The Sweetest Dark #1
Paranormal young adult
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.
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.
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