The Sweetest Dark
Author: Shana Abé
Rating: 3.7 stars
Source: I recieved an advance copy from the publisher, in exchange for an honest review.
Summary: 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 have read Shana's adult Drákon series, and I like them very much! This is her first young adult novel, also having to do with the Drákon, and though it's vaguely related to the other series, the two can be read completely independently.
There's a lot of character development, and while Lora initially annoyed me a little, she did grow on me by the end. She has some spunk, and didn't cower to the shallowness of rich snobby classmates. In fact, she defied quite a few boarding school tropes. Though she comes from an orphanage and is the school's charity student, she doesn't act like a stupid Cinderella. She has confidence in herself, but is constantly striving to be better every day. The only times I wasn't a fan of her, was when she interacted with Armand. I didn't like his character that much because he acted a little too like just a placement character. But again, by the end, I did start to warm up to him. Unlike Jesse, whom I liked immediately.
A 20th century English rural setting. Couldn't ask for more, right? I could almost taste the damp air and the silence of the countryside. The castle that is Iverson (her school) is described rather gothicly, and I enjoyed reading about it. I like that it's on an island that's connected to the mainland by a bridge that sometimes appears at low-tide, and I like the ongoing mention for things of-the-time. Electricity becoming popular. Rationing supplies because of the war going on. I'm just a sucker for historical fiction.
This story didn't have much of an obvious plot-arc. The pace is to the slower side, and I didn't have any idea who/what the antagonist was going to be, until the very end. This is not necessarily a complaint, but it bugged me just enough to want to point it out. There is much time spend on developing characters, like I mentioned above, but that's basically it. Lora has to learn how to be her true self, and there's much introspectiveness. By the end, I figured out this distant war they kept mentioning in the background, was going to be far, far more important in the later books. The Sweetest Dark is almost a prequel, action-wise. Like, this is how our young heroine came to be.
I should point out that even though this is a young adult genre, it really stands out that this author is used to writing for adults. The romance is pretty mild, but the descriptions she uses for describing everything else in the story has a sort of sensual aspect to it. It's definitely nice writing, don't get me wrong.
And now I must mention the ending.
WHAT. Mad now. How can you do this in the first book of a series??? I didn't see it coming, honestly. But I do see the significance....sort of. Just be prepared, it's a little unexpected. And now I'm really confused on which direction this story is going.
I can't wait to see what the next book, The Deepest Night, has in store for Lora and the rest of the Drákon race.