I'm a little late to The Lone City series game (the last one was recently published), but The Jewel had been on my radar for a while. I wanted to read it because it was compared to books I'd been reading, but also kept putting it off because it sounded like everything else I'd been reading and getting bored with. I decided to go ahead try it out when it was on quick sale for $1.99.
The basic premise is the royalty in Lone City, who live in The Jewel, are unable to naturally reproduce. Their babies always have They buy surrogates to carry their children for them. All girls are tested for certain abilities (magic, basically), and if they have this gene, they're taken away to be raised as a surrogate. Violet Lasting (what a silly name) is one of these girls, and she gets bought by one of the wealthiest families in The Jewel (and her name gets changed to Lot 197). This woman, Pearl, wants Violet to use her substantial abilities to create the most incredible baby girl to marry the Electress's (the queen, essentially) son. Pearl is nasty and vicious, but promises she'll give Violet a good life (mostly a cello and the ability to wander around the house free) if they work as a team to make this happen. But uh oh! There's a cute boy. Like a really cute boy. Violet also has been locked up for years as a surrogate-in-training so she doesn't even really know what to do with a really cute boy. Especially not the really cute escort who Pearl's bought to teach her dumb niece how to dance and kiss and stuff. Violet blushes a lot and immediately starts fantasizing about kissing Ash. Of course they fall deeply into forbidden love, and could both be executed if found out. Surely they'll do the smart thing and stay away from each other!
This book was really meh for me. It's been compared to several books in particular, especially The Selection and The Handmaid's Tale, but also Wither and even The Hunger Games. And this book really does ride that comparison-train as far as it can. It's like all those books came together and had the most watered-down baby imaginable. It's a lukewarm mash-up of those other books, full of beautiful dresses and delicious food.
On that note, this book did give me clothes envy and made me hungry. Pearl is also a pretty fascinating character, the kind of villian who fills you with a little bit of glee. The romance is sudden and predictable. The pace is very quick though, and I read it in an evening. I didn't hate it, but will probably pass on the rest of the series.
Published September 2, 2014 by HarperTeen