Title: The Sweetest Dark (The Sweetest Dark #1)
Author: Shana Abe
Release Date: April 2nd 2013
“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.I admit: what drew me to The Sweetest Dark was that gorgeous cover. Seriously. Look at it. But I shouldn't have let it fool me, because the story bound by that pretty thing left me in ugly tears.
In a matter of a few pages, the lyrical and atmospheric writing already gripped me, and I knew I was in the hands of a master. As if that wasn't enough, the mystery was also introduced early on, urging me even more to turn the pages.
But even without those two reasons, I would've kept reading for Lora, whose quiet yet fierce demeanor and no-nonsense attitude made me love her immediately. Instead of being intimidated by the rich, snotty girls in her new school, she stood up to them and held her own, just like her harsh life at the orphanage had taught her. She also faced everything that her new magical life threw at her with practicality, honesty, and courage. And fangs and claws too, both metaphorical and not, because this girl knew how to use her aces. She's the YA heroine I'd unknowingly been waiting for.
With Lora's new school came two equally appealing boys. First was Jesse, the school's groundskeeper, who charmed with his knowledge and dependability; add to that his hidden "talent", sweetness, gentleness, and beautiful way with words, and I was smitten beyond saving. And the second was Armand, son of a duke, whose tough, bad boy exterior hid his vulnerability, which, although predictable, would never fail to be endearing (at least for me). I was daunted at the hint of this love triangle, but for Lora—and every reader, I suppose—Jesse was the clear choice, which was fine by me because Armand already had too much to deal with.
When the magical part of the plot entered, I encountered two problems. I found it weird how easily Lora accepted the truth about her identity, but it was soon realized that it was because the signs that had used to point to her insanity were actually pointing to this truth. Also, as soon as Lora began to delve deeper into her new self, the plot stretched out confusingly, if only at first, to include Armand and his own stash of secrets. It deviated the focus from Lora and lessened the wow factor on her, as she called it, Becoming. But really, these faults were very minimal, and honestly, right now I don't really care about them at all anymore.
I should've guessed that setting this story in England during World War I wouldn't bring about any good for the characters, but the ending surprised me. It was heartbreaking but satisfying and utterly beautiful, hence the tears I've mentioned above. The idea of a sequel confuses me, but I'll surely be reading that one. And soon.
MY FAVORITE PART was the last paragraph in the epilogue. That's the part that brought out the tears.
(cover and blurb from Goodreads.com)