Friday, July 12, 2013

**REVIEW** The Sweetest Dark by Shana Abe

  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.

Release Date:
Published By:
Review Copy: Hardcover, 352 pages
**provided by Random House Canada


  This is such a beautifully written story that hit me hard with its melancholy end.  Abe put so much heart and detail into this book and it shows in the characters and the setting.  It can't be easy to take the fantasy and putting it into a historical setting, especially when that time and place is England during WWI.  The entire book was started off with a Prologue that set up many questions and basically set the tone for much of the novel, along with periodic letters throughout the read.  Beautiful, unique and simply addictive there was so much to love.

  I am kind of a secret addict when it comes to historical fiction, especially when you add a fantasy element.  The best part is that Abe did a fantastic job weaving the realistic 1915 into something that holds the unimaginable.  While bombing and air raids are a constant fear the simple setting of Iverson boarding school is perfect.  I was entranced as Lora was  with the gorgeous gothic castle that seems to bring about so much that could never have been expected.  Along with the castle you have the forest, the cliffs that surround the island and the tides that go in and out making it only possible to reach the island at certain times unless you use the bridge.  All around the setting was beautiful and served its purpose for everything that the characters needed to learn and use to fulfill their destiny's.

  Lora quite simply was a well designed character.  Hiding her differences was really only a piece of her problems because lets face it hearing music from anonymous objects in 1915 is really not a good thing.  Though I felt she really was not written to her full potential to start, it was no fault of the author because how do you execute a character perfectly when they can not be what they are meant to be.  However eventually she started to become what she was meant to and then her strength shone through.  This is not a girl that was raised with privilege but someone that had to fight for what she wanted and her differences are really what saved her.  I think that I enjoyed Lora not because I related to her but because I felt invested in her by the end.  Personally when there is not a lot to relate to with a character, I tend to disconnect from but something saved Lora and I'm not quite sure what it was exactly. 

  There is hints at a love triangle and when I had read reviews prior to reading this I worried.  I am a lover and a hater of the love triangle and they have to be executed so perfectly now for me to enjoy them (there is a few that I feel in love with before that irritate me but I'm addicted so I look past it).  Abe did not create a triangle per say but added someone that could create one.  There was an attraction between Lora and Jesse that was so much stronger than physical but I think more than that he brought out the best in her while helping her reach her true potential.  With Armand I guess there was  a certain amount of attraction but Lora remained firm to her devotion and original feelings for Jesse no matter what happened.  I am okay with two guys fighting for her but when it comes down to it only one really having the chance.

  Though I thought I had an idea of how it would end I wasn't prepared to be so wrong.  The end turned out to be completely heart wrenching and almost brought me to tears.  Abe created a beautiful but tragic end to this book that was fitting, poetic but sad all the same.  With such beautiful writing and an original story featuring a mythical creature that has yet to be fully explored or overdone, The Sweetest Dark was just what I was looking for.  A poetic story that reads almost like a true fairytale without the happily ever after, I highly recommend this to anyone that wants a read that is original and fresh.

Like all the orphans crowding at the Home, I felt certain that I did not belong where I was.  That someone, somewhere, was surely searching for me, because I was special.

When it first begins, you'll feel a tearing within; I can think of no better word to describe it.  Tearing.  Renting, your skin from muscles, your muscles from bone.  It will be a pain at once so exquisite and so horrifying that it will devour you whole.

This is how girls get into trouble, I thought.  This is how charity girls end up shunned and starving on the streets.  The venture out alone at night to beautiful boys, silly stupid moths to incandescent flames.

I'm not proud of what happened next.  In my defense, it had been a long, strange day followed by a sleepless night, and I was more than a little unnerved from-well, everything.  The tea, the duke's ruby song, Armand and Chloe and the bombs and then Jesse and the kiss and not being human.  Not being human.

He'd mentored me, he'd fed me, he'd encouraged me and shone the only true light upon my soul that anyone ever had.  I belonged to him.  Dark wine, dark longings.  I'd been his since the moment his fingers had brushed mine that amethyst night by the carriage.


  1. I think I can handle this allusion to love triangle. I have this book in my pile and you wrote a very convincing review, Tiff. Thanks for sharing!

  2. This one sounds so good!! I really need to get my hands on this one... and I have the exact same problem with love triangles, but good to see it was too "love triangle-y"! Thanks for the great review :D

  3. I haven't heard of this one before. I love a beautiful, tragic ending at times and tend to enjoy the right love triangle. Thanks for the post and your honest thoughts!

  4. Shana Abe is an underrated author. Her stories lead the imagination to places where you have never been before. Just love them.
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