"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.I have been passing by this book in the library every time I go there. It sits on the shelf, and I have thought about reading this book for the last year or so, but I'm fully aware that there's a sequel, so I waited. And waited. Until now.
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."
I regret yet also don't regret waiting.
The Jewel starts off its world building slowly. It weaves its explanations with its plot, and it doesn't feel like a rough roller coaster. It does have its ups and downs. The up is that the reader knows what's going on through the inner thoughts of Violet (or the dialogue of another character). The down is that the reader isn't fully aware of the world and that when a new detail is discovered (or announced), there's a huge question mark. But thankfully, those times come very rarely and the author is quick to smooth out any wrinkles.
Violet is a young woman who is stuck in her horrible situation. She doesn't have anywhere to go, and she is almost a slave to the rich and wealthy. But that's not the entire truth. (In fact, she's more of a prized breeding cow than an actual slave.) She is thrown into a whole new world of politics and backstabbing, and one wrong move can have her poisoned to death. It's a brutal setting, but Violet is reckless enough to shake apart the establishment and draw too much attention to herself. It's not the smartest thing, but Lady Luck smiles down on her. And Violet begins to understand, her edges becoming much sharper.
The setting has a lot of potential, and I can't wait to see more of it. It's a really interesting world the book has here, and I want to know more about the economy, the system, the wealthy, the poor, and more.
The romance has high stakes in its forbidden nature. Violet is a surrogate for a future duchess. And her gentleman friend is pretty much a male version of a lady-in-waiting with even less limitations in what he can't do for his mistress, who is not Violet. (Anything is on the list... Seriously. Anything.) Still, it's cute to see it unfold, but I'm not totally invested in it.
The ending (and the twisty plot) is perhaps what totally sold me. It's an epic twist, and I admit that I did not see that coming. Epic...
Overall, The Jewel is a wonderful start to a new trilogy. It dives into a daring story of privilege, politics, and danger. I honestly curse myself for not reading it sooner.
Rating: Three out of Five