Genre: YA Fantasy/Historical Fiction
Pub. Date: April 3, 2013
Source: Personal Copy
My Rating: 4 out of 5 stars
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."
Eleanore, or Lora, Jones is an orphan and has lived a very sad life at an orphanage in London. For years, she has hide her special "abilities" as it only brings unnecessary attention and horrific consequences, such as electroshock therapy. Then things change for the better. Lora is chosen to attend a fancy bording school, Iverson, as a charity student and this ultimately changes her life forever. Iverson is a lot different than what she is used to, obviously, and it takes sometime for her to become acclimated as most of the girls are mean and snub her. Plus, living in Iverson's gothic castle is unlike anything she has experienced before. Right away, Lora feels a connection with Jesse, the groundkeeper at Iverson, as well as Lord Armand, who is pretty much the antithesis of her. There's much, much more than meets the eye with both boys along with deep secrets surrounding their lives. Lora is also coming into her own and learning about her "abilities," just as danger comes to Iverson. Shana Abe's The Sweetest Dark is a thrilling fantasy that fans of paranormal romances and dragons will enjoy.
Lora's life prior coming to Iverson reminded me of something out of a Charles Dickens novel where the underdog is an orphan/poor and finds her luck has changed; thus, she is able to start over in a sense. Lora definitely is a character that I enjoyed and I found The Sweetest Dark to be focusing on Lora's coming-of-age.
Lora's initial attraction and connection with Jesse was a bit insta-love-ish, but once Abe explained Lora's abilities and where her attraction to Jesse was coming from, it seemed to make more sense. The love triangle with Armand is a bit different and not your usual love triangle, so that didn't seem to bother me. I like that Abe really makes the characters of Jesse, Armand, and Lora to be pretty unique and their back stories, as well as emerging abilities, reflect that. While I really liked the character of Jesse, I couldn't help but be intrigued with Lord Armand, who in my mind was totally Chuck Bass in the best way possible.
The setting is what I enjoyed most about The Sweetest Dark. I love the post Victorian time period of 1915; plus, the setting of a boarding school on the coast of England is to-die-for. I loved the Gothic castle, the tower that Lora lived in and the whole boarding school vibe. I thought Abe did a great job creating a vivid historical setting.
There were moments towards the second half of The Sweetest Dark that I thought were a bit far-fetched and unbelievable, even for a fantasy novel. Things sort of progressed quickly and the climax of the novel was no doubt suspenseful, but for me, not very believable. That was really my only issue, which comes up quite often for me regarding fantasy novels: the overall believability.
I never thought I would like stories about dragons, but Sophie Jordan's Firelight series changed my mind as well as this novel. I am definitely going to check out the sequel, The Deepest Night, which just came out last month.