In this dystopian fantasy, the Jewel is the inner ring on an island walled from the sea. Only wealthy nobility live in the Jewel, which is divided into four sections for various nobles, while the Elector and Electress rule from their palace in the center. For mysterious reasons, women in the Jewel are not able to bear children of their own. They rely on surrogates taken from the island’s outer ring, the Marsh. In the Marsh, twelve-year-old girls are tested for special gifts called auguries. If they have these gifts, they are trained in a holding cell four years, then auctioned off in the Jewel.
Violet Lasting (renamed 197) is one such surrogate, and her augury powers are particularly strong. The Jewel is full of court intrigues; at stake is which daughter born to a surrogate will be betrothed to the current rulers’ baby son. Violet’s arrival sets off a compelling train of events fueled by the competition of hopeful mothers.
The author has done a masterful job of world-building. Her characters, both sympathetic and nefarious, are well-defined and ring true. Tension is well-maintained throughout. The last scene suggests an exciting sequel to come.
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