Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Review: The Sweetest Dark (The Sweetest Dark #1) by Shana Abe

Firstly, thanks to Random House for this NetGalley <3

The Sweetest Dark (The Sweetest Dark, #1)

Date Read: March 11 – April 8 2013
Release Date: April 2nd 2013
Publisher: Random House
Source: NetGalley
Genre: Historical Fantasy
My rating: 

’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.”


“Those nights, in the sweetest dark, we shared our dreams.”

Almost like an epic poem, this was one of the most eloquently written books I’ve ever read in my life. Abe weaves words together creating a blanket as gorgeous as the night sky. Her poetic prose had me hooked from the very first page, filling me with intrigue, hope, heartbreak and making me weep.

“I’m of comet and clay and the sparks of sun across the ocean waves.”

Eleanore Jones has been hearing songs from objects her entire life, but as an orphan in 1920s wartime England, she was forced to repress these voices. And for a while that worked – until she begins board at Iverson and meets two boys that change her life. I was immediately drawn into Lora’s story by her practical voice. Growing up in an orphanage, Lora doesn’t dilly-dally with irrelevant details, she tells it like it is – a starving child, tortured for hearing things people didn’t hear. I loved the way she perceived things, how she appreciated what the rich around her took for granted. I also love a protagonist with a sense of humour.

“I was trapped and friendless, and if I’d had the slightest notion of how to smite anything, I bloody well might have.”

Cue the two life changing boys. Jesse Holms and Lord Armand Louis, or Mandy as he liked to be called, were really as different as night and day. Jesse, the sweet, green-eyed, gorgeous summery boy who did odd jobs around the school and whom everybody deemed a mute and simpleton; Mandy, the handsome hazel-eyed boy, damaged on the inside who hid behind his riches and wintry façade. Both are drawn to Lora and while she tried avoiding Armand’s advances, there’s something about him that can’t make her stay away. As for Jesse, his song calls to her like no other and I’m going to say right here, I love this selfless boy so much! He had me at “I’m Jesse.”

“… Jesse and Armand, those two savagely different and yet dangerously similar creatures who were destined to dig their talons into me and change my life forever.”

The story was actually written in a combination of both first and third person. Most of The Sweetest Dark is told from Lora’s point of view, but at times it switched to third person Jesse or Armand. I’m still undecided on how I feel about this. Switching between first and third made it almost seem like Abe couldn’t write from a male perspective, and I’d feel slightly off-balance when the perspectives changed. She could have easily written the person’s name at the top when the person changed right? On the other hand, I understand the distance she put between Jesse, Armand and the reader. This was essentially Lora’s story and those third person male views gave us a wider perspective of Lora – not only how each boy saw her through his eyes, but in relation to the world around them as well.

“The man in him wanted. Purely wanted. Burned with want, exactly as he had from the moment he’d watched her walking towards him that night across the station lot…”

Amidst Lora’s own story though, is the war looming across the bridge and the impact this has on the characters is huge. The main plot itself I found a bit weird. Not unbelievable, are-you-on-crack weird, but rather something I didn’t see coming and when it did come I was like “EH?! Of all the things?” It was certainly interesting and there were clues placed throughout that indicated at something other but nothing I expected. I guess that’s a good thing but I can’t really say I was extremely WOW’d either. Definitely a different and very unique take on stories of the type though.

“An ancient magic created you, a powerful magic. It twines through you, growing stronger with every full moon.”

As Lora discovers more about herself, both boys are there every step of the way. Hence, what’s a YA without romance? I absolutely adored the way the romance was written in TSD. It was so sweet it created this ache within me. Intimate and passionate without ever going into graphic detail, romance is rarely written like this nowadays! Every glance, every thought and slight touch created the most tender and precious moments.

“His fingers began a glide up my arm, across my shoulder. Down my back. He drew figures eights upon me, five-pointed stars, our initials intertwined.”

Now I’m going to gush about the AMAZING writing. I briefly mentioned Abe’s writing style in the beginning but that is seriously not enough. I want to put so many beautiful quotes in this review but that’d mean I’d be writing out the whole book. The phrases were so meaningful they not only applied to the story, but to life itself. This was the most elegant poetry. This was a song that demanded to be sung, its lyrics resonating through me and settling in my heart, in my core, making me feel the power of Abe’s words. Her descriptions are something out of the Romantic Movement, the feelings she invoked in me squeezed my heart a million times over.

“There are certain moments in life when hard, hot truth shines at you like a spotlight from heaven, like the focused beam from a lighthouse on the shore of yourself, and you find yourself stripped naked in its light.”

Beautifully written, a story filled with magic, love and an ending that ruined me (I was crying as I re-read bits looking for quotes), this bittersweet tale is one I’ll never forget.

“Remember this. Remember them, this moment, this heartbreak, these two boys. Remember that they loved you.”

1 comment:

  1. Ending that make you cry are the best. I nominated you for a blog award. See my post here: