Top critical review
Great World Building, but little emotional connection
Reviewed in the United States on June 19, 2019
Fran Wilde’s novella, The Jewel and Her Lapidary, is a fast-paced read that paints an interesting and fascinating world. The youngest scion of the royal family, the titular Jewel, must work with her Lapidary advisor and magic user to save her kingdom from destruction at the hands of an invading enemy.
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