Review: The Sweetest Dark by Shana Abe

The Sweetest Dark by Shana Abe
Hardcover, 352 pages
Expected Publication: August 21st (amazon says Sept.17th), 2012 by Random House
Source: Amazon Vine

Description from Goodreads:
“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.

Sometimes there are those books that hit you so hard, so powerfully, that you know that there are no words to describe it, there’s no way to get your point across how amazing the book is.   The Sweetest Dark was like that for me.  This was so much perfection within it’s pages that I nearly cried at the beauty.  And trust me, I had tears in my eyes a few times, but that was mostly because of what’s going on in the story. 

First of all, Lora is everything I could ever want in a character and more.  She’s gone through a lot in her life as she lived in an orphanage and was sent to an insane asylum for awhile.  She has no memory of when she was a small child and knows nothing about her early life.  But she was incredibly lucky and got accepted as a charity student at an exclusive boarding school in south England.  Here she is ridiculed and taunted but Lora is no meek weakling, oh no, she speaks right up with the quickest retorts I’ve ever heard!  Being picked on, while you see it does bother her, she doesn’t let it show.  She just carries on with her head held high.  I have so much admiration for her and her ability to take things in stride.  She’s heard a voice all her life in her head and she hears music in her head and she doesn’t understand any of this.  But as things are revealed to her she’s shocked, she’s hesitant to believe it, but she doesn’t go crazy and do some stupid things, nor get angry at the messenger.  She accepts it all quite quickly, but not so quickly it was unrealistic.  Lora is most certainly going on my favorite heroine’s list as I’m quite sure she is as perfect of a main character as I could ever dream of.

Now straight away when Lora arrives at Iverson she meets Jesse.  Jesse is one of those characters that stands out because he’s so different.  He has more of a quiet and gentle nature and has this ability to just take things in stride.  He doesn’t much care about what everyone thinks of him as there’s a much grander picture in his head as he knows far more then most people.  I can’t say as I’ve read many books with a character anything like him, but I think he’ll be on my favorites list because he just radiates this goodness.

We meet Armand nearly straight away and Lora and him have some very humorous banter.  He’s an aristocrat and to Lora that means he’s a snobby jerk.  She’s not one to let him get away with an attitude and her quick retorts only seemed to make him like her more.  He seems to be drawn to her for some reason and as the story unfolds we see why.

Now you would think that perhaps two men in this story would mean there’s a love triangle, right?  Well, I think it’s quite clear who Lora loves and there’s no question of it.  She really has no temptations for the other though she does soften up for him.  And there is a connection there, but you’ll have to read the book for that as it’s spoiler.  But I definitely did not feel it was a love triangle.

The romance was sweet.  Very gentle and sweet.  It wasn’t this all consuming fire and rage, it was just quiet and beautiful.  I loved it.  But it most definitely made me cry.  Oh yes, it did.

The time period is during World War I.  I don’t think I’ve read a lot of books set in this time.  Automobiles seem to have been invented and electricity is a new thing.  I really liked it.  And I loved the setting of the old mansion the school is set in and the island it’s on.

The plot of the story is quite brilliant.  Many of you perhaps know what Lora is, but for those that don’t I won’t spoil it for you.  Just know that she’s not a vampire, or a ghost, or a zombie or anything like that.  She’s something beautiful and special.  And the way the story was told it seemed as though it could be real.  And as Lora learns more about it we only wish for more, more, more!  I wanted to know more, see more, experience more of it.  It was brilliant.

This story was hard for me to put down because it was so good, but it was one that I enjoyed most when I could savor it.  For that reason I read it more slowly and over the period of a day and a half rather than devouring it in one evening.  But when I finished I wanted to turn the book over and begin again.  The writing in the book is simply beautiful.  There were passages I bookmarked because they were so gorgeous and they completely blew me away.

I honestly cannot recommend this book any more highly.  I know it doesn’t come out until August or September, but this is one you must add to your wishlist and pre-order if you can.  It is most certainly going on my favorites list and is one I know I will reread time and time again.  I’ve already added the authors other books to my wishlist as I need more of this gorgeous writing and beautiful storytelling. 

This deserves more than 5 stars, but that’s all I can give it, so 5/5 stars for this one!

Disclosure:  I received this through amazon vine for review purposes.  All opinions expressed are my own and I was not paid or influenced in any way.

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  1. Wow, what a GREAT review! I have the galley of The Sweetest Dark but was a little hesitant to read it. Now, I’ll have to bump it up closer to the top of my TBR pile :-)

    I am SO glad you loved it, and appreciate you sharing your thoughts with us!

  2. “Sometimes there are those books that hit you so hard, so powerfully, that you know that there are no words to describe it, there’s no way to get your point across how amazing the book is.”

    That sentence alone was enough to make me want to read this one Candace, but then you had to go on about the romance and the love triangle that’s not really a love triangle at all and now I’m dying to get my hands on this book. CAN’T WAIT!

  3. I’ve never heard of this book before, but now I will definitely will be on the lookout for it especially after reading your glowing review. I’ve not read much of WW1 YA historical fiction and I’m excited about the fantasy part though knowing Lora’s real identity may not be a surprise.

  4. Blook Girl, yay that you have it! This is one I will shout from the rooftops to the world “read it!” I hope you love it as much as I did!

    Jenny, I really think this is one you’d love, REALLY.

    Melissa, yes, do! I think you’d like it!

    Rummanah, I think this is one you would really appreciate. Hope you get a chance to read it!

  5. Holy WOW!!! I’m always excited when I see someone so extremely thrilled by a book! I know how that feels and I want to feel the same :)))

    I have never heard of this book before but your reviews gives it a spot on my TBR pile right now!!

  6. Perfection in the pages? A fabulous main character? Oooh! *drool* I LOVE when that happens–so adding this one to my wishlist. Fab review!

  7. How gorgeous is this cover?? I was super intrigued about it when I first saw it in your mailbox, but now I’m so much more! I love how Jesse is different and good (definitely different from our regular bad boys!), but most of all, I love the way you described the beautiful, sweet, and not-really-a-love-triangle romance!

    Beautiful review, Candace! <3 I wanted to get this one right away so it’s kinda sad that it’s not released yet haha :’) Can’t wait!!

  8. Ooh, this sounds really cool! :) I am perhaps one of the very few who don’t know what Lora is, so I’ll sit tight till August/September to find out. I love lush settings, and this sounds like it’s going to be right up my alley. :)

  9. Wow, Candace. It sounds like this book really did it for you. Your review has TOTALLY inspired me to read it. I have to admit, the synopsis had me a little worried about the love triangle, but it sounds like it ended up not being much to worry about after all. Definitely adding it to my to-read list! Weird, because I haven’t heard about this book until now, but knowing that you loved it so much, how can I NOT give it a shot? Lol.

  10. Thanks for recommending this book; the story is so interesting that my curiosity is bugging me. I love romantic stories and cool protagonist. Thanks for posting this!AML

  11. Gosh, I have never even heard of this book, so I am glad to read this review, Candace! The heroine kind of reminds me of Gemma Doyle from Libba Bray’s books,and I loved the character! And the time frame of post WWI really makes me want to read this because you are so right, that IS unusual! Kind of like Judy Blundell’s book What I Saw and How I Lied. I LOVED that the setting of that book was post WWII America, it really had me wanting to read more books from that time period.

    Okay, you have got me totally excited to read this whenever it comes out. Adding to my Goodreads wishlist NOW:)

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