Okay, so the same day this ARC arrived in the post, I also received a package of jewels intended for Eleanor's birthday celebrations. I mean, c'mon! Naturally:
This cover is already pretty (gold lettering? Um, yes please!), but the plastic jewels... Ahhhhh.... I get my kicks where I can.
Jewels and pretty covers aside, I felt this was another solid YA debut novel. The book blurb had me at 'auctioned as a surrogate', which is weird, because normally that line wouldn't exactly float my boat ;-). But when it comes to YA fiction, the crazier, the better (general rule, only).
I was lured in by the premise, and after a slightly shaky start, Ewing ensured there was tension and intrigue aplenty throughout the novel. I especially enjoyed the relationship between Violet and her 'owner' (yeah, creepy alright), and some of the side characters were favourited early on (for those who read it - Raven & Garnet - let's discuss). The setting was luxe and this is one aspect that I particularly look forward to seeing described further in the next two novels.
The writing, though in general very smooth (the pacing really hit the sweet spot - not too crazy-fast, and def not slow), contained a few descriptions that were either clunky or unnecessary. This occasionally grated. Also, I would've loved to see more fleshing out of Ash's (romantic lead) character. It didn't feel as though there was time enough for me to fall in love with Ash, so I mean, how could Violet? Lolz (but true).
On the flip side, this really didn't resonate as a romantic novel (though the final act dedicated a bit of time to the romance, it still felt secondary), and to me that was actually a strength. I think this story would have been every bit as interesting without any romancing, and that's to Ewing's credit. The other relationships had enough substance to add flesh to an already interesting plot, and there were definitely enough twists and turns to keep you hooked.
I have to say, I dug the cliffhanger at the end and I'm definitely keen to see where things are taken in the follow-up novels. Exciting possibilities = opened up.
On reading the synopsis, my mind immediately swept to 'The Handmaids Tale', but there actually isn't much that is similar. There have been comparisons drawn with 'The Selection' (reviewed here by Angela of Striking Keys), and 'The Hunger Games' - To that I would add the 'Birthmarked' series too, both in terms of setting and themes. This should give you a fair idea of whether you have a place for 'The Jewel' on your bookshelf.
'The Jewel' by Amy Ewing (published by Harper Collins) will be available September 2nd :-)
Harper Collins provided me with a review copy of this book. All opinions are my own.