Science and magic, royalty and rabble begin to clash in this dystopian sequel (The Jewel, 2014).
The Duchess of the Lake bought teenage Violet at Auction to serve as a surrogate mother, ushering her into a luxurious life in the Jewel, which occupies the heart of the concentric Lone City. Horrified by rampant exploitation and experimentation, Violet just wanted freedom. Now imprisoned for an indiscretion with the off-limits Ash, male companion to the royal daughters, Violet petitions enigmatic eunuch Lucien for assistance. Aided by a secret society but hunted by the Regimentals, Ash and Violet slowly escape, their passage fraught with danger—and many characters’ back stories. In exchange for her freedom, Violet must become a figurehead for the revolution, rousing rabble, scaring surrogates, and employing the native, elemental magic of the island against the colonialist oppressors. Violet’s path is clearly mapped by Lucien (and the author) and follows the trendy solitary-heroine–vs.–corrupt-rulers trope, but the plentiful action, complex characters, and mix of science and magic help avoid predictability. However, the magical empowerment of the surrogates and stark socioeconomic inequalities do not explain the illogical disposability of surrogates, undermining both the premise and the high stakes. Ewing bravely blends several genres—science fiction, fantasy, medical thriller, dystopian—and semisuccessfully balances teen romance and angst against family drama, rape accusations, prostitution, and slavery.
This graphic read solidly sets fans up for the next volume. (Dystopian romance. 14-18)