- File Size: 1672 KB
- Print Length: 92 pages
- Publisher: Tor.com (May 3, 2016)
- Publication Date: May 3, 2016
- Sold by: Macmillan
- Language: English
- ASIN: B01B1KPA0W
- Text-to-Speech: Enabled
- Word Wise: Enabled
- Lending: Not Enabled
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #597,624 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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The Jewel and Her Lapidary (The Jewel Series Book 1) Kindle Edition
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The best part of this novella is the world building. Not only is there a tremendous amount of world building crammed into a small package, but its all unique and interesting in concept. A small kingdom mines special jewels that certain individuals can hear. Once in a proper setting, the jewels can be commanded to accomplish certain things (e.g., bringing courage and calm, making a gate nearly unbreakable). The downside is that, outside a proper setting, those jewels can drive a Lapidary mad. Lapidary’s also take oaths which bind them. These oaths are an analog for the settings of jewels—as long as a Lapidary stays within the bounds of their oaths they are fine, but if they break an oath madness begins to set in. It’s a unique magic system that makes for some very interesting plot tension in this novella.
While I loved the setting, the characters did not work as well for me. Perhaps because the book begins right in the middle of the action with little or no setup, or perhaps because the characters simply fell flat for me, I never particularly connected with the two viewpoint characters. This meant that moments that should have had an emotional impact didn’t. Instead of feeling engaged with these characters, I wanted to learn more about the world while the individual characters seemed almost superfluous to the story or—perhaps more accurately—what I ended up being interested in as regards the story. I wish I would have felt more connection to the characters and, more importantly, that the emotional beats had hit for me.
Wonderful world building and a unique magic system make this an enjoyable read, but the lack of character depth and emotional connection keep this one from exceling.
5 – I loved this, couldn’t put it down, move it to the top of your TBR pile
4 – I really enjoyed this, add it to the TBR pile
3 – It was ok, depending on your preferences it may be worth your time
2 – I didn’t like this book, it has significant flaws and I can’t recommend it
1 – I loathe this book with a most loathsome loathing
I admire the concept and the world-building that went into imagining a magic system shaped by gems. I haven't seen any magic system quite like this one before, and give major props for its thoughtful development. I have some background in gems and lapidary tools, and with my own experience in cutting, polishing, faceting, and wrapping stones, I was prepared for disappointment. I was relieved to see the author did her research, and overall I thought that the magic system was thoughtful and enjoyable.
Ironically, the book could have used more polish. The pacing was slow. The narrative spent so much time buried in the two main characters' thoughts and immediate sensory experience that it was often hard to divine what was going on. This confusion was made worse because the book begins with scenes of madness and chaos. In a longer format, this might not have mattered much, but with an eighty-page novella, it felt to me that a third of the book was gone by the time I understood the situation and what it meant to the characters.
The author's Third Person Omniscient point of view could have benefited from more control. Within a single scene, the narrative jumps from the Jewel and her lapidary many times. Unfortunately, the two characters are so similar in background, temperament, and mental voice that it was hard to distinguish the two. I wished that the perspective had been more controlled and consistent, and that the characters had been more different.
Another reviewer pointed out that the book took place in "two rooms," which isn't exactly true. I can think of at least three scenes that involve other places. But it is true that most of the action occurs in two places. However frustrating this might be, I think it's true to the spirit of a story about a member of the ruling class in a fantasy inspired by East Asian culture. It was a quiet, limited life, and I think the author did a good job of using metaphors and imagery to add layers to the implied claustrophobia. Keeping the scenes restricted to mostly two settings was entirely appropriate.
I was surprised by the casual way the main character receives the touch of a member of non-royalty. Most cultures with royalty, especially those with female members who are kept veiled and sheltered like the main character was, would have been vehemently offended by the touch of someone from a lower class. I once had a college history professor explain this to me with an analogy that went like this. "Sure, you can imagine shaking hands with the President, because you come from a culture with relaxed etiquette. But imagine you went to shake his hand and accidentally tapped him on the bottom instead. You'd feel absolutely mortified, right? Now imagine that no common person has ever touched the President, who is treated with the same kind of awe that you would reserve for the Pope, or a Saint, or Jesus Himself. How inappropriate does this situation feel now? How about if they might chop your hand off for the offense, or kill you outright?" I won't spoil the scene where the main character is touched by someone from the non-royal class, but I will say I was shocked that there was no reaction and no sense of the cultural context that I would have expected.
As predictable as the book was, I was surprised by the ending, which I liked. I liked the foreshadowing and "layers of history" from the excerpts that began each chapter. I don't regret buying and reading this book, but I think it went to press before it should have. More shaping and more polishing would have helped shine the light into this story with more grace and brilliance. I look forward to reading more from this author in the future, and seeing how she improves.
Even more than the deep story and the intriguing world, what makes this story so great are the two main characters: Lin and Sima, royal Jewel and her Lapidary, two girls, bound by vows and magic, but also by something deeper than friendship. The way their relationship is revealed and explored, challenged and changed, is the true heart of this story for me.
In short: it’s so, so good.
Top international reviews
The challenges the two girls go through, testing the limit of their vows, is very compelling and draws you in deeper into the story.
The only downside for me is that the story feels like just a quick glimpse into this fantasy world. It could easily be the beginnings of a larger tale. One I would gladly pick up and get lost in.
That said, it is a good quick read. The story moves briskly. The world-building is both subtle and substantial. The villains and threats are less usual than the usual :) The choices facing the two main characters are meaningful,and what becomes of them is inevitable but not necessarily expected. I found it an enjoyable and compelling story -- but not quite as edge-of-my-seat as her novels.
This shouldn't have been just 90 or so pages. There's an interesting setting, a complex magic system, two interesting lead characters with a complex relationship between them, and a tense plot with lots of potential - and then it all gets pressed into as few pages as possible (or so it feels).
It's still worth a read, but ... there's always this "but" with sort of thing. It's just not what it could've been.