Author: Amy Ewing
Series: The Lone City #1
Publication Date: September 2, 2014
Summary 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.
Based on the summary, I thought this book would go in one of two directions: (1) it could lack uniqueness and be terribly executed or (2) it would surprisingly good, unique, and hopefully well written. Thankfully, it was mostly option 2. Yes the premise was somewhat reminiscent of The Handmaid's Tale, Bumped, and The Hunger Games, but overall I felt like the story held its own.
The world building was OK. I felt like I had a solid understanding of the social/economic structure of the society, but I felt like I needed a better grasp of the geographical characteristics of the world. I enjoyed learning about the powers and felt like they were really well written. I also found some of the information about the treatment of the surrogates and the medical treatments to be a bit disturbing, but really well done.
The characters were good. Violet is likable, she is decently feisty and has a good heart. True to most teenage girls, she makes some questionable/naive decisions, but I can't fault her for acting her age. The Duchess is a bit unpredictable in a strange way that made her consistent. Unfortunately, the other characters were not as well developed. I am super interested in learning more about Raven and Ash. The "forbidden romance" felt rushed to me; like it didn't quite flow.
Th pace of the book was well done, I never found myself bored and I was pleasantly surprised by how much I enjoyed the writing. I'm definitely looking forward to the next book in the series.