Thursday, April 11, 2013

[Review: The Sweetest Dark by Shana Abe]

"The Sweetest Dark"
Author: Shana Abe
Series: The Sweetest Dark #1
Pages: 352
Genre: YA, Historical, Fantasy, Paranormal, Romance
Date Published: April 2nd, 2013
Publisher: Bantam
Format Read: eARC provided by publisher (via NetGalley) for honest review


“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.

My Thoughts:

The Sweetest Dark is a mix of everything that I love.  Brilliant, flowing prose, adventure, mystery and history all rolled into a delightful and sometimes emotional read.  Just thinking about this story gives me the chills.  The good kind of the chills.  

The world which Abe creates is one that I know well.  Many of the areas of England that she used for her story are places that I have been too, so there was the hint of familiarity within the pages which I loved.  The fact that she chooses to write her story in war filled England during World War 1 gives the book some grounding in the real world, so much so that sometimes your brain blurs the lines in between what is reality and what is magic.  I also enjoyed the fact that Abe roots the story in war and uses it as a plot tool.  It's not just something that we are shown, it is a fundamental part of the story.  It humanizes characters and adds to the plot so much so that it sometimes leaves you grasping at breaths!

In contradiction to the truths that Abe builds her story on, her mythology that creates the actual story is so well developed that you have to appreciate everything about it.  I'm not going to tell you what the mythology is about.  I know that I had no idea what was going to happen going into this book and that it only added to the magic of reading it for me.  So I'm keeping my lips closed.  You won't hear the  secrets of this book from me.

The characters all stood on their own two feet.  From the ones that you barely meet to the ones that you come to call friends.  Abe gave them all a life and personality of their own and it was fun to watch them with each other!

Lora is our lead, and what a dynamic one she is at that.  She's feisty, but knows how to play the game of charity student well.  Her bite shows up more in her internal dialogue and it's a blast to be inside her head for those moments.  She's strong and she's sure and she doesn't let anyone dictate her life for her.  I can't wait to see more of her character.  I think she's a wonderful protagonist!

And the boys!  Yes, there are two and something that seems like a triangle and a bit of insta-love.  But things aren't as they seem and the insta-love at least has an explanation to back it.  (Plus, Abe's writing is so pretty that you don't care)  Jesse is silent and strong.  The farm boy, who everyone thinks is mute, but we know better.  He's the kind of guy that Lora needs in her life in more ways than one.  

Armand or Mandy is the rich, spoiled and tarnished brat.  Or so he seems.  I liked that as the book went on Abe let us in on what makes Mandy tick.  His insecurities and the things that he loves.  Plus, it was so much fun to watch Lora and Mandy push each others buttons.  

So, how can this get any better?  Add the fact that Shana Abe has a writing style that just might put her into my favorite author bracket.  Seriously, it dripping with a rippling flow.  I honestly don't know how to describe it in a way that would do it justice.  I guess it's just another reason why you'll need to read it for yourself!

5 Unicorns = Get your hands on this one now!


Jenni @ Alluring Reads said...

Ooh when I read the part about insta love and a triangle I started to get nervous but I am happy to see that it didn't feel that way to you. This sounds like a really great book, but historicals and I don't get along so it's not one for me. So happy that you loved it so much! Sounds like it had great characters and amazing writing. Fabulous review

Mel@Thedailyprophecy said...

I love the sound of this book! I think I will like Lora and I'm a fan of mythology :D I'm a bit sad that there is insta-love (and a love-triangle) but sometimes it does work for me :) Great review!


Tammy Sparks said...

Wow, great review! 5 Unicorns??? I am actually about to start reading this myself, in fact it's probably going to be my next book. Now I'm really looking forward to it:)

Nicole said...

THAT GOOD?!?! This sounds like something I will love. I always enjoy when I have a bit of familiarity with the setting of a book. I'm glad you got that with this. I definitely need to up this on my priority list. Thanks for sharing!!

Erika said...

Great review! I think you articulated your thoughts much better than I did. I love this book so much it was difficult to write. I love what you said about the WW1 aspect.