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The Sweetest Dark Hardcover – April 2, 2013
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Abe’s YA debut takes place in 1915 England in the same alternate world as her adult paranormal romances about the drákon, beings who can shift forms from human to smoke to dragon. After being committed to a mental institution for almost a year, 16-year-old Lora has learned to ignore the voices and music only she can hear. After her Dickensian orphanage is bombed, she is inexplicably invited to become a charity student at Iverson, a wealthy coastal boarding school. The high-society students are disdainful, but she captures the attention of two very different (but equally mesmerizing) boys: Jesse, the gentle school groundskeeper, and Armand, the arrogant aristocrat, both of whom are key in unlocking Lora’s drákon powers. A sudden side plot involving a German air raid at Iverson is unconvincing, and the supernatural elements, particularly Jesse’s powers as a “starman,” are mystifying though intriguing. Abe has more success when focused on Lora’s starry-eyed romance with Jesse, related in gossamer, leisurely prose. This will appeal most to fans of ardent but gentle romance. Grades 9-12. --Krista Hutley
Praise for The Sweetest Dark
“A wonderfully refreshing story of self-discovery, love, courage—and dragons . . . I was enchanted.”—Melissa Marr, New York Times bestselling author of Wicked Lovely
“Abé creates a rich and refreshing world.”—RT Book Reviews (four stars)
“Abe’s writing is both elegant and beautiful . . . The Sweetest Dark is the perfect fantasy read.”—Badass Book Reviews
“Strong and spellbinding.”—Genre Go Round Reviews
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Lora has a toughness gained through her growing up in a rough environment and I liked her. When things get bad or scary she manages to pull herself together and face what needs to be done.
There are two boys in this story. I wouldn't call it a triangle because that has been over-worked, and this is different. For Lora there is never any doubt which one she is attracted to, the apparently mute gardener, Jesse. Armand, the dark son of the Duke who sponsored her, is obviously interested in her, and Armand has secrets of his own. The story is full of magic. This is also a sweet love story with twists I kind of saw coming but somehow did not think would play out the way they did. Having read all of the books from The Smoke Thief on, I understood what was happening with Lora, but one could read this book without having read the others. The reader would just discover things in a different way. I had my ideas about Jesse and Armand both and was right on one and wrong with the other. The story of the three of them together is beautifully done.
While personal things are playing out at the school and with these three characters, there is a war raging not all that far away. World War I where the London that Lora has left behind is being bombed. The war does come to Iverson in a way never anticipated, and for those who like action and intensity there is plenty of both. Lora has to recognize and use her powers even though she does not understand them. She has to take in and accept what she finds out about the two boys whose lives are now totally wound up with her own. I cried. I seem to have done that with the last few books I have read - I really don't do it a lot! The epilogue was sweet and made for a beautiful ending. It is to be a series and I can see that it will be a good one, but it could have ended and been okay with me too - not a cliffhanger. (thankfully) A few of my favorite parts:
"Feral, whispered my inner fiend, plucking the word from my black, black thoughts. Alpha.
The skin along the back of my neck prickled, and not in a good way.
The breeze shifted. I was upwind and he was down and I swear I saw him lift his face to it, breathe it in deep -- then turn at once to find me.
No one else noticed. Our eyes locked."
[Lora first seeing Armand]
"I wanted to address what had happened last night, our kiss, my fainting, him carrying me back to the tower. There was a weight in my chest that felt like an apology, although I didn't know how to phrase it or even if I should try. There were too many layers of truth between this boy and me, obvious layers like 'I don't even know you', and layers more subtle, ones that whispered, 'I've known you forever'."
[Lora about Jesse]
"Jesse gave me an assessing look. 'Like is drawn to like. We're all three of us thick with magic now, even if it's different kinds. It's inevitable that we'll feed off one another. The only way to prevent that would be to separate. And even then it might not be enough. Too much has already begun."
"Dragon protects star,' Eleanore announced coolly from her place across the table, her half-eaten bread pinched between two fingers. 'Star adores dragon. And now you can't betray us.'"
[Lora to Armand]
"I hadn't thought of it. I hadn't considered it once, to be honest. But the history of Europe had always included dragons. And knights. And lances. And lots and lots of stabbings through hearts."
"Raindrops shot through me, but they didn't hurt. I might well have been part of the mist that curled up from the ferns and grass, that reached wraithlike arms up through the boughs. I skimmed lower and lower until I was the same, except that the mist was wet and I was not. Smoke is always dry."
Eleanor "Lora" Jones came from an orphanage, but spent a major part of her life in a mental hospital because of the songs and voice she heard in her head. The orphanage is in London, right in the middle of World War I. All children are being sent out of London and Lora has the good fortune of being sent to Iverson, an elite boarding school for girls, only it turns out not to be such a coincidence that she ended up there.
In her time at Iverson she meets some interesting characters that play a big role in her life, Jesse-the groundskeeper, and Armand-the Duke of Idylling's son. While this first looks like the makings of a love triangle, it's far from it. Lora makes it very clear from the start who she wants to be with and how she feels. (I personally LOVE Armand.) These three all have a future and a past that is intertwined together by a events that only Jesse is aware of.
She also finds somewhat of a "friend" in an unexpected character, Lady Sophia. Sophia is one of my absolute favorite characters in this book. She turns out the be completely different than I initially thought she would be. I feel the need to mention the headmistress also, only because every time she was around it sent steam out of my ears. She's horrible! She pretty much seems to live her life to make Lora feel that she is not meant to be in their world.
Now why did I give this a 4 ♥ rating instead of a 5? Well the entire book is based in this WWI setting, yet it's not really made CRUCIAL through the entire book, just little stuff here and there. I felt like it was just a setting background, until the very end. BAM, it's right at Lora's doorstep. The way the ending plays out I feel like there should of been more of a build up to it. It got really intense towards the end, I just wanted to know what was happening. When I finally found the explanation to what happened, well I was kind of like "this is it?". I was border lined confused. I feel like it was kind of just placed in there. I also wanted a LOT more back story to the things Lora learns from Jesse. I wanted to know a lot more about the drakon world, and more about Jesse and who he was. You are just kind of told who they are, then that's about it. I'm really hoping for more in the other books.
**I did read the next one, and will have a review up for that soon. I will say after reading the second one it does help me understand the point of the ending from The Sweetest Dark, but I still feel there should have been more build of that story line in the book. :)
This story takes place during WWI at a prep school for the wealthy and privileged in England. Lora is an orphan, with no memory of her past, who is placed in this prep school after her orphanage in London is destroyed.
You will fall in love with Lora. She is complex, strong, vulnerable, determined, witty - so many things, but not too predictable. There is a love triangle (of course!), and I have to admit, I eventually came to love both boys. There is a the paranormal, and it was an interesting aspect which linked our three main characters to each other.
I loved this book. Abe's writing is always gorgeous (I have read several of her books). I have seen complaints that it is slow moving, but she is just setting the stage for a wondrous image. Be patient, it's a great story.
Most recent customer reviews
The story line was not the quality of her previous books.
Would still read.