Violet Lasting is no longer a human being. Tomorrow she becomes Lot 197, auctioned to the highest royal bidder in the Jewel of the Lone City. Tomorrow she becomes the Surrogate of the House of the Lake, her sole purpose to produce a healthy heir for the Duchess. Imprisoned in the opulent cage of the palace, Violet learns the brutal ways of the Jewel, where the royal women compete to secure their bloodline and the surrogates are treated as disposable commodities. Destined to carry the child of a woman she despises, Violet enters a living death of captivity - until she sets eyes on Ash Lockwood, the royal Companion. Compelled towards each other by a reckless, clandestine passion, Violet and Ash dance like puppets in a deadly game of court politics, until they become each other's jeopardy - and salvation (from Goodreads).
Dystopian young adult fiction was the thing to write about just a few years ago. The Hunger Games and Divergent are two great examples of the genre. But now the vampire craze before it, the time for the fad passed and books moved on. Sadly I think this book missed the boat a bit so it seems out of place these days for me.
Violet is our main character, and she is being trained to be a Surrogate. After a strange genetic event happened, there are only certain people who can carry children. Violet is one of these young girls. She is auctioned and sold to the Duchess of the House of the Lake. This is her new life, and her job now is to get pregnant, have a child, then retire quietly to the countryside. It all sounds very dodgy from the beginning, but Violet is a bit dense and not the suspicious kind so believes what she's been told.
Her life in her new home is a strange one. She's not allowed to be addressed by her name, is a prisoner, but her new owner kind of likes her. The Duchess has plans for Violet, plans for the child she will bring into the world's future. She wants fame and for her child to become royalty; Violet is going to help her with it, whether she likes it or not. Their relationship is an interesting one; it's clear the Duchess has waited for and chosen Violet for a reason, and there is something of a mutual respect between the two. Violet could have had a worse owner, she sees that. But the Duchess is still cruel and mad, but there is a softer side to her, a more emotional one. It's hinted slightly her attitude and actions are based on circumstance. If this wasn't the way of the world, perhaps we may have even liked her a little bit.
The world itself is a little bit interesting, but the idea of the strange magic powers the surrogates have just seems so odd. Suddenly it's just thrown in there they were all trained in these arts at the school they grew up in. The theory is they can use their powers to change the colours of things and make things grow faster to create a healthy, beautiful child in the womb. The concept just seemed stupid to me, but there may have been a way to make it make sense if it had been explained better, or utilised more effectively.
The romance between Violet and Ash is just a bit painful actually. Long gone are the days when I used to think the love interest was an important key in a book, and there is certainly no use for Ash. Violet hasn't really experienced much of a life, growing up being trained as a Surrogate, so Ash is the first boy she's properly spoken to who wasn't her brother. Immediately she falls in love with him, and he falls in love with her, despite there being very little of a basis past a meet-cute in a library. Ash is just annoying, because he was just unnecessary.
The actual plot of surrogates and how they carry the children, and what happens to them after their duty is fulfilled is much more interesting than the Violet/Ash story but at times it really feels like it takes a back seat to the angsty romance. Violet's best friend Raven has a much more interesting time as a surrogate, and we only get mentions of it. Raven was bought at the same auction by some batshit crazy old woman who appears to be doing experiments on Raven, to push the understanding of why Surrogates can have children and their purpose. I think I would have preferred to read about Raven, her fight to remember who she is as her mind is tampered with. She was a fiery character when first introduced, and it would have been very compelling to read what happened to her.
The Jewel was interesting at times, and did have potential. But as I've said, I've passed the time to think it was amazing. I've matured and this book just felt too young, too underdeveloped to really catch my interest. I won't be buying the next books, but if I can find them for cheap or borrow them, I may do that. It just depends if I get time; I won't be going out of my way to read the others when I have so many other amazing books vying for my time.