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I Belong

Review: The Sweetest Dark by Shana Abe

Title: The Sweetest Dark

Author: Shana Abe

Genre: YA Paranormal

Series: The Sweetest Dark (Book 1)

Publication Date: April 2, 2013

Format: Hardcover, 352 Pages

ISBN-10: 0345531701 (Bantam/Random House)

ISBN-13: 978-0345531704 (Bantam/Random House)

Reviewed by: Anjelica


“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.

Quick & Dirty: Nothing is fair for Lora Jones, not in war or life and especially not in love.

Opening Sentence: Are your eyes truly open?

Excerpt: Yes

The Review:

This was a beautiful and amazing story. The details are just breathtaking. A simple night sky in Abe’s universe becomes a picturesque expanse of never ending amethyst! I’ve never been so moved by the mere description of sights or people. Seeing through Lora’s eyes makes my own vision seem weak and wrong now. I honestly don’t know how else to make anyone understand that even without the plot or the characters, I would read these pages again and again just to have these incredible images drawn in my mind over and over.

The heroine of the tale is Lora, an orphan girl with much spirit and fight, without becoming a Mary-Sue type character. She understands the way society works and knows her place as an orphan girl thrown among girls of pure blood and wealth, but she never lets these girls treat her as less than human. She hears their jeers and comments without letting them effect her personality in any way.

I love her interaction with the insanely annoying Chloe, a rich girl with zero personality. Although Chloe is constantly baiting Lora, Lora manages to make the girl eat her words every time. Chloe’s step-sister, Sophia, is really the saving grace for my opinion of the girls at the Iverson finishing school where they all attend. Sophia is constantly helping Lora in small ways merely for the fun of seeing how much it upsets Chloe. In the end, however, Sophia is won over by Lora’s cunning wit and spirit just as I was and, more importantly, just as Jesse and Armand were.

Jesse and Armand are polar opposites; where Jesse seems quiet and thoughtful, Armand is obnoxious and close minded, but Lora finds herself drawn to both. When I realized this story seemed to have something of a love triangle happening, I admit that I grumbled and complained a little but it didn’t last long at all. Lora and Jesse share that connection that has me swooning inside. Every touch, every look, it forces me to tap into the romantic side of me that I would rarely admit to possessing. Jesse helps Lora discover who and what she is and never once abandons her or truly forces her into anything. Their relationship blossoms so fast and so completely that I would probably be complaining about it in any other book, but I commend Abe on her amazing ability to make the story flow in such a way that while I was reading, I couldn’t remember a chapter where they weren’t in love.

Jesse’s is a character that I’ve never encountered before, and that makes me insanely happy. This book is in the paranormal genre so everyone who picks it up knows or at least expects there will be more than a love story between humans here, but it would be a rather large spoiler if I were to say here just what Jesse is, so I will only repeat my only tantalizing clue; he’s nothing I’ve ever seen before.

Armand is of a completely different breed. He’s rich and handsome and he knows it, but he finds himself quite bored. Meeting Lora, however, quickly ends his boredom when he finds himself drawn to her for reasons neither of them understand until Jesse actually explains it. An added bit of fun is found in Chloe’s pathetic attempts to claim Armand while everyone in the entire school knows that he only has eyes for Lora. Armand’s is probably my favorite character development. He’s the son of a Duke with a brother fighting in the war against the Germans, living just down the way from a castle full of girls and yet he goes through great lengths to forge a relationship with Lora. Their’s is one of those pairings I wouldn’t fight if it happened, but silently hope doesn’t.

The war adds an interesting historical twist to this paranormal tale. With everything set in the early 1900s, there is a certain simplicity to the story that I really enjoyed.

Overall, this book is stunning. It is not action packed until the final chapter, but it is a wonderful read. I didn’t want to put it down until the very end and when it was over, I felt a loss. When I did have to stop reading, picking it up was easy because I was pulled back into the flow of things without having to struggle to settle back into a grove. The Sweetest Dark is officially on my top five favorite books list.

Notable Scene:

At the age of twelve, I realized the songs were coming from the high stone wall surrounding the Home. From the metal rings and keys of the matrons who walked the halls with their nightsticks. From the pale, blazing diamond fixed in the stickpin the Home’s director, Mr. H.W. Forrester, wore in his necktie every single day. From even the distant stars. They weren’t the worst of it, though. The worst was the voice. The one that seemed centered not inside my head but instead just exactly inside my heart. It was cunning and fiendish, whispering the maddest things; That it was natural that gemstones would singe to me. That it was good to hate the Home, with its dull walls and dull boiled turnips and dull spiteful girls who openly scorned me, who tripped me in the hallways and dipped my plaits into ink pots during our few hours of schooling. The heart-voice would say things like, Smite them. Tear them apart. I won’t let you alone until you are who you are. And I wanted to. I was trapped and friendless, and if I’d had the slightest notion of how to smite anything, I bloody well might have. I grew up considered by one and all to be peculiar at best, aloof at least, and most, likely destined for the streets the day I turned seventeen, since even the factories had standards for hiring. None of them knew that each black night, long after they themselves had curled into their dreams, I would steal from my bed to perch upon the sill of the window close by, my no-color hair a slippery curtain against my back. I would press my palms flat against the glass and gaze down at the cobblestone courtyard below, four long stories below, and puzzle over the fiend in my heart. Every night, the fiend would whisper, Open the window. Jump. So finally I did.

The Sweetest Dark Trilogy:

1. The Sweetest Dark

2. The Deepest Night (August 13, 2013)

FTC Advisory: Bantam Dell/Random House provided me with a copy of The Sweetest Dark. No goody bags, sponsorships, “material connections,” or bribes were exchanged for my review.

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