In Book Reviews, Romance YA, YA Paranormal

The Sweetest Dark on BookTHE SWEETEST DARK


Author: Shana Abé
Rating: 4.5 out of 5
Genre: YA Paranormal
Format: ARC
Publisher: Bantam
Release Date: April 2, 2013
Recommended Reading: AGE+ 15

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Received copy in exchange for an honest review

Contains no spoilers

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OVERALL THOUGHTS: I don’t usually gravitate YA period pieces. Not because I don’t like them, but because I am a huge fan of the classics and today’s work just feels forced. Not this one. The author did a tremendous job recreating and staying true to the feel and voice of the era. It was beautiful with great villains and adorable leading men. And although I found it a tad long winded in certain parts, I truly enjoyed this book.

[note color=”#d2adf6″]SYNOPSISLora 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.[/note]

THE LOWDOWN: One thing that made this book special, to me at least, was that I had no idea what I was in for. I didn’t read the dust cover, so when it was revealed what kind of magic skulked, I was shocked and intrigued because it was unusual and different. The way the magic is incorporated into the lurking darkness of the castle setting and how little rays of light in the form of friends and handsome callers really makes this well rounded and absorbing book shine. Not to mention the writing is perfectly penned, even though I found myself jumping ahead during the excruciatingly long interior descriptions.

The author formatted each one of her characters with the perfect pitch. I never felt they were out of character, or overblown. In fact, the characterization was what had me pining to find out how this story unfolded. The leading female was strong and willful, willing to try new things, but knowing when to shut up and play the part of young pauper orphan sipping wine with aristocrats. She was smart and pretty, but also awkward and disheveled. She never turns into a thing of perfection and the boys who fall head over heels for her do so because of an inner attraction, not because every body in the room is drooling over her flawlessness. She was real, yet otherworldly.

The men in the book were also without flaw and yet they were perfect. One gentle and kind, although pretty and masculine, he was poor and content; the other, a Duke in training, with an attitude to match. He was brash and rude, yet undeniably in love with the protagonist, even though the relationship appeared doomed before it started. Both men meet the fantasies of all young women. You get the bad boy and the romantic.

The story was something else. I am no spoil sport so I won’t tell you what happens or what prowls, but what I will say is that this author interweaves a country torn apart by war with a mystical legend and it works. She blends and bends fact and fiction and thrusts a young woman into a situation that would seem near unbearable. At times I felt sad, other times fury, but mostly I was intrigued to find out what and where this story would lead me. And even though it ends on a cliffhanger and I will likely read the second installment, I don’t feel as though I was denied any satisfaction.

FINAL THOUGHTS: If you like magical tales that pull at your heartstrings; boys who will travel to the ends of the earth for the one they love and strong leading ladies who don’t roll over and play doormat, then this is the book for you.

Sara O'Connor
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