The Jewel (The Lone City #1) by Amy Ewing (2014), narrated by Erin Spencer
Initially it is unclear how her powers relate to pregnancy. We see Violet and other surrogates using their powers to change physical properties of objects - turning them different colors, or making plants grow. It's also fairly far along in the story that we learn why the royals don't have their own babies. As we learn more and more, this world reveals itself to be dark and twisted and I began to worry a lot for Violet.
Her life in the royal palace is one of both captivity and opulence. She is no longer called by her name, as she is just property now, but she lives in a large suite with her own maid, wears fancy clothing, and attends glamorous parties. Also in the course of the story she begins a romance (of course.) It is totally forbidden, of course, but all of these trappings of luxury and pleasure almost glamorize slavery a little. The story makes it very clear that her situation is bad. There were some disturbing scenes, like when she is taken out by her owner to visit another royal family, and she and other surrogates were led around on leashes. But she still managed to fall for a guy and become totally wrapped up in him very quickly, despite other more important things that were happening to her. I just feel like a person in her situation would have been more traumatized and fearful. On the one hand, I understand wanting to get pleasure where you can in a bad situation, but there was so much happening to her all at once that I can't imagine being able to be distracted by a cute boy while it was happening. Violet was also unfailingly selfless and an incredibly good person, and I found that sort of annoying and unbelievable. She doesn't hide the fact that she hates her situation, but I would think she would hold a little more bitterness and resentment, and spend more time missing her family and feeling anguish about never being able to see them again.
I think I first heard about this book after reading The Selection and wanting something similar. Although The Jewel is definitely up my alley, despite the pretty dress on the cover it's nothing like The Selection. It's more like a combination of The Hunger Games and The Handmaid's Tale. Although I have some criticisms, I did really enjoy listening to this story and learning more about the horrific society in which Violet lives. It ends on a cliffhanger with a shocking twist that was not actually super-shocking, but very satisfying to me because I had my suspicions! I wasn't sure for a while whether I'd continue the series, but I am actually very curious about where the story will go and I just know there's a lot more than meets the eye in this world that Amy Ewing has created. Apparently I never get tired of fictional dystopias!
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