Series: The Sweetest Dark #1
Genres: Fantasy, Historical, Young Adult
Book Trailer: View Trailer
Published by Bantam on April 2, 2013
Reviewed by: Julia
References to sex.
For fans of Lauren Kate and Libba Bray, The Sweetest Dark is filled with thrilling romance, exciting adventure, and ancient magic. Shana Abé brilliantly captures the drama of post-Victorian England, while unfolding a passionate love story that defies time.
“With every fiber of my being, I yearned to be normal. To glide through my days at Iverson without incident. But I’d have to face the fact that my life was about to unfold in a very, very different way than I’d ever envisioned. Normal would become forever out of reach.”
Lora Jones has always known that she’s different. On the outside, she appears to be an ordinary sixteen-year-old girl. Yet Lora’s been keeping a heartful of secrets: She hears songs that no one else can hear, dreams vividly of smoke and flight, and lives with a mysterious voice inside her that insists she’s far more than what she seems.
England, 1915. Raised in an orphanage in a rough corner of London, Lora quickly learns to hide her unique abilities and avoid attention. Then, much to her surprise, she is selected as the new charity student at Iverson, an elite boarding school on England’s southern coast. Iverson’s eerie, gothic castle is like nothing Lora has ever seen. And the two boys she meets there will open her eyes and forever change her destiny.
Jesse is the school’s groundskeeper—a beautiful boy who recognizes Lora for who and what she truly is. Armand is a darkly handsome and arrogant aristocrat who harbors a few closely guarded secrets of his own. Both hold the answers to her past. One is the key to her future. And both will aim to win her heart. As danger descends upon Iverson, Lora must harness the powers she’s only just begun to understand, or else lose everything she dearly loves.
Filled with lush atmosphere, thrilling romance, and ancient magic, The Sweetest Dark brilliantly captures a rich historical era while unfolding an enchanting love story that defies time.
Shana Abe has an unmistakeable lilt, a mystery and music to her writing that transcends individual stories and knits together the whole. Like Robin McKinley, Abe lets time and distance deepen the mysteries between her books, she employs the realistic vagaries of history to make each new story a haunting new landscape. Though there are hints of the drakon, notes from Rue, THE SWEETEST DARK is unmistakably a new and unknown present tense. New readers, unaware of the threads leading back to the Drakon series, will discover this world afresh through Lora's eyes.
And though Lora is one of the deserving poor, this orphan is no Mary Sue. Intelligent, passionate and isolated, Lora is neither a martyr nor a mean girl. I loved rediscovering Abe's draconic magic through Lora's experiences, I loved placing the reality of transformation in the "modern" time period of the early 20th century. And though the love story in THE SWEETEST DARK isn't clean and simple, Abe gives nuance and depth to the messy passions of Lora, Mandy, and Jesse. Rather than villain versus hero, poor little rich boy versus a noble servant, both men are well developed characters shaped as much by their human passions as the magic of this world. Abe never divorces her characters' humanity from their actions, which means even the most charismatic person could become the villain, the force of darkness that breaks my heart. She writes heroes and bad boys in a way that both enthralls and terrifies me, and I can't wait to see where Lora's next book takes me.
I'll admit, in the past I lost the thread of Abe's Drakon series, confused from book to book about where the fate of this secretive race was going. THE SWEETEST DARK wipes the slate clean, however, and focuses in on Lora in a way that has me recommitted to this world. Abe loses none of her poetry in this series, but this more focused YA series promises to draw me into the series more effectively than ever before. I finished THE SWEETEST DARK already anxious for book two, thank goodness I only have to wait until August to enjoy THE DEEPEST NIGHT.