Note: I received a free copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. All opinions and thoughts expressed in this review are my own. Spoilers abound!
By the time I finished reading The Jewel and Her Lapidary, I was well on my way to an ugly crying session. I’ve read books that broke my heart before and I’ve read some truly stellar fantasy. However, what Fran Wilde does with this book basically wrecks me.
The Jewel and Her Lapidary is an 85-page long novella that focuses on the aftermath of a betrayal that leaves the Jeweled Court shattered. The story is viewed through the eyes of two of its last surviving citizens: Jewel Lin, whose father was the king, and Lin’s lapidary Sima who has been with her since birth.
It’s the relationship between Lin and Sima that will absolutely destroy you. To start: Jewels are figures of power in the Jeweled Court and lapidaries are supposed to be their loyal servants. This is an actual part of the story and something that Wilde explains in a neat bit of world-building framed as a fable or history.
That actually brings me to one thing that I really like about this book: how Fran Wilde sets up the world that Lin and Sima live in and how she reveals it to us. Peppered amongst the book’s pages and the plot that’s happening are snippets from A Guide to the Remote River Valleys, a book from that universe’s future.
Seriously, how cool is that?
So you get a glimpse into the world’s very distant future, a glimpse that kind of tells you from the start that things don’t exactly end well for the Jeweled Court. I mean, the last line of that first snippet lets us know that all of the Jewels were murdered six hundred years prior.
There are other bits of world-building revealed via those snippets, ones about how all of the gems left in the area now are silent chips or shards and about the role that lapidaries played for their Jewels. Much more world-building is revealed in the text itself and it’s freaking glorious because the amount of world-building we get balances perfectly against the plot and made the Jeweled Valley feel so real. (I felt a bit like Goldilocks with how much I raved to my assorted niecelings about how the world-building in this book was “just right” as I was reading.)
Next, I want to talk about my favorite thing to in the universe: shipping. I ship exactly one thing in this novella and it happens to be the only thing you can ship because everyone aside from Sima and Lin are either dead or terrible in some way.
Somehow, I missed the buzz about the fact that Sima actually expresses her love for Lin in this book. Like where was I when (I’m sure) people were freaking out about the fact that even though the book does not end well for Sima, she still freaking kisses Lin (on the cheek??). They spend the rest of the night holding hands.
From Lin’s earlier musing, we know that love isn’t something that tends to crop up in the relationship between Jewels and their lapidaries. So it’s expressed very clearly that what drives Sima isn’t her duties as a lapidary to her Jewel, but her love for Lin.
And okay, that just makes me so happy.
I mean, what happens next leads to the aforementioned ugly crying and sad noises that I made while my nieces alternated between worrying and laughing at me, but until then? I tricked myself into thinking that the book would end happily because of the hand-holding but it didn’t!
But I’m going to be honest, I like that Fran Wilde left me upset at the end of The Jewel and Her Lapidary. There was no happy ending at the end of the book, but there was still hope for the future despite the sadness that comes from Sima’s sacrifice. I don’t know if we’ll get to find out what happens next in this universe or even if Sima survives what she had to do, but I loved this look into the Jeweled Valley so much.
Every single page is packed with tons of character development and world-building and by the end, yes, I was a mess from all of the emotions, but it was worth it. It was so worth it. I do want to see more of this world and if that happens, I’m going to be freaking jazzed.
Seriously, this was an amazing book! Not only am I going to reread it a couple more times, but I’m going to gently nudge all of my friends to check it out because it’s short, sad, and full of both quality world-building and truly fantastic female characters.