The Sweetest Dark by Shana Abe: ARC Review

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.

Eleanor, or Lora as she is known, has never known wealth. Never known what a warm winter coat feels like against her skin, if her parents are still alive, or to not be allocated enough food to keep the hunger pains away. She knows that she can hear melodies. Beautiful tinkering songs that no one else can hear. So when the air ships start dropping bombs on Old London, she receives a scholarship to attend one of the most prestigious schools in England. It's a rare opportunity for a girl of her statue, so why was she chosen?

Lora is out of her element, with high society girls in flowing gowns in every colour compared to her threadbare tattered rags. The girls are taught all the fine graces of young ladies, and nothing more. Needlepoint, how to maintain a home, painting and reciting sonnets. It is unheard of for refined young women to immerse themselves with the verses of Poe, to learn mathematics or the sciences. The only way the dreadful school is made bearable, is the handsome, but mute ground staff worker, Jesse.

Jesse only speaks to Lora. His sweet melody calls to her and she finds herself tethered to the young man that makes her heart soar, literally. He holds the secret to Lora's past and future. Jesse has a gift of his own, he is Jesse of the stars and their fates entwined. Not if Mandy, the dukes son has anything to do with it.

Mandy is drawn to Lora, her haunting song reminds him of his late mother. The three will be irrevocably be drawn together as the bombings continue and their lives will never be the same again.

This book was undoubtedly beautifully written. I tend to steer clear of historical novels, but The Sweetest Dark felt more so of a modern supernatural tale, set in a historical era. For the most part, I thoroughly enjoyed it, it was entertaining, but I was in a state of confusion with the supernatural element. Involving dragons, morphing into a smokey haze, hearing melodies from metal objects, being 'of the stars' and being able to turn living objects into solid gold, it was all too overwhelming. The constant explanation of 'dragon protects star and star adores dragon', didn't explain much at all.

If Eleanor, Jesse and Mandy had of been angels and demons, witches and warlocks or any other mainstream type of supernatural, I would have given this a near perfect rating, sadly I just couldn't fathom the star and dragons connection with the Midas touch aspect.

It was simply beautifully written and unique. I won't fault the author for my own lack of understanding though. I'm looking forward to the second in the series, hoping the connection is clearer.

The Sweetest Dark
(The Sweetest Dark: Book One)
Written By Shana Abe
Expected Publication 02 / 04 / 2013
352 Pages 
ARC Courtesy of Netgalley


  1. I just started this book! We'll see how I like's kind of confusing to start with.

    1. Hi Snuggles, thanks for stopping by.
      The confusion continued for me right throughout really, even after it ended I was still scratching my head. But I was sucked in by the romance of the story rather, young love in a time of war.

      If you understand the star / dragon theory, can you please explain it to me too?

  2. This sounds a little everywhere. I thought it would go more into the mermaid/siren route because if the singing thing. I'm more excited about the book cover more than anything else even if it's beautifully written (:

    1. Maybe it's me though. See if you can find the connection. The character Jesse is 'of the stars', where basically the stars talk to him and guide him. But he can also turn living objects into solid gold.

      Eleanor is a dragon. First she begins as a smokey haze, and has the strong need to jump out of windows and spread her non existent wings. Eventually she morphs into a scaly dragon, claws and all.

      Now, apparently it's the way of the universe that the dragon and star are fated to be together. She protects him, he's in love with her.

      But where is the connection? Boy dragon, girl dragon? Yes.
      Even boy of the stars and a comet to end the earth? Yes.
      A dragon and a boy made of stars? Say what?


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