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Series: The Lone City #1
Author: Amy Ewing
Published on: September 2, 2014
Genre: Fantasy, Young Adult
Format: 368 pages, eARC
Provided by: Edelweiss
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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.
Violet Lasting is a Surrogate. She lives in a world where blue bloods can no longer produce viable offspring, but before they begin to die out, a doctor discovers a genetic quirk that fortuitously exists most frequently in the lowest caste of their society, a quirk that allows the girls who have it to carry a royal child to term.
And so it is mandatory, on pain of death, for every girl to be tested upon reaching puberty. If the girl is a Surrogate, she is taken from her family to be raised, groomed, and educated for life in the Jewel.
But being a Surrogate means more than simply having a womb capable of playing host to a royal baby.
The first time I coughed up blood, I thought I was dying. But it stops after a year or so. Now I only have the occasional nosebleed.
Being a Surrogate also means being able to manipulate the three Auguries: color, shape, and growth. Having command of the first (and easiest) Augury means being about to change the superficial aspects of something like . . . wait for it . . . color. Same goes for the shape and growth Auguries, but the interesting thing here is that the royals who purchase their Surrogates at the Auction intend for them to use their gifts specifically on their child.
Kind of cool. Kind of creepy.
Kind of dangerous for the Surrogate . . .
Or at least that was my early impression. Anything that causes severe headaches, nosebleeds, and coughing up blood cannot be good for you. BUT. Like I said, only the lower class has this ability, and everyone knows poor people have no power, so the upper classes are free to use them as they see fit.
I actually thought this was a very clever premise. Anyone who has taken any kind of History of England (or any Western European country) knows about the weakness and illness that began to plague the royals, b/c of all the inbreeding. And in this inexplicably dystopian, presumably post-apocalyptic (b/c “Lone” city) world, who’s going to stop them from abusing their power and exploiting the peasants?
No one, that’s who.
There were lots of interesting little details that made this story stand out for me:
The girl was wild, long black hair tangled around her face, framing eyes of a brilliant, almost shocking, blue. There was something fierce and untamed about her appearance. She couldn’t have been more than a few years older than me.She didn’t fight of struggle against the two Regimentals restraining her. She didn’t cry, or beg. She looked strangely peaceful. When they put her head on the block, I could swear she smiled. The magistrate asked her if she had any last words.“This is how it begins,” she said. “I am not afraid.” Her face saddened, and she added, “Tell Cobalt I love him.”Then they chopped off her head.
BUT . . . there were even more things that were either strangely familiar, or did not work for me at all:
So yeah, there were problems. But overall it was an entertaining read with a great premise—I finished it in an afternoon—and I’ll definitely read the next book. Amy Ewing’s The Jewel is a solid first installment in her The Lone City series. It combines fantasy and dystopian elements to create an interesting new whole, so if either of those sub-genres are your thing, I’d definitely check this one out.