This book kept popping up on my Overdrive dashboard for the library, and I'll be honest: I thought it was a sequel to The Selection. The covers and titles are just so similar. But apparently, it's not! When another member of the NaNoWriMo book on Facebook was looking to read it, I decided that I would, too, so we could discuss.
It was okay. The story is about Violet, who is slated to be a surrogate for a rich family in the Jewel, the center and wealthiest ring of the Lone City, which is apparently surrounded by ocean that will destroy them all if they're not careful. (There is absolutely not a chance that they don't find out there's something out there beyond the city during the course of this series.) The families in the Jewel can't bear their own children because they need the surrogates, who have special abilities called Auguries, to repair the gene damage in their families that resulted from generations of in-breeding amongst the same elite set. At the surrogate auction, Violet is purchased by the Duchess of the Lake, the matriarch of one of the four founding families. She's swept off to the Duchess' house, where she's known only as "the surrogate of the House of the Lake," and is rewarded if she behaves, and punished if she doesn't. She's separated from her friends and family and really only has a looming pregnancy to look forward to. She wants to escape...and then, of course, she meets dreamy Ash, who was hired as a companion to the Duchess' niece to get her ready for marriage. Love at first sight ensues.
Honestly, I think the best part of this book was the potential it laid out for the next ones. It felt very formulaic, trope-y, and patched together to me. Basically like Ewing read a bunch of other YA books and pieced together the parts she liked, together with the whole "surrogate" thing which is apparently somewhat like The Handmaid's Tale, but I haven't read that so I can't really look into it. The love at first sight was very eye-roll worthy, and I didn't buy the "romance" between Violet and Ash at all. Violet really wasn't a very interesting character in general; she played the cello and wandered around looking pretty and moping about her fate instead of really trying to do anything about it, all while waiting for rescue from a guy she literally met twice before the plan was hatched, and who she doesn't really have any reason to trust. The more interesting characters were the minor ones, so I'm hoping that they become a bit more prominent in the next book. I also didn't buy into the world of the Lone City; there were all these things that didn't make sense to me. The whole way the city was set up, with the rings of different industries, and jewels and riches and stuff, but no where that the resources actually came from, seems either extremely poorly thought out, or very fishy. I haven't decided which one yet. It's also very strange to have a plot that relies so heavily on pregnancy and its threats, problems, etc. but shies away from sex. I understand it's a YA book, but I feel like you can't have it both ways on this issue.
I will be reading the second book in this series, The White Rose (and I believe the third just came out) because I'm hoping that the plot is about to become a bit more complex, and that the side characters who showed such promise will become more prominent. Oh, and I hope they kill Ash. He's lame.
2.5 stars out of 5, but with hope for the future.