Friday, March 15, 2013

ARC Review: The Sweetest Dark by Shana Abé

Title: The Sweetest Dark (The Sweetest Dark #1)
Author: Shana Abé
Genre: Young Adult, Fantasy

Goodreads rating: 3.84 out of 5.00 (pre-release)
Goodreads link:

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.

Review by Nara

Thank you to Random House Publishing Group: Bantam Dell  for sending me an advance copy of The Sweetest Dark through NetGalley. In no way did this affect my opinion of the book.

NOTE: Quotations were taken from the uncorrected proof and may not be the same in the final published copy.

First thought: Ah crud, it's for fans of Lauren Kate.
Second thought: What's with the cover? It looks like she's turning into smoke...
Third thought: Love triangle?!

From the blurb, The Sweetest Dark seems like a really dramatic book.
Both hold the answers to her past. One is the key to her future. And both will aim to win her heart.
*Cue dramatic music*
And frankly, it was pretty dramatic, particularly nearing the conclusion to the novel. However, before I talk about the ending, let's be logical and go back to the start.

From the very start, a lot of intrigue is built about the world of 16 year old Lora Jones. I was hooked in the first chapter, and every subsequent chapter sucked me deeper into a world of absolute amazingness.

    Like all the orphans crowding the Home, I felt certain that I did not belong where I was. That someone, somewhere, was surely searching for me, because I was special.
    Unlike all the rest of the orphans, I was right.

    Better than anything, really. How could it not be?
    Of course, that last, hopeful thought occurred to me only hours before I would meet 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.

I really loved Abe's writing style: she has a way of making you see things from the main character's point of view. It's written in sort of a lyrical style, with the tone and language being that of a historical novel. Although mostly in first person, there is scattered third person from Armand and Jesse (the two love interests). I quite liked these third person excerpts- they definitely aided in creating more intrigue, and at some points, nicely tied the loose ends of the story together. There are also a few chapters which are letters addressed to Lora included sporadically which created MOAR INTRIGUE! I found that on the whole, the chapters were very short, which definitely aided in keeping the pace of the book up.

As the book reached the climax near the end, the pace sped up accordingly- this was done by doing very quick alternating points of view (literally one paragraph from Lora, one from Jesse, one from Armand etc.). One thing I found frustrating (although not in a bad way, moreso the way you feel when a book in a series ends in a cliffhanger) was that Abe kept leaving Lora on absolutely ridiculous cliffhangers that had me on the edge of my seat (figuratively speaking, as I was reading the book while lying in my bed haha). And OH MY GOD. THE ENDING. In the interests of being non-spoilery, I'll just say one thing. The ending was heartbreaking, but stunning and I loved the epilogue narrated by Jesse (wait, that's two things. My bad.)

The characters, the plot, the writing: honestly, there wasn't much that went wrong in this book (apart from Armand's nickname being Mandy. Seriously, what the hell!). It was a beautiful creation that Abe should certainly be proud of.

Recommended Historical Fiction Novels:
1. Out of the Easy by Ruta Sepetys
2. Grave Mercy by Robin LaFevers
3. Venom by Fiona Paul

Overall: 9/10
Plot: 4/5
Writing: 5/5
Characters: 4/5
Cover: 3.5/5


  1. Great review! Glad to hear that this book had so much going for it. It sounds very exciting! Thanks for sharing. :)

    1. It was definitely beautifully written. And I got the sequel from NetGalley! So excited to read it :)

  2. I have this to read! Must get to it soon!

    1. It's nice because the first and second books come out so quickly after one another :)