The Sweetest Dark by Shana Abe
Publisher: Bantam Books
Genre: Paranormal, Sci-Fi/Fantasy, Suspense/Mystery, Historical, YA
Length: Full Length (334 pgs)
Age Recommendation 14+
Rating: 4 Stars
Reviewed by Stephanotis
“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.
The Sweetest Dark had a little bit of everything, romance, a gothic setting, a mystery, a lot of paranormal elements. I enjoyed Ms. Abe’s writing style which is rich and layered. The main character, Lora was interesting and I found myself reading on to learn more about her. Some of the chapters in between the main ones threw me off a little at first but then as I read on they became clearer to the overall plot.
The book does have some historical inaccuracies about what happened during first half of World War 1 when the book is set, for example nightly bombing, children being evacuated, and the mention of Land Girls but if you can overlook these it’s a fun read with an almost creepy setting. And true to the gothic sub-genre, characters who you’re not quite sure if they can be trusted or not.
I really enjoyed seeing Lora and Jesse’s relationship unfold and I found myself wanting these two to be together. I think girls will probably enjoy this book more than boys and, while it’s a long read, the pacing is such that even younger girls shouldn’t have a problem. If you enjoy a slice of romance, mystery, especially gothics, with lots of supernatural elements, this would be a good pick.