Ewing, Amy. The Jewel. HarperTeen, 2014.
Once they reach puberty, all girls in The Marsh must have a blood test to determine if they have certain characteristics, which will qualify them to become surrogates to the royal families who live in The Jewel. Due to a genetic quirk, royalty are unable to give birth to their own children. A Girl who “passes” the blood test is removed from her family and taken to live in one of four holding facilities in The Lone City, where she is trained to use her special powers, or auguries. The auguries include the ability to change the color of an item, the ability to change the shape of an item, and the ability to make things grow. Eventually, after several years, the girl is sold at auction to the highest royal bidder and becomes the surrogate for that family.
Violet Lasting, now sixteen years old, has spent her last four years in the Southgate Holding Facility, preparing for her life as a surrogate. She has wanted for nothing while living in the facility, has achieved extremely high scores on her augury tests, and is an accomplished cellist. However, she has missed her family and home in The Marsh deeply.
At auction she is sold to The Duchess of the Lake as Lot #197 for an enormous sum and goes to spend her days in a lovely palace, where she has beautiful clothes, wonderful meals, enjoys lavish parties, and has her own suite of rooms.
However, there is a dark side to being a surrogate. Violet is a nameless “pet” to The Duchess of the Lake, forced to wear a leash and collar when they go out, as do all surrogates. She is at The Duchess’s beck and call twenty-four hours a day. Her body is not hers; it belongs to the doctor who performs experiments on her and to The Duchess, who wants Violet to use her abilities to grow a baby in three months as opposed to nine.
When Violet is secretly offered a way to leave The Jewel and her life of surrogacy, she has to decide if freedom is also worth leaving forbidden love and her best friend behind, as well. Some decisions are hard, especially when they involve trust, promises, and love.
This terrific debut novel by Amy Ewing is the first in her new series, “The Lone City”, and is filled with excitement, surprises, and intrigue. The world building is exquisite. In The Jewel, which is painted as a fairytale-like place, everyone lives in castles, and all lifestyles are extravagant! The city is decorated like it is Christmas all the time! There are headstrong royal women and power plays to see who can produce the first daughter, who can shun whom, and who has the most talented and beautiful surrogate. All the royal women are conniving and mean-spirited!
Ms. Ewing has included such strong characters in her book—Violet, Garnet—The Duchess of the Lake’s unruly son; Ash—companion to Carnelian Silver, The Lady’s niece; and Lucien, the Lady-in-Waiting who prepares Violet for the Auction. I am really looking forward to their continuing story in the next installment!
This dystopian/fantasy/romance will be enjoyed by readers who liked The Selection series by Kiera Cass. However, be prepared, because it is much more sinister! I recommend it for grades eight and up and for public libraries. I give it five out of five fleur de lis!!!!