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.