The Jewel by Amy Ewing

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The royalty of the Lone City live in the center of their small island, in a neighborhood titled the Jewel. The women of the Jewel are infertile, and no one can tell them why. So instead of looking for an answer, they look to the lower class. Any girl of child-bearing age who finds herself capable of performing feats of magic known as Auguries is taken from her home, trained to be a surrogate, and auctioned off to the highest bidder. The talent of your surrogate-slave is indicative of your wealth and power in the hierarchy of the Jewel.

 

I bought this book because it was cheap and I was drunk (this actually happens more than I care to admit. I like to think it’s my past self looking out for my future self). I also enjoyed the Handmaid’s Tale, both the book and the television series, so another series based on making slaves out of child-bearing individuals seemed timely. For the first time in a long time, I started reading a book with no idea what to expect.

Unfortunately, it fell flat. I found myself wanting more. Violet is nothing to me. She’s superficial and complacent. She blankly wanders through her life, being shepherded by her caretaker or her prep artist or her maid. Her solitary shining moment comes after the doctor has placed the first embryo. Violet was drugged and strapped down while they placed another’s women’s child in her womb, and she feels understandably violated, shell-shocked and mortified.

This is so disappointing because that’s one of my favorite things about dystopian. The character usually finds herself in circumstances that make it clear that complacence is no longer viable. The characters are usually down-trodden teens with a strong moral compass who decides enough is e-fucking-nough. Violet, enslaved as a walking womb, finds none of that strength. She is neither headstrong, nor inspiring.

Because I could care less about anyone in this book, I was fighting giggles in what was meant to be one of the most tense moments in the novel. Violet and her love interest were being chastised for their forbidden love (yes, chastised. Like teenagers who got caught sneaking out in the 21st century), and I’m trying not to laugh, even though somebody could be killed over it.

Ash is just as much a blank slate as any other character, and as a result the romance is sudden, undeveloped, and uninteresting. This relationship developed far too quickly, and it just… happened. There was no build up and no reveal to get excited about. We were told they were in love and we were meant to believe it. In fact, this was true for the whole novel. It felt like the entire book was a summary of what had happened. Nothing ever felt like it was happening in the moment.

This book wasn’t exciting or captivating. It was barely interesting.  It barely even crossed the line into interesting. Will I read the next book? Maybe, if I can check it out from the library.

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The Last Star by Rick Yancey

 

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Cassie has reunited with her beloved Sam and he’s forgotten his ABCs. This ultimate loss of childhood reminds Cassie that this world will never be the same after the Others. As long as that terrifying green orb is in the sky, the humans left over will be afraid and alone; and that’s how the Others want it.

 

This was a terrible ending to a sub-par series. On top of everyone being so annoying, there was a lot of inconsistent characterization and plotting. There’s something to be said for trusting your readers to understand what you’re getting at, but leading them blindly and letting them walk off into the abyss is something else entirely. The plot was… questionable at best. At times, it was so fast I was like WTF is happening? Sometimes entire chapters would pass with nothing interesting happening.

Just a heads up: the conflict of this story boils down to climate change. And how even the the crazy aliens and military men recognize this is happening. This is really a mercy kill; they’ll kill 6 billion people because significantly fewer people can do significantly less damage. The aliens are altruistic; they’re doing us a favor. They get nothing out of it except for feeling philanthropic because they stopped the disaster that was the human race from destroying itself. Thought I’d recap, because it’s not like it’s ever plainly explained. It’s all dramatic allusions and riddles. 

Yancey never did answer why they don’t just kill everyone either. Yes, I get that they want to stop the cooperation of the human race; make it so they can’t trust each other long enough to cooperate and collaborate. So many of the world’s advances come from people working together; if they can end that, they end human advancement. But here’s what I still don’t understand. If they just killed everyone, there’d be no cooperation to worry about. Maybe that’s short-sighted of me. I guess eventually some new life-form would evolve from the ashes of everything the humans left behind. At least with a few paranoid humans left, there would be something there to kill it before it became problematic.

I’ve seen this ending to Cassie’s story before in films like Independence Day and Oblivion. That was the Divergent series ended, and people hated it then. They saw it for what it was; lazy story-writing. There are no loose endings left to worry about. We needn’t be bothered with the pesky emotional impact, because it’s the main character, and the only one who we were ever allowed to get emotionally attached to. With Cassie, this sort of selflessness is not something we’ve seen from her, so it’s not just lazy, it’s also out of character. The ending was overall unfulfilling.

Overall, it’s crappy story writing. Yancey attempted to be as profound as posssible while impersonating a teenage girl. He made Cassie a rambling, babbling, high school bobble head who went through an existential crisis when her existence was threatened. The plot was poorly planned, poorly paced, and poorly executed. The problems that have prevailed through the last two novels returned with a vengeance in this one, culminating in an unsatisfying ending.

I would not recommend this series. Rumor has it Yancey is planning a second trilogy surrounding these same characters and others in this world. I may pick it up from the local public library, but I wouldn’t count on it.