Title: The Sweetest Dark
Author: Shana Abe
Publication Date: April 2, 2013
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.
I don’t know what I was expecting from this book, but it definitely wasn’t what I got. Shana Abe’s first young adult novel completely surprised me and took me for a loop, leaving me very happy that I have the second book ready and waiting on my Kindle (thank you, NetGalley).
Abe’s writing is like working a maple candy in your mouth for a while and letting it get all molten and gooey and delicious. Her prose is sweet, dark, and delicious. The Sweetest Dark is not only an appropriate title for the story, but a great description of Abe’s writing as well.
I love any book that incorporates music into the story, and The Sweetest Dark was no exception. I was intrigued by how Eleanor hears music no one else can even without the magic, but the magical element made me love the musical aspect even more. The music also contributed to the romance of and in the novel. Imagine a boy who emits music only you can hear. It sounds corny, but in the book, it made Jesse so swoon-worthy I can’t even.
I also found the love triangle very believable. Love triangles have definitely become an epidemic in YA lit, and I feel like a lot of them aren’t really necessary, but for this book it made sense. I could understand perfectly why Lora would feel connected to Jesse and Armand.
In addition, I really enjoyed Shana Abe’s unique take on a creature commonly featured in fantasy novels: the dragon. I didn’t know this would be a dragon book when I first started reading it, but then little clues popped up here and there that started leading me to that conclusion. I really believed in Eleanor’s Becoming, and felt Abe did a great job expressing Eleanor’s emotional and physical journeys.
The Sweetest Dark is a must-read for fantasy lovers, and I can’t wait to get to The Deepest Night.