Friday, April 19, 2013

Review: The Sweetest Dark

THE SWEETEST DARK
The Sweetest Dark #1
Shana Abe
Paranormal young adult
352 pages
Bantam
Available now
Received from publisher via NetGalley

THE STORY (from Goodreads)
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.


MY THOUGHTS
Soft and rich, The Sweetest Dark is one of those stories that possesses a lulling quality, the lyrical writing painting fleeting images that burst forth in a sudden storm of color and light before fading, leaving us aching and hollow in their absence. Those looking for a great deal of action and intricate world building will not find them in this tale, instead this story of stars and dragons is a delicate flame in the wind – flickering in and out on a seeming whim and creating striking patterns that decorate the shadowed corners of a room without ever illuminating them completely. Instead, we can only guess what lies in the darkness, the how’s and why’s of this world and the characters’ various roles in it things that remain hidden from view, yet we can’t help but revel in our access to the beauty radiating from the flame's small circle of light, however narrow it may be.

Lora is a dose of realism in an otherwise lilting and darkly magical tale, her ability to put those above her in station in their place creating an anchor for us as we try to understand this world that is both ours and yet so much more. Though she is considered a charity case by the other girls attending Iverson, she never cowers from their blatant insults or whispered cruelties, rather she casts their aspersions right back on them, delivering them with a cool confidence rendered all the more effective for the no-nonsense delivery. She accepts the paranormal revelations with little drama, deciding to trust in Jesse and what he tells her, thereby granting us more time to dig our toes into the sand of this story rather than wasting precious page time as she travels through various stages of denial.

While the synopsis insinuates a love triangle setup, the relationship between Lora, Jesse, and Armand is thankfully not one so easily wedged into that all-too familiar shape, instead we’re given a romance as quietly powerful and fascinatingly distinct as the rest of the story. Her feelings for Jesse develop quickly, but theirs is a relationship that has a very different atmosphere to it–a coming together of old souls in new bodies–the force of their impact something that reverberates through the pages to travel along our skin until the our hearts pulse in time with their unique beat. Armand is someone interested in Lora romantically, but her affection for Jesse, at least in this first installment, is an impenetrable wall despite her complex link to them both.

The Sweetest Dark is not a story that will be universally loved by all, its quietness and the lack of defined history for the paranormal aspects of the world things that will likely trouble many a reader, but there’s something achingly beautiful and poetically haunting about the way Lora’s story unfolds that makes this book an experience rather than a simple read.

Rating: 4/5
 

More information on Shana and her books can be found here:


34 comments:

  1. Girl in dress and I remembered which book to look for at the library..thanks ;=D

    ReplyDelete
  2. Oh my holy goodness, Jenny, your metaphor of an introduction pretty much was gorgeous. That definitely made me really curious to pick this book up! I don't remember the last time I read a book with dragons, and Shana's writing just sounds out of this world. I want to know what's up with this somewhat love triangle, I have to admit! Thanks for your thoughts, and beautiful review as always, Jenny!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks Jen! Sometimes I go a little crazy with the metaphors, but this was just a really beautiful story. The dragon aspect is different from what you might expect, and I definitely want to learn more in the next book!

      Delete
  3. I haven't seen this one before but isn't the cover pretty. Regardless I really like the sound of this story. Sounds so lovely from your review. I like stories about dragons and I'm not sure I've read a book about stars! Anyhow I hope I'll get to read this one. Great review Jenny :)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. It's a strange little story, but I really liked it:)

      Delete
  4. looks like a really good read..Thanks for sharing!!

    ReplyDelete
  5. The Sweetest Dark sounds just like my kind of book. Lovely review Jenny (:

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks Celine! I hope you give it a try:)

      Delete
  6. While I definitely do prefer stronger worldbuilding and backstory, I can fully appreciate that this one is more delicate, without that solid foundation. Plus, dragons!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I do too, but I was able to overlook that in this one and just enjoy what was there. It was a different type of story and definitely memorable.

      Delete
  7. Beautiful review! I really need to read this one, it has been awhile since I read a great descriptive novel that made me feel like I was in another place.
    Have a great weekend!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks! I hope you give this one a try, it's stuck with me for a while:)

      Delete
  8. *strokes chin* I do like lyrical books on occasion (I just finished a Maggie Stiefvater book, and she does lyrical so very well). But I also like a strong world. Unless the characters make up for the lack of world building?

    ReplyDelete
  9. Oooh! Jenny, I love this review! I hadn't heard of this book (there's just many to try and keep up with!), but now I really want to read it! This definitely sounds like my kind of book!

    Your review hooked me from the start when you said this was "soft and rich". Immediately made me relax and want to read this.

    ReplyDelete
  10. I'm not sure if this book is for me to be honest, but I'm glad that you enjoyed it.
    It's good to know that the love triangle is more than just a love triangle and the romance sounds fantastic. I think I wouldn't like the lack of background.
    Still, lovely review, Jenny!

    ReplyDelete
  11. Blast. I can't decide if I want to read this one or not. I keep hearing different takes on it.

    Great review!

    ReplyDelete
  12. As you said, this isn't something that will be universally loved and I doubt I'll fit into the category that will like it, but I'm glad you enjoyed it so much. For me, love triangles are becoming too much of a miss for me to even try them out anymore. *sigh* Still, lovely review, Jenny! :)

    ReplyDelete
  13. Fabulous review Jenny. The book does sound promising, and no love triangle is ever better.

    ReplyDelete
  14. I'm with you. I loved the way the author wrote this book. Only thing I have a problem with is that she made me cry! Bad author! :) I have the rest of her books on my wishlist because of this book. I want to read more by her.

    ReplyDelete
  15. I have had this since last year, I don't know why they put off the pub date for a year. Time to get it read. I am so so happy to hear that it is a quiet non triangle romance. I am so sick of drama romance and triangles I could puke.

    ReplyDelete
  16. I read this book a year ago and I LOVED it. I ACHED to discuss it but no one else in the entire world had read it yet. I was the ONLY one (ha ha) so I had no one to rave to about it. And it was for Vine so I had to actually write a review right away (which I should maybe repost now). Anyway, I'm glad you enjoyed it too. I'm super anxious for the next one!

    ReplyDelete
  17. Okay, now this is just getting weird! Twice in one week we review the same book on the same days. Oh I felt the same way! I didn't know what to say about Jesse or Armand so I didn't. You said it very well! Jesse and Lora's love felt epic, I guess because of who and how they were connected. I don't think I've ever met a gentler soul than Jesse in YA.

    Excellent review!

    Heather

    ReplyDelete
  18. Fantastic review, Jenny! I've heard a lot about this book, though I don't think I've been truly interested in picking it up myself until now. I'm glad to hear the love triangle isn't quite a triangle. That, I can just about deal with. I'm glad you liked this! :)

    ReplyDelete
  19. Oh thank God about the love triangle that isn't quite a triangle! Haha! I've see this quite a few times in GR and although I was definitely interested with its premise I was a little reluctant to add this on my tbr because of the romance. Not that I know it wasn't really the frustrating and heart breaking type I'm definitely going to pick this up someday. Thanks for sharing this lovely review, Jenny!

    ReplyDelete
  20. I love it when love triangles are implemented well! Great review Jenny !

    ReplyDelete
  21. This cover is so gorgeous, Jenny. Glad to hear the insides match the outside. I love boarding school stories and I'm happy to hear this isn't a love-triangle. Let's hope it stays that way, because I'm sick to death of them! Lovely review! :)

    ReplyDelete
  22. I read this one last year and loved the idea of the book. I was great and different. Nice review.

    ReplyDelete
  23. I adored this book, which surprised me, as I was on the wrong side of the love triangle--though it really wasn't much of one. You know how I can't resist a duke--even a future one.

    My favorite character was Lora. I liked that she had a sense of self-preservation. She knew that a smart mouth wasn't going to get her anywhere and she was deeply practical (as with Jesse and his lack of interest in the gold items he made). She's not "above" all those things, which I think made her relatable in a way that other, more perfect heroines are. I mean--we live in a material world. We can't always be above material wants. We wouldn't be human otherwise.

    I seriously can't wait to read the next book in this series--and I'm going to be glomming Shana Abe's adult Drakon books.

    ReplyDelete
  24. Ooh, I haven't heard a lot about this book, but it sounds great. I've never been one to be too nit-picky about the history of things or holes in world-building, so I don't think that'll bother me too much. And I'm intrigued by how different this love triangle seems to be! Plus, the cover is beautiful. Wonderful review, Jenny!

    ReplyDelete
  25. I know you loved this one, Jenny, but this sentence in your review "... quietness and the lack of defined history for the paranormal aspects of the world ..." makes me think I may not enjoy it so much. Great review as always though.

    ReplyDelete
  26. I hadn't heard of this book until now, but I'm always a fan of gorgeous writing and captivating atmosphere, so this sounds perfect for me! I'm glad to hear you enjoyed it so much. Beautiful review, Jenny!

    ReplyDelete
  27. "that makes this book an experience rather than a simple read."

    What a great way to describe this book-that really gets at the way I felt when reading it and why I struggled to review it. People just need to check it out for themselves!

    ReplyDelete