The Sweetest Dark (The Sweetest Dark #1) by Shana Abé
Publishers: Random House Publishing Group
Published Date: April 2nd 2013
My rating: 3 out of 5
“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.
The first thing I should mention about this book is that its beautifully written. Sometimes I thought the prose was a little over the top, and could have been simplified. But the author does a wonderful job of creating the backdrop for the story, and creating atmosphere.
So to the story. This is a paranormal romance. I haven't come across such a strange mix of creatures before. For our benefit we're weaved into a mythical story of a Drákon girl and a boy who came from the stars. A tad unusual but it did have a refreshed feel to it as I had no preconceptions of characters who could turn animated objects to gold.
There is a love triangle of sorts which again has a little twist in it. The story is told from three angles (four if you count the letters from the mysterious Rue). Overall the love aspect isn't one of indecision. Lora made up her mind from the beginning of who she liked and stuck with it.
The story begins in London at an orphanage, then takes us to Wessex where the rest of the plot unfolds. A prestigious boarding school becomes Lora's home complete with hostile girls and a rich family living nearby. But an unusual alliance is formed when Lora becomes the object of the coveted Armand's affections. His girl in waiting, Chloe, is the step-sister of Lady Sophia. And although Sophia appeared to dislike Lora she soon came to her senses to do anything to spite her sister. In return Lora makes an ally although she never does become any more popular due to her poor background.
The main backdrop of the story is WW1. The main reason Lora goes to Wessex in the first place is to escape the bombings by the German Zeppelins. The war is ever apparent throughout the story and becomes the spin in the final chapters.
The reason I've given this book a lower rating is that there is little tension from the middle towards the ending. No evil enemy to capture or kill, no threats on Loras or Jesse's lives because of discovery of their secret. In fact it all falls a little flat. We also, despite an initial search, never find out how the Drákon characters are related whether through cousins, second cousins, maybe a possible sister. It gets completely forgotten. I half expected some distant relation to pop up and claim Lora for his long lost child, but we got nothing. And the story of Rue all seems pointless as it now bears no meaning to the main story. Except in a possible sequel. At times Jesse's dialogue annoyed me and became too abstract to hold any meaning but I understand that was probably more to allure Lora.
Overall I did like this book and I certainly recommend it. But once I got to the last pages I couldn't help feeling a little underwhelmed.
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