Browsing through YA trilogies, I spotted The Lone City, described in a blurb as Handmaid’s Tale meets The Selection. Yes, you read right. The Handmaid’s Tale meets The Selection. Margaret Atwood’s feminist classic of a harrowing, sexual-violence filled dystopia meets the cotton-candy-wrapped tale of a teenage, royal The Bachelor competition that features a different ball gown on each cover. When I read this sentence, I immediately said “there’s no way. there’s no way that book exists” and I had to try it.
Well, my friends, that book exists, and this is it.
Amy Ewing has very precisely executed the “Selection meets Handmaid’s Tale” directive, with a little dark fantasy thrown in. The real question, of course, is whether such a thing should exist, to which I would say, probably not.
Any chance this book had of being a dark tale of resistance in a dystopia where poor teenagers are used for their bodies in undermined by the flimsy romance and preoccupation with tiaras. Likewise, the book’s potential as an exciting but of fluff is muddied by the moroseness and shockingly adult themes. It’s not mature enough to carry the weight of the sort of violent, horror-filled dystopia it’s reaching for, isn’t able to treat sexual violence and abuse with the care they need.
Also, the protagonist is called Violet, and has violet eyes. That’s about the tone of the whole book.
The Jewel does get two stars from me, though. It’s redeemed somewhat by some beautiful or horrifying sequences with striking imagery. I will say that I find Violet’s powers to be interesting, and I always enjoy some palace intrigue.
There are certainly some readers who would appreciate The Jewel, but I hope that, when they do, they also read something with a little more meat and a little more respect for such serious themes.