4 stars on Goodreads, 3.5 in my mind.
This is a short read, though not necessarily a quick one. Fran Wilde is very, very good at creating dense, rich worlds in small spaces, so you will want to take your time to digest all the details. This novella maybe could have used a bit more breathing room as some of the details can feel a bit overwhelming, but if you take your time with it, the world comes into focus, and it is a great character study.
There’s a lot of character growth in this short piece, with both Jewel Lin and her assistant–called a lapidary–Sima being forced to make impossible decisions that threaten to destroy who they are, along with their lives. It’s a brutal story, but a beautiful one. There isn’t any sword-wielding action so if you’re looking for heroines that go on an adventure, you will be disappointed. But between the sense of doom the travel guide excerpts create along with the struggles of the two girls, it is a heartbreaking tale that draws you in and, like the gems themselves, does not want to let you go until the very end.