Friday, March 22, 2013

ARC Review: The Sweetest Dark by Shana Abe

Goodreads summary:

For fans of Lauren Kate and Libba Bray, The Sweetest Dark is filled with thrilling romance, exciting adventure, and ancient magic. Shana Abé brilliantly captures the drama of post-Victorian England, while unfolding a passionate love story that defies time.

“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 review:

The Sweetest Dark manages to be fairly unique as far as paranormal stories go.  While there are a few cliche elements, I thought the rest of the story was original and interesting.  Plus, I love that there are dragons in it!

What I didn't like: There are so many paranormal stories where the main character is the new girl at a boarding school!  I wish authors would use some other type of setting.  Also, there's the cliche snobby girls who don't get along with Lora and constantly make fun of her because she has no money.

The only other thing I didn't like is the romance.  Well, I didn't dislike it, but I didn't think it was exactly believable, either.  I didn't think Jesse had much personality, and it was hard to understand why Lora fell in love with him so quickly.  By the end of the book she even refers to him as her "true love."  I just didn't totally buy it.

What I liked: Dragons.  Dragons.  Dragons.  Can I say dragons again?  Dragons are awesome, and while they didn't play as big a role in the story as I'd hoped, I still loved that aspect.  There are so not enough fantasy books out there that actually have dragons in them, so I loved the part it played in this story.

And the setting was amazing.  I'm a huge fan of stories that blend both historical and fantasy elements, and Shana Abe did a great job.  She captured the atmosphere of England perfectly.  I loved the descriptions, and the writing flowed well.

I like the main character Lora, too.  I didn't totally connect with her, and I'm not really sure why, but I think most readers will love her.  She's spunky and funny, and she has lots of witty replies and isn't afraid to stand up for herself.  The minor characters are engaging and well-rounded, too.

So, despite a few problems, I did enjoy The Sweetest Dark.  Fans of historical fantasy should definitely give this one a try!

* I received a free copy from Netgalley in exchange for a review.  Thanks!

My rating:  7 out of 10 (3.5 stars)

~ The Bookworm


  1. Hmm, you're right, the boarding school idea is becoming a bit wearisome, and the idea of snobby girls. Still, I'm glad the setting was well done and that you still liked her despite not fully connecting with her. I don't think I've read a book with dragons, either. Glad you enjoyed it overall, lovely review, Kaitlyn! :)

    1. Thank you! :) Yes, I love how there are dragons in it - so different from most paranormal stories.