The Lone City #1
Available September 2nd
THE STORY (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.
The Jewel, like the overall design of its cover, has some notable similarities to a number of well-known dystopian tales, familiar elements stealing much of our focus in the early chapters since we can’t help but draw comparisons. Before we can get ourselves too tangled up trying to figure out which plot threads or world-building elements we’ve seen where though, our attention is beautifully redirected, and we find ourselves riveted as Ms. Ewing takes those familiar pieces and reworks them to create something that stands on its own.
Perhaps the key element in shifting our focus from what we’ve seen before to what’s in front us currently is Violet herself, Ms. Ewing isolating her socially to such a degree that our time with her feels uniquely intimate, we as readers sharing in her fear of the future in a way those who are with her physically simply can’t. Her isolation comes after she’s auctioned off, waking up in her new home with a mistress so brilliantly hateful that our allegiance to Violet–already strong–soars off the charts. Though she has a friend in Annabelle, her mute lady-in-waiting, that friendship is shallow at best simply due to the fact that they both exist under the Duchess’s thumb. True friendship is based on loyalty and trust, two things that neither Violet nor Annabelle can give to one another no matter how much they wish to, so we become the only ones capable of supporting Violet fully.
Even though our extreme distaste for the Duchess would have had us rooting for any heroine forced to endure her changing moods and the rewards and punishments that accompany them, Violet proves herself more than worthy of our unwavering affection. Through her stark terror of the unknown she stands tall and strong, fighting well-chosen battles with the Duchess to show she is not going to lose herself in the title of surrogate, but also knowing when to let the Duchess win a round or two as well. We fear for her with every chapter, the Duchess utterly unpredictable in her day to day treatment of Violet, and so we spend our time wondering if the next chapter will be the one to show us that what we’ve already seen of this world isn’t yet the worst of it.
While both Violet and the Duchess inspire a great deal of love and hate respectively, the romance between Violet and Ash leaves us a bit wanting. Part of the problem is Ash comes into the picture late in the story, past the halfway mark, so we simply don’t have the same time to get to know him as we do Violet. By that point we’ve also come to value the aforementioned intimacy established by Violet’s loneliness, and Ash’s presence adds a new distance to our relationship given the speed with which their feelings develop. Granted the seriousness of their circumstances make the swiftness of their romance a touch more believable, but there just isn’t enough page time between them to achieve the emotional depth always hoped for with a romantic relationship.
Overall, there are some true highlights to The Jewel, namely in protagonist Violet and the villainous female royalty who believe social status is the only determining factor of human worth, but the romance and the initial similarities to other books of the same genre keep this first installment from a higher rating. We’re left rather abruptly at an enormous turning point as well, so those who dislike being kicked out of the story right when the action picks up should be aware upfront of the type of ending they can expect.
This book was sent to me by the publisher free of charge for the purpose of a review.
I received no other compensation and the above is my honest opinion.