The Sweetest Dark by Shana Abé
Series: The Sweetest Dark #1
Published by Bantam on April 2nd, 2013
Genres: fantasy, young adult
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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.
The Sweetest Dark was tempting, and I loved the description from the start (even if it seems to be a repeat of the majority of YA lit). Gothic, orphanage, and England – dream come true. I even overlooked the entire “two boys” plot. And THAT, right there, should have been a large red flag.
Lora Jones, in the role as the main character, did a fabulous job. I downright liked her. She was witty, smart, and somewhat cheeky. I gave this book some credit for the heroine; Lora was everything I was missing in some of my recent reads. I also enjoyed her voice of the book. Music is a thematic feature in the book and the writing reflected a certain musical flow. Abe’s writing had a decent portion of flowery prose, which is fitting for a Gothic school book. It would be disappointing to not see any purple prose in such a setting. The opening for the novel was lovely and very tempting. The Sweetest Dark respected the theme in the setting department. I did love the school life of the story as well, and the catty, high brow social life of the castle school. The book was setting up to be a spectacular
Then the romance swiftly came in and killed off any chance this book had at the start.
Let me back up for a second. I LOVE the idea of Jesse, and I flat out adored Mandy (I was rooting for him the entire time). However, half way through the book, Jesse took a turn for the road to Super Creepyville, and the romance entirely took over the plot. Mandy had his fair share of issues. There is no reason to date a girl you hate – please stop punishing the main protagonist for simply being the villain. It was somewhat depressing that the school life and Lora’s peers took a backseat to the sugary, gag-tastic love vomit. The book was awesome without the coma-inducing love cluster.
Although the writing was one of my favorite portions of the book, the sudden-switching POV trick tended to leave me feel a bit disoriented and frustrated. The majority of the book comes from Lora’s POV, but, unexpectedly, the writing shifts to see the story happening from Jesse’s or Mandy’s view. It was tossed in so randomly and without warning that it often felt tacked on.
Last, I wish I had cared more about the ending, but the gutsy direction and epic battle was too far in to the story to arose my interest, once the horrible love-story choked the life out of the book. The ending did surprise me, but I had already scanning the book by this point.
My final thoughts on the book: I mourn what could have been, instead of cursing what it was. I still want to try more work by this author (since I loved the writing). The Sweetest Dark just wasn’t my thing, and I admit this with a heavy heart.