I spoke at an event for children’s librarians a couple of year’s ago, and one of the perks was getting copies of books that were recently, or shortly to be, published. When I’m tired I get particular joy out of reading teenage fiction – it’s generally got quite an inspirational, moral line but accompanied by easy reading. The Hunger Games and Divergent are both on the list of series I’ve enjoyed – ones that have worlds that recognisable, but who have a different worldview – always encourages a challenge about how we live, how close we are to living those kinds of lives, and where we can recognise aspects of these lives in our own culture. Last night, I decided to snuggle down under the duvet with one of those kinds of books – I’d just started reading the night before… and ended up finishing three of them by this morning.
In The Jewel, Violet Lasting lives in ‘The Lone City’, a city in which there are five circles (separated by thick walls), with a central zone known as ‘The Jewel’ – where the royalty live lives of luxury, surrounded by the other circles: ‘Bank’, then industry, then farming, and then ‘Marsh’ – a zone of poverty, but also a zone in which every girl, on puberty, is tested to see if she is a ‘surrogate’ – with special powers – taken into a training house, and prepared for ‘The Auction’. At the auction, she is sold – by lot number only (Violet is Lot #197) – to the women on ‘The Jewel’ – with the top 10 lots (out of 200) the most ‘valuable’. Royal women are sterilised on marriage, and allowed one girl/one boy, through a surrogate – women who appear to live lives of luxury, but are in fact in but a very luxurious prison – and in great danger as competing royal women seek to end the lives of other surrogates (and we often forget that these surrogates are only 16/17). In The House of Stone we see the suffering that is really caused to Violet’s best friend, Raven, as the surrogates are truly regarded as ‘property’.
Violet meets another ‘royal captive’ – Ash – they fall in love … and this has many consequences … taking us to the second book – The White Rose – as with the help of a number of others, all part of the Society of the Black Key – we understand more about the original history of the land, the true struggles that all are dealing with (thoughts of human trafficking, poor working conditions in industrial factories and farms, consumerist culture were all coming to mind as I read this book) – and the plans for overthrow and revolution against a cruel world. Who can be trusted? How can the systems be overthrown? Who is suffering, and who still believes the lies given out by those in power.
I’m definitely looking forward to the next (final?) book – although it sounds like I’ve got a little bit of a wait:
Happy New Year! To celebrate, I shall give to you…the title of book 3! THE BLACK KEY will be out this fall (eeep!). *throws confetti*
— Amy Ewing (@amyewingbooks) January 2, 2016