the royalty. As a result, Violet is not really developed as a character terribly well. It's a bit difficult to really care much about her individual survival since there isn't a ton of information about her.
The romance is also an unfortunate occurrence. It's a terrible example of insta-love and really just very annoying. The relationship between Ash and Violet just doesn't work for me. I actually kept waiting for something to happen with Garnet, because I think that would have been a more interesting dynamic to explore.
Additionally, this book is far from action-packed. In fact, for the most part, not much is happening. It's basically a lot of recounting of Violet's daily activities, which mostly include moping around and worrying about how she's going to find a way out from the Duchess's clutches. However, despite the lack of action, the book actually flies by, which I think must be a result of Ewing's writing. Somehow, she managed to keep me interested the whole time.
The ending is also quite frustrating. Just as the action starts to amp up, the book ends abruptly. My own mistake, I had not realized this book was the first in a series. The ending is so abrupt that I don't know if readers will want to wait for book two.
Thanks to the publisher for a digital advance reader's copy, provided via Edelweiss.