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The Sweetest Dark

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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.

Filled with lush atmosphere, thrilling romance, and ancient magic, The Sweetest Dark brilliantly captures a rich historical era while unfolding an enchanting love story that defies time.

352 pages, Hardcover

First published August 21, 2012

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About the author

Shana Abe

31 books1,513 followers
Shana Abé is the award-winning, New York Times, USA Today, Publishers Weekly, and Wall Street Journal bestselling author of seventeen books, including the acclaimed Drákon Series and the Sweetest Dark Series.

She has a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree from the University of Southern California, and currently resides in the mountains of Colorado with her very patient husband and a lot of pets.

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Displaying 1 - 30 of 546 reviews
Profile Image for Mimi.
265 reviews357 followers
July 10, 2012
In my thesaurus for this book, The Sweetest Dark is synonymous to beautiful. Ordinary is not-a-fat-chance. And Shana Abe is something of a genius for creating a story so lush, so beautiful, and so different from your classic paranormal book! I just HAVE to break it down! :')

The world: Taking place in England during World War I, The Sweetest Dark is also set in the world of Shana Abe's adult Drakon series. Even though it may not be a big secret, I don't want to give away the type of creature that lurks around in this enchantingly bleak world (like Lora). But I can tell you that this isn't a vamp/were/witch/fey story like usual!

The heroine: At first, Lora comes off distant. She's hardened by her awful past, slow to trust and quick to reply with snark. But beneath her hard shell is a fragile girl made of so many layers, and I loved that part of her. I ended up loving ALL of her. She has a silent strength that's unmistakable, and my heart clicked with hers like that.

The boys: Don't worry; you'll find that this isn't really your traditional love triangle! Jesse a musical genius who doesn't care what other people think of him. Many think he's mute because he refuses to speak — except to Lora, and it's SO sweet when he does. ♥ Then there's Armand, the arrogant aristocrat who Lora distrusts immediately. Both boys play a huge part in Lora discovering her heritage, and both unravel in different ways.

The awesome: I spent much of this book in a daze, confused almost, but the last fraction completely blew me away! I cried like a baby. To be honest, even though there are still so many things I don't understand (so many things I hope will be explored in a sequel *hint hint*), this is simply one of the most beautiful books I've ever read and it gets my heart for that!

The epic conclusion: Written with some of the most gorgeous prose I've ever read and told with the essence of a heartbreaking Grimm fairytale, The Sweetest Dark is a captivatingly original story that takes the phrase "hauntingly beautiful" to extremes. My chest is still aching!

BUY or BORROW?: I'm borrowing this ARC from Candace [insert showering of hearts!!], so of course I need to get a gorgeous finished copy for my shelf! :')

(Original review at Mimi Valentine's YA Review Blog)
Profile Image for A.G. Howard.
Author 18 books8,763 followers
March 22, 2016
I have drooled over Abe's prose for several years now. I've read a few of her adult romance novels, and my favorites are her Drakon Series themed books (The Smoke Thief & The Dream Thief). She stayed true to her signature lush, descriptive storytelling and knack for romantic tension and subtle fantastical elements in this tale for YA readers. Also, the time period details in this one were fascinating woven in with the drakon lore. The ending did break my heart a little, but that always earns an extra star. I love when someone can touch my emotions so viscerally. <3
January 2, 2013
Holy crap this was a confusing book. From the blurb, I expected something much different. I am a sucker for boarding school settings, and early 20th century England? I'm there. The boarding school and the snobbery has been done before, and better; what I didn't like was the mythology that the author was trying to build. Dragons? Stars? Seriously, someone is an actual star as in twinkling in the sky, shining and all. Did I accidentally walk into an AU fanfiction of Sailor Moon?

Evil rich girls? Check. Snobby upper-class gentry? Check. Disdainful headmistress who constantly emphasizes that heroine is soooooo lucky to be there and for the love of god, try not to look too common (it's best if you read all the speech in the snootiest accent you can imagine, at least you can get some amusement out of the book, since there's not much amusement nor enjoyment from the book itself).

The author was trying to do too much and ended up making a mess of it all. I was just laughing my ass off at the German/WWI mix-in. The author actually attempted to incorporate part of war history into a novel about dragon and star shifters.

FYI: 1915 is so not Victorian.
Profile Image for Heather K (dentist in my spare time).
3,884 reviews5,814 followers
July 11, 2017
This book is my most surprising find of 2013 thus far.

I had barely remembered requesting this book to review when it came time to read it. I honestly didn't know what to expect. I didn't read the blub again before starting it because the descriptions often give too much away, in my opinion. In truth, I was preparing myself for tedious young adult drivel; misunderstandings, nonsense, lip-biting, smirking... you know, the usual garbage. To say that this shocked the hell out of me is an understatement. The writing is just gorgeous. It is atmospheric, mature, and hauntingly beautiful. The story is very reminiscent of a fairy tail in the best possible way. It reminded me a lot of Hammer Air in the artfulness and the melodic tone (in no other way though because this book is M/F and as clean as they come).

This book is not a fast-paced paranormal romance. It slowly unfurls itself and draws you in more and more as you read. And though this book is deeply romantic, the romantic aspect is not what the majority of the book centers around. Most of the book focuses on Lora's self-discovery and her path to fulfilling her destiny. Stick with this one and you will be rewarded. This book is what I wish more young adult books would strive to be.

My one criticism would be that I actually didn't care for the epilogue. I'm an epilogue kind of girl (I just want one more taste!) but here, I feel like it cheapened the ending a bit.

**Copy provided by the publisher in exchange for an honest review**
Profile Image for Whitley Birks.
294 reviews355 followers
August 26, 2013
When I first started this book, I went in knowing that many of my friends had given it one star. I was confused. Sure, it was clichéd and slow-moving, but it was still a pretty fun read, certainly nothing worthy of such abysmal ratings. I enjoyed the setting and the atmosphere, probably because boarding school stories always have a special place in my heart. Armand intrigued me, even if Jesse and Lora didn’t, but that’s par for the course with me.

And then, somewhere around the middle of the book…it’s like the editor just gave up and said “look, they’ve bought it by this point and we’ve got their money, so sure, write whatever you want.” Every annoying thing that had been present, but restrained, in the book before that point suddenly went no-holes-barred. The purple prose, the ridiculous love story, the complete and utter focus on romance, the mind-boggling lack of any sort of explanation, all of it came at me full-force. I kept reading to the end just to see if it would ever revert back to the comparative quality of the beginning.

The romance really did take over this book and drown it. There were a lot of things that the book did surprisingly well, especially with the characters of Chloe and Armand. I loved them. Chloe went from a typical one-dimensional mean girl to something…else. I was fascinated by her interactions with Lora, the way she was not quite a friend, but nowhere near an enemy. Armand’s history was infinitely more interesting to me than Lora’s, especially since he didn’t have a Convenient Love Interest to swoop in and say “by the by, this is what’s up with your powers.” Lora had the potential to be just as interesting, but she dropped all emotional reactions about the paranormal aspect in favor of being in love with Jesse instead. Kind of hamstringed things in the ‘liking Lora’ department.

Speaking of the paranormal aspect, that was bungled badly. Lora finds out the cause of her powers, and her only reaction is to say “oh, coolbeans.” She has no questions or doubts, which means we get no explanations. So Lora is a dragon, eh? Um…what does that mean? Are there other dragons? Is there a reason she looks like a girl? Is that normal, is she under a spell, does ‘dragon’ mean something other than ‘big magic lizard’ in this mythology? (Hey, after Twilight, anything’s possible.) These questions and more will never be asked, much less answered, within this book. Jesse also tells her that he is a “star man.” And that means…fuck all if I know. Lora rolls right along with that, as well, going so far as to introduce him as a “star man” even though that has absolutely no context or meaning to the readers.

It was extremely irritating to me to have the paranormal aspect so downplayed. Without any angst, mystery, or confusion about Lora’s nature, that aspect became more of a set-piece than an actual part of the plot. There was nothing about her draon-i-tude that had to be solved or dealt with; it was just there. Instead, most of the book dwelt on how much she loved Jesse. And she only loved him in the first place because magic-mumbo-jumbo, not because of any significant personality connection or anything like that.

After reading the book I found out that the author has an entire series of adult books that deal with her dragons, presumably developing a full mythology and culture around them. This book even alludes to characters in that other book. However, since this is a new series and there’s absolutely nothing that says "hey, read The Smoke Thief first," it should be able to stand on its own. It doesn’t.

I did quite enjoy the ending, though. It was one of the rare few times when they saw danger coming, I started yelling “JUST DO X!” and they went and did X. It was quite a fun little fight scene that allowed for some creative maneuvering.
Profile Image for Amber J.
920 reviews64 followers
May 22, 2019

“You’re not human, Eleanore Jones. I think that somewhere inside you, you must know that. You must always have known. You’re not made of ordinary bone or blood but of something else completely.”― Shana Abe

As always my reviews are based off of my true and honest opinion and I do my best to keep all reviews spoiler free.


16 year old orphan, Lora Jones is accepted into an elite boarding school called Iverson. Here she meets Jesse, and the attraction is almost immediate. She soon learns that he is so much more than just a boy. She finds that not only does he have some powers of his own, but he knows and teaches her to use her own powers as well. There is also Armand. He is a rich and handsome boy that for some reason takes a liking to Lora. Emotions are all around. This is a great read.


I loved this book. I originally only choose it because it fit the requirements for a challenge that I joined from my group, but it turned out to be a surprisingly great read. It had me from the first chapter. The time period, the fantasy, the romance. Best of all was the writing. It was so beautiful. There is no other word for it. Just a beautiful way to write. Even though I felt that nothing huge happened in the first 100 pages. I still loved ever single one of those pages because of the writing. The rest of the series is certainly a priority on my to read list. It is such an interesting take on dragons. It is one of my newest favorites.

Profile Image for Candace.
646 reviews187 followers
June 14, 2012
Sometimes there are those books that hit you so hard, so powerfully, that you know that there are no words to describe it, there's no way to get your point across how amazing the book is. The Sweetest Dark was like that for me. This was so much perfection within it's pages that I nearly cried at the beauty. And trust me, I had tears in my eyes a few times, but that was mostly because of what's going on in the story.

First of all, Lora is everything I could ever want in a character and more. She's gone through a lot in her life as she lived in an orphanage and was sent to an insane asylum for awhile. She has no memory of when she was a small child and knows nothing about her early life. But she was incredibly lucky and got accepted as a charity student at an exclusive boarding school in south England. Here she is ridiculed and taunted but Lora is no meek weakling, oh no, she speaks right up with the quickest retorts I've ever heard! Being picked on, while you see it does bother her, she doesn't let it show. She just carries on with her head held high. I have so much admiration for her and her ability to take things in stride. She's heard a voice all her life in her head and she hears music in her head and she doesn't understand any of this. But as things are revealed to her she's shocked, she's hesitant to believe it, but she doesn't go crazy and do some stupid things, nor get angry at the messenger. She accepts it all quite quickly, but not so quickly it was unrealistic. Lora is most certainly going on my favorite heroine's list as I'm quite sure she is as perfect of a main character as I could ever dream of.

Now straight away when Lora arrives at Iverson she meets Jesse. Jesse is one of those characters that stands out because he's so different. He has more of a quiet and gentle nature and has this ability to just take things in stride. He doesn't much care about what everyone thinks of him as there's a much grander picture in his head as he knows far more then most people. I can't say as I've read many books with a character anything like him, but I think he'll be on my favorites list because he just radiates this goodness.

We meet Armand nearly straight away and Lora and him have some very humorous banter. He's an aristocrat and to Lora that means he's a snobby jerk. She's not one to let him get away with an attitude and her quick retorts only seemed to make him like her more. He seems to be drawn to her for some reason and as the story unfolds we see why.

Now you would think that perhaps two men in this story would mean there's a love triangle, right? Well, I think it's quite clear who Lora loves and there's no question of it. She really has no temptations for the other though she does soften up for him. And there is a connection there, but you'll have to read the book for that as it's spoiler. But I definitely did not feel it was a love triangle.

The romance was sweet. Very gentle and sweet. It wasn't this all consuming fire and rage, it was just quiet and beautiful. I loved it. But it most definitely made me cry. Oh yes, it did.

The time period is during World War I. I don't think I've read a lot of books set in this time. Automobiles seem to have been invented and electricity is a new thing. I really liked it. And I loved the setting of the old mansion the school is set in and the island it's on.

The plot of the story is quite brilliant. Many of you perhaps know what Lora is, but for those that don't I won't spoil it for you. Just know that she's not a vampire, or a ghost, or a zombie or anything like that. She's something beautiful and special. And the way the story was told it seemed as though it could be real. And as Lora learns more about it we only wish for more, more, more! I wanted to know more, see more, experience more of it. It was brilliant.

This story was hard for me to put down because it was so good, but it was one that I enjoyed most when I could savor it. For that reason I read it more slowly and over the period of a day and a half rather than devouring it in one evening. But when I finished I wanted to turn the book over and begin again. The writing in the book is simply beautiful. There were passages I bookmarked because they were so gorgeous and they completely blew me away.

I honestly cannot recommend this book any more highly. I know it doesn't come out until August or September, but this is one you must add to your wishlist and pre-order if you can. It is most certainly going on my favorites list and is one I know I will reread time and time again. I've already added the authors other books to my wishlist as I need more of this gorgeous writing and beautiful storytelling.

This deserves more than 5 stars, but that's all I can give it, so 5/5 stars for this one!

This review was first posted on my blog at http://www.candacesbookblog.com
Profile Image for AH.
2,005 reviews373 followers
February 27, 2013
Breathtakingly beautiful.
“Those nights, in the sweetest dark, we shared our dreams.”

I’ve always been fascinated by dragons. The dragon is one of the most fearsome yet regal of all the fantasy creatures. To me, dragons evoke strength, power, and wealth. There’s a lot to be said for a dragon’s ability to find and hoard shiny – read valuable – objects. The idea of a race of dragon shifters called The Drakon living amongst humans has always intrigued me. Shana Abe’s Drakon series is one of my favorite depictions of the dragon shifter.

The Sweetest Dark is the start of a new series that takes place in her Drakon world. Unlike the Drakon series, The Sweetest Dark can be read as both an adult and a young adult novel. There is no need to read the Drakon series prior to reading The Sweetest Dark. This book can be read as a standalone book.

As I read The Sweetest Dark, certain aspects stood out for me. First of all, Ms. Abe’s writing is both elegant and beautiful. Her descriptions evoke all of the senses. I especially liked how the author wrote the dream sequences. It really felt as if I were flying as I read. Other dream sequences were sensual without becoming sexually explicit. Beautifully done.

The world of The Sweetest Dark was intriguing. I loved that it was set in a castle-like girls’ school complete with turrets and secret tunnels. I also liked the fact that the book was set in during World War I.

I enjoyed all of the characters and I liked how they interacted with each other. Eleanor (Lora) acts as a narrator for most of the book. She doesn’t really know what she is but she has several interesting talents: she has an affinity for music and she “hears” gemstones and gold singing to her. She is even able to tell the carat weight of gems. In a way, she could be seen as a synesthetic.

There is a bit of a love triangle as two boys vie for Lora’s attentions. Both Armand and Jesse are smitten by Lora but in different ways. Jesse and Lora had a nice connection but I think I enjoyed the banter between Lora and Armand more.

The Sweetest Dark is the perfect fantasy read. If you enjoy dragon shifter books, The Sweetest Dark may be right for you. A second book is planned for the series The Deepest Night and is due to be published in August. I can't wait.

Highly recommended.

Thank you to Edelweiss and Random House for a review copy of this book.

Review posted on Badass Book Reviews.
Profile Image for Hilda.
200 reviews144 followers
February 19, 2014
With every fiber of my being, I love The Sweetest Dark. It was beautiful, magical, dark, and absolutely sweet!

Now, where should I begin? The Sweetest Dark completely took me by surprise with its gorgeous prose. The moment I finished this book, I just went into total lockdown. I don’t want to ever leave this beautiful, shady world of The Sweetest Dark.

The first adjective that came into my mind when I described it is… beautiful. The Sweetest Dark is beautiful in such ethereal way. The writing is flowing and I couldn’t flip through the pages fast enough. The characters are strange and each of them has their own dark side. I felt the harsh, frosty atmosphere that Lora faced as a poor orphan. She grew up in an orphanage and therefore, she learned about the world in hard way. She’s deeply suspicious of people and sometimes I do hope that she would soften a bit. But in spite of her flaws, Lora is a character you can’t hate. Or maybe it’s her flaws that make her feel very real.

I was shivering when I read the romance part. The feelings that each character feel are so tangible that maybe, if I reached my hands enough, I could touch them. Although it is hinted that there would be love triangle, it’s clear which guy Lora falls for. I like both guys although I always have to pick my side. Armand is dangerous, and I could feel the need to possess from him. Jesse is beautiful, undemanding, and special in his quiet way.

I think The Sweetest Dark is truly a hidden gem and it deserves all recognition it can get. This book would appeal most to people who love internal conflicts because of the small amount of action scenes. Lora’s story is the kind that would grip you until you finish reading. It would leave you with honey taste in your mouth. The Sweetest Dark is lovely, magical, and it’s dripping with sweetness. It’s like a bedtime story told in whispering voices… full of magic, enchantment, and beauty.

Shadows swallowed me in slippery black. The air took on a richer, loamy note. The ground crunched with leaves, and ferns slapped at my shins and knees, painless. I splashed through brooks and left footprints in peat. Crickets called in time to my stride, a steady chee, chee that never broke.

I was running swifter than a hart, swifter than even the advancing night, because that was outside the forest and everything surrounding me here was enchanted, as I was. I didn’t know where I was going, but it didn’t matter. Sooner or later I’d run out of land, and then I would turn back.

Read other reviews in my blog! :)
Catch the Lune
Catch the Lune
Profile Image for Christina (A Reader of Fictions).
4,282 reviews1,655 followers
August 2, 2013
Originally posted on A Reader of Fictions.

This book sounded so completely awesome, right up my alley. Historical fiction and paranormal? Sign me up. Well, I did sign me up and I read it and here we are with me trying to put a handle on just how I feel about The Sweetest Dark. It definitely falls into the category of really weird books. Parts I really enjoyed, and parts I loathed, while others I just didn't care about. Ultimately, I feel like Abé tried to do to many things, and the book came out a bit of an awkward mishmash.

I loved the beginning, and, had the book continued in that vein, I would have been so happy. The prologue is seriously creepy and establishes a gothic tone. Abé writes gothic so well! Whenever she went into a section like that, such as the ones describing the castle and the school, I just ate it up, though I do want to prevent her from ever again using the word 'velveteen' to describe nature. Unfortunately these moments were all too brief once the paranormal plot line got going.

Eleanore, or Lora, our heroine has had a rough life. Raised in an orphanage, she garnered the wrong kind of attention by mentioning the songs and voices she can hear in her head. This gets her institutionalized for a time, with shock therapy and everything. Voices finally quieted, she is released and sent to a prestigious school in the north, away from the bombs falling in London as World War I has just kicked off.

As already intimated, I liked the bits at the school quite a bit, but that really just wasn't the focus at all, sadly. She doesn't attend a class until over a hundred pages into it, and only goes to 4 or so of them as far as the reader knows. Another thing we don't learn until a fair way through the book: what Lora's deal is, what kind of paranormal creature she is. Spoiler: she's not crazy, or, if she is, it's a collective delusion.

The big reveal of the truth of Lora's dreams and oddness is likely supposed to shock and awe. My response: an eyeroll. The whole thing, while admittedly fairly original, is completely ridiculous. I didn't see it coming, because I don't like this mythology she's gone with. When it comes to this bit, you'll probably either love it or you won't. Oh, also, her secret results in her spending a lot of time naked with boys, which resulted in more eyerolling, although props for her not being insanely embarrassed or flirty as a result; she covers up when she can but doesn't freak out, which is admirable.

The love triangle, though, I loathed wholeheartedly. For one thing, it's one of those super pathetic love triangles where the heroine will obviously never choose the second guy, but, thanks to paranormalness, he can't help but love her. Actually, both of the guys will always love her because of her paranormal nature, which I don't find especially romantic; they don't love her, so much as what she is.

Bachelor #1 is Jesse, the purportedly mute carriage driver for the school. She hears symphonies when they touch and they promptly fall in instalove. In the carriage on the way to the school, she's wrapped up in blankets. After she goes into the school, he SMELLS THEM. *shudders* He also comes into her room while she's sleeping on the first night to leave her an orange in proper YA stalker style, though, to be fair, she does tell him not to come in anymore. STILL. I found Jesse so incredibly bland and just did not care about him one whit.

The doomed party of the love triangle, Armande, has wealth on his side. The son of the local Duke, his interest opens doors for Eleanore, making it possible for her to attend more events than classes. Armande was more interesting than Jesse, not that that's difficult. What I did enjoy about his character is how snarky Eleanore is with him. All of her best moments are when she tells him off. However, I couldn't like him for two reasons. First, before she arrived he had a flirtation going with Chloe, a snotty girl that he later admits he cannot stand. Why spend time with her if you hate her? Playboy much? Second, and I admit this is a completely superficial reason, he likes to be called Mandy. Sorry, but the only man who can pull off that name is this one:

At the end, I had some hopes that Abé would take the plot somewhere original and recover the romance bits a smidge. She actually did sort of, but ruined it all with a completely lame epilogue. Rarely are epilogues used correctly. *headdesk*

In the end, I didn't like this much, but it did show promise in some areas. I just wish this had been a little more Wildthorn, a little less your average paranormal romance.
Profile Image for Karina Halle.
Author 117 books16.5k followers
May 15, 2012
What a curious, compelling little book...

The Sweetest Dark tells the story of Eleanore “Lora” Jones, an orphan in 1915 London where the WW1 is ripping the country apart. Poor lonely Lora, who hears voices and songs from metals and gemstones, is subjected to daily shock therapy at her Blisshaven orphanage until bombs tear it apart and she is shipped off to a wealthy boarding school called Iverson.

This is where the comparisons to Jane Eyre (my favorite book) come in. Lora reminded me so much of my dear Jane, the same wit and pluck and bravery. She doesn’t falter at the tyranny of her cruel classmates, she’s more than OK to be by herself, happy to have food for once and just floating through her new life. She’s no pushover…except when it comes to love.

Enter the dreaded love triangle. Here we have it between “golden boy” Jesse (literally, actually) and the son of the duke, Armand. Both boys have their flaws and pettiness. Both aren’t exactly human. And neither is Lora. But don’t worry…they aren’t werewolves or vampires or faeries…they are something much cooler, much more interesting and surprising. At least, it was surprising to me even though it’s sort of given away in the prologue (hey, I need to catch up with my fantasy myths).

But the love triangle isn’t much of a battle. Lora and Jesse are insta-love from the beginning in the explanation of “the fates” and what they are too each other in terms of creatures, blood and destiny. Though I liked Jesse, I found he and Lora’s interaction to be sweet but not very exciting. Armand’s role is still very important – and will be as the series continues – but I liked that Lora wasn’t all that enthralled with him...maybe that’s why I found their relationship more compelling.

The magic was pretty cool too, though the lore part of it was a little bit confusing and convoluted, especially when the information comes in forms of letters.

In terms of plot, there isn’t much. There are some catty girls (one who is supposed to be a “threat” the other who actually ends up being nice) and some class vs class arguments, but not a lot happens. The book focuses entirely on Lora and her Becoming into the thing. Or things…as she can turn into two things (hey, why not?). It’s interesting but the conflict is really more internal, not external. It doesn’t mean it’s not a page-turner in its own way. I give the author credit for her gorgeous writing (though it borders on purple at times) and credit to Lora for being so strong and interesting. You want to know what happens to her, what the mystery is, how it will affect her and Jesse and Armand.

One thing I wasn’t too fond of, aside from the Jesse/Lora angle, was the different POVS. I’m not sure the occasional switchover from Lora’s first to third person was necessary. It wasn’t that it was jarring, I just didn’t really gain too much from it aside from maybe knowing more about Armand and Jesse’s feelings for her – but then again, that was pretty obvious even to Lora.

This is very much a set-up book in a series. There’s no confirmation that this is a series, but it has to be. Things don’t actually pick up and get moving until the last 80% of the book (and then, wow, there are some scenes that would be amazing to see on the big screen) and what happens at the end was refreshingly different and really lays the way for an enthralling series ahead. Depending on their love of fantasy or romance I could see a lot of people liking this book and a lot of people being bored and tired of it, but I’ll definitely be next in line for the sequel.

*I received a copy of this book through review purposes through Net Galley*
Profile Image for Shambhawi P..
Author 1 book58 followers
March 26, 2013
Why does this book have a sequel? The ending was perfect - heartbreaking but perfect.

You know - one of those moments when reading a book you have guessed what is to happen and yet while you keep dreading that and your heart breaks and scatters all over the place, you cannot wish for anything else to happen because a happier ending might not always be the better one?

I am crying as I write this review - because this book tells the story of the kind of love people dream about. I did not expect myself to like this book so much even as I was reading it. It was predictable - annoyingly so. It was very cliche - from the hastily drawn love triangle to lonely heroine with powers unbeknownst to her and bitchy spoilt girls rounding up on the said poor heroine. During the first few chapters I had to drag myself through the book. The last few chapters too I had to drag myself through - only because I could not bring myself to put the book down.

This book is not without flaws - I'll admit that. The beginning was really weak. The characterizations - in the beginning - were inconsistent, especially that of Armand and Sophie. There were hardly any reasons why Armand was so attracted to Lora or Lora to Jesse for that matter - but all the while in an almost fairytalesque way it reminded me true love does not need reasons. I know, right now I feel like a parody of my self that rants over insta-love too.

But Jesse, bless my heart for it cannot hold any more love towards this boy, Jesse more than made up for any flaws this book may or may not have. He was beautiful. He was wonderful. He was the most perfect hero ever. His love for Lora had no bounds as he showed again and again and over again. For me, he was the soul of the entire book and the sole reason it got 4 stars instead of measly two.

I was a bit apprehensive of Lora at the beginning but she grew on me. Maybe it was because there was less poor-girl-who-is-torn-between-two-perfect-guys bullshit in her than the blurb seemed to suggest. Most probably it was how she interacted with Jesse as the book continued - and how the two of them fell in love. Yes, I am a hopeless romantic. And YES, everything about this book revolves around Jesse for me.

And as much as I hate love triangles, I really can't complain about the one in this book. I can actually understand why it is there and admit that yes, this series needs it. I am still not much convinced on Armand as a potential leading guy though I guess the sequel will change that.

This is a cool new take on dragon stories - which I admit I don't read much. Abe's writing is beautiful though it seems to purplish on the prosing at times. I'll definitely check out her other books ASAP.

The strongest part of the book though - for me - was the ending. I had guessed it from the get go, and yet it did not dull my emotions any. For that only I would commend Abe. The last chapter and that Epilogue were perfect. The story could very well end here than continue off to another book. But I will continue with it - and not just because I already have the sequel beckoning me on my reader. Because I am hopelessly hooked and I really wish the sequel will be good enough.

And also, did I mention that Jesse is perfect? I did? Well, he is.

4 Stars.

This ebook was provided to me by the publishers via NetGalley in exchange of an honest review.
Profile Image for Liviania.
957 reviews64 followers
April 18, 2013
I bought THE SMOKE THIEF a few years ago for about a dollar based on a vague recollection of someone complimenting Shana Abé's style. It just rocketed up my to read list because her young adult debut THE SWEETEST DARK blew me away. (I just have to find it, first.)

First of, Abé's style does deserve being complimented on its own. She has a smooth, almost poetic, way of writing that draws you into the magical atmosphere of her drákon-inhabited England. The majority of THE SWEETEST DARK's action takes place at the Iverson School for Girls, on the coast of England during World War II. It's all very gothic, aside from the lack of moors.

Eleanore "Lora" Jones grew up in an orphanage and spent much of her childhood in a mental institution due to the music she heard running through objects all around her. Now seemingly cured, she is chosen to be a scholarship student supported by Duke Idylling. There she encounters Jesse, the supposedly mute gardener who speaks to her, and Armand, the duke's discontented son. And there the music begins to return. Jesse knows what it means and helps Lora discover her power.

I liked how Abé handled the love triangle. Armand is clearly into Lora, but she turns him down cleanly and clearly because she prefers Jesse. There's no dithering about when she's obviously more into one of the choices. I also liked that it wasn't the center of everything. Although there's nothing magical about the girls in the school, Lora does have to live with them. Thus learning to navigate their company takes some of her attention. I liked that not all of the girls were horribly stuck-up and that some were more friendly than they first appeared.

The way history interweaves with the paranormal plot also works well. London-born Lora is quite conscious of the threat posed by German bombs. And, inevitably, the war does reach her doorstep. Even with dragons on your side, war leaves devastation in its wake.

THE SWEETEST DARK made me forget the paranormal fatigue I've been feeling. It's a swoony book that I'll probably read multiple times before the promised sequel comes out in summer 2013. If you've ever enjoyed a paranormal romance, then read THE SWEETEST DARK. It's one of the best books of the year.
Profile Image for Sarah Elizabeth.
4,747 reviews1,307 followers
April 16, 2013
(Source: I received a digital copy of this book for free on a read-to-review basis. Thanks to Random House Publishing Group and Netgalley.)
Sixteen-year-old Lora Jones is an orphan. An orphan who doesn’t even remember her parents, and can hear melodies no-one else can hear.
Having spent time in a mental institution after leaping from her top floor window thinking that she could fly, Lora finds herself sent to school for girls called Iverson, where she is looked down upon by the rich students, who don’t want to associate with a charity case.

Lora finds herself capturing the attention of two different men though. Jesse the hired help who maintains the grounds, and Armand, the owner’s son. Jesse knows what Lora really is though, and is about to help her become what she was born to be.
What is Lora though? What is Jesse? And who will she choose?

I liked this book, the writing was beautiful, and the mystery surrounding what Lora really was was quite compelling.

Lora was a quick-witted girl, who knew that she was poor, but didn’t listen when people told her that she was less than the rich girls. She tried her best to fit in and follow rules, but she also wasn’t afraid to make waves, and often came out with things that would have been considered b*tchy and inappropriate! Whether this was because of the way she was raised in the orphanage, or whether it was just her I’m not sure, but at several times I cheered that she stuck up for herself against the rich girls, and some of her insults were bril!

There were two love interests in this book – Jesse, who worked at the school and was thought to be mute (but wasn’t), and Armand, the owners son. Lora seemed to prefer Jesse, but I personally loved Armand! He was a little dark and dangerous, and being with him would have really ruffled feathers! This was one of those love triangles that was a little irritating because Lora was a little blind to it, and also because I thought she was making the wrong choice!

I liked the storyline in this book, and although the fantasy aspect could have been odd in this historic novel (circa WW1), it was actually blended in really well, and the idea of mythical creatures didn’t seem unlikely. I did like the beginning more than the end though, I think some of the mystery was lost towards the end, but I did like it overall. The way this book was written was quite beautiful and flowing, which added to the mystery and Victorian feel, and I really liked it.

The ending to the book was quite shocking with one characters sudden demise(!) and other events surrounding Lora, it will be very interesting to see where the story goes from here!
Overall; a YA historical fantasy novel with a splash of romance.
8 out of 10.
Profile Image for Anastasia.
76 reviews30 followers
June 16, 2013
I received the book for free through Goodreads First Reads and an e-book copy from NetGalley!

The Sweetest Dark is a new kind of book for me, so to say. I just starting to read historical fantasies, and so far I liked them. I liked The Sweetest Dark, but I didn't love it. I really loved the plot, but it was kind of predictable to me (maybe I'm just good at guessing what is going to happen, because a lot of people didn't, so it might not be as predictable to you as it was to me). I did though thought that the plot was unique in its own way, I have't read a lot of books about dragons (honestly only like two...), so I really thought that the whole way of how Lora slowly was transforming, her so to say stages of transformations to dragon, I found that it was really unique! I loved the whole dragon thing in a book! (need to read more dragon books). So I loved the plot, even though it was predictable, now what about characters?

Lora, I really liked her. I thought she was a strong character, and I loved her conversations with other girls, well I just loved her "smart" mouth (I hope that doesn't sound weird). Now Jesse, hmm...you see he was so-so to me. I didn't really liked him, he was kind of "just there" sort of character, even if he 's suppose to be one of the main characters, i didn't really feel like it. Now Armand, now he is a different story...I liked him...a lot. Just something about him, maybe because he was a little bit of a bad boy? that I felt more drawn to him than Jesse. I really really wished there were more scenes between Armand and Lora because I loved every moment they spend together! I really want to see what happens in a next book.

What I didn't like about this book is the romance. Especially the one between Lora and Jesse, I honestly felt like it was fake. It just didn't really catch my attention. I found myself just reading though them without much of an interest. Just wanting for the moments between Armand and Lora, now they felt more real.

Overall, I enjoyed this book, I found it quite unique. The main girl character was strong, I really liked that. Now what I didn't like is the romance, and for me if it is considered to be Romance, than romance has to be great, and in this book it just wasn't. I will definitely want to read the next book. I want to know how Lora's story will end! Also I really hope that the romance will get better (crossing my fingers) in the next book. I would say definitely give this book a shot!
Profile Image for Snuggles  with Rainbows.
79 reviews21 followers
March 24, 2013
I’m going to make this review as short and painless as possible. I don’t want to be here writing or dwelling on my feelings, and I’m sure you have more important things to tend to too. So why did I hate it this much? Here is a very short list:

1. The Hodge Podge Story Telling

From the start of the book, the story is all over the place. It was very difficult to follow along…at times I was super confused.

2. Are you trying to be Charles Dickens?

With the orphans, the mean care takers of the orphans, and there being something special about our MC…the whole Dickensian similarity couldn’t be overlooked. I love Dickens but I hate Dickens-wannabes and this is exactly that.

3. Oh Boredom…we meet again

This is more my problem than the book’s fault. I just wasn’t feeling this novel. I finished it because I’m OCD like that and can’t leave things unfinished. Honestly, I was bored and eyeing my tbr shelf pretty much the entirety of this book.

There is my list of why this book just wasn’t for me. I will not be continuing the series (even if the cover is super hot) … I just can’t get through another read like this one. This is my opinion and how I felt when I read the book…which really shouldn’t affect how you feel. So I suggest you give it whirl and see how it goes. Take my review as a fair warning. This book is suitable for all ages (be aware that children will lose interest super quickly).

I would like to thank the publisher and Netgalley for giving me an ARC to review.

Happy Dickens!!!

Check out Rainbows and Books
Profile Image for Dark Faerie Tales.
2,274 reviews546 followers
April 22, 2013
Review courtesy of Dark Faerie Tales.

Quick & Dirty: Nothing is fair for Lora Jones, not in war or life and especially not in love.

Opening Sentence: Are your eyes truly open?

The Review:

This was a beautiful and amazing story. The details are just breathtaking. A simple night sky in Abe’s universe becomes a picturesque expanse of never ending amethyst! I’ve never been so moved by the mere description of sights or people. Seeing through Lora’s eyes makes my own vision seem weak and wrong now. I honestly don’t know how else to make anyone understand that even without the plot or the characters, I would read these pages again and again just to have these incredible images drawn in my mind over and over.

The heroine of the tale is Lora, an orphan girl with much spirit and fight, without becoming a Mary-Sue type character. She understands the way society works and knows her place as an orphan girl thrown among girls of pure blood and wealth, but she never lets these girls treat her as less than human. She hears their jeers and comments without letting them effect her personality in any way.

I love her interaction with the insanely annoying Chloe, a rich girl with zero personality. Although Chloe is constantly baiting Lora, Lora manages to make the girl eat her words every time. Chloe’s step-sister, Sophia, is really the saving grace for my opinion of the girls at the Iverson finishing school where they all attend. Sophia is constantly helping Lora in small ways merely for the fun of seeing how much it upsets Chloe. In the end, however, Sophia is won over by Lora’s cunning wit and spirit just as I was and, more importantly, just as Jesse and Armand were.

Jesse and Armand are polar opposites; where Jesse seems quiet and thoughtful, Armand is obnoxious and close minded, but Lora finds herself drawn to both. When I realized this story seemed to have something of a love triangle happening, I admit that I grumbled and complained a little but it didn’t last long at all. Lora and Jesse share that connection that has me swooning inside. Every touch, every look, it forces me to tap into the romantic side of me that I would rarely admit to possessing. Jesse helps Lora discover who and what she is and never once abandons her or truly forces her into anything. Their relationship blossoms so fast and so completely that I would probably be complaining about it in any other book, but I commend Abe on her amazing ability to make the story flow in such a way that while I was reading, I couldn’t remember a chapter where they weren’t in love.

Jesse’s is a character that I’ve never encountered before, and that makes me insanely happy. This book is in the paranormal genre so everyone who picks it up knows or at least expects there will be more than a love story between humans here, but it would be a rather large spoiler if I were to say here just what Jesse is, so I will only repeat my only tantalizing clue; he’s nothing I’ve ever seen before.

Armand is of a completely different breed. He’s rich and handsome and he knows it, but he finds himself quite bored. Meeting Lora, however, quickly ends his boredom when he finds himself drawn to her for reasons neither of them understand until Jesse actually explains it. An added bit of fun is found in Chloe’s pathetic attempts to claim Armand while everyone in the entire school knows that he only has eyes for Lora. Armand’s is probably my favorite character development. He’s the son of a Duke with a brother fighting in the war against the Germans, living just down the way from a castle full of girls and yet he goes through great lengths to forge a relationship with Lora. Their’s is one of those pairings I wouldn’t fight if it happened, but silently hope doesn’t.

The war adds an interesting historical twist to this paranormal tale. With everything set in the early 1900s, there is a certain simplicity to the story that I really enjoyed.

Overall, this book is stunning. It is not action packed until the final chapter, but it is a wonderful read. I didn’t want to put it down until the very end and when it was over, I felt a loss. When I did have to stop reading, picking it up was easy because I was pulled back into the flow of things without having to struggle to settle back into a grove. The Sweetest Dark is officially on my top five favorite books list.

Notable Scene:

At the age of twelve, I realized the songs were coming from the high stone wall surrounding the Home. From the metal rings and keys of the matrons who walked the halls with their nightsticks. From the pale, blazing diamond fixed in the stickpin the Home’s director, Mr. H.W. Forrester, wore in his necktie every single day. From even the distant stars. They weren’t the worst of it, though. The worst was the voice. The one that seemed centered not inside my head but instead just exactly inside my heart. It was cunning and fiendish, whispering the maddest things; That it was natural that gemstones would singe to me. That it was good to hate the Home, with its dull walls and dull boiled turnips and dull spiteful girls who openly scorned me, who tripped me in the hallways and dipped my plaits into ink pots during our few hours of schooling. The heart-voice would say things like, Smite them. Tear them apart. I won’t let you alone until you are who you are. And I wanted to. I was trapped and friendless, and if I’d had the slightest notion of how to smite anything, I bloody well might have. I grew up considered by one and all to be peculiar at best, aloof at least, and most, likely destined for the streets the day I turned seventeen, since even the factories had standards for hiring. None of them knew that each black night, long after they themselves had curled into their dreams, I would steal from my bed to perch upon the sill of the window close by, my no-color hair a slippery curtain against my back. I would press my palms flat against the glass and gaze down at the cobblestone courtyard below, four long stories below, and puzzle over the fiend in my heart. Every night, the fiend would whisper, Open the window. Jump. So finally I did.

FTC Advisory: Bantam Dell/Random House provided me with a copy of The Sweetest Dark. No goody bags, sponsorships, “material connections,” or bribes were exchanged for my review.
Profile Image for Terry (Ter05 TwiMoms/ MundieMoms).
512 reviews69 followers
March 11, 2015
I love Shana Abe's Drakon books and this one is no exception. I love the world, but this was bittersweet being much later than the others and the amazing world the Drakon had built is gone. It begins much as many YA books with a young girl who is "different" and is growing up in an orphanage without knowledge of her parents or where she came from. But from the time she is chosen to attend an exclusive boarding school as a charity case, the unique story really begins. In 1915 she goes to the southern coast of England to Iverson, an erie castle that houses the school.

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 this book ended in a way that was satisfying - 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."


Profile Image for Shelley.
5,223 reviews462 followers
April 3, 2013
*Genre* Paranormal, Historical Romance
*Rating* 4.0


“Those nights, in the sweetest dark, we shared our dreams. That’s your answer. I was stitched into yours, and you were stitched into mine, and that was real, I promise you.” - Jesse from the ARC of “The Sweetest Dark” by Shana Abe.

Let me start out by saying that Shana Abe writes absolutely brilliantly! I haven't read any of her other works before finding this title on NetGalley, but, I shall have to remedy that situation soon. Abe puts together a story that is dark, intriguing, and mysterious. It has a touch of romance in the middle of a devastating World War I and her characters are far from perfect, and yet, I couldn't imagine Abe writing them any differently.

Set in 1915 England, The Sweetest Dark is the story about Eleanor (Lora) Jones and her discovery of what she really is. Lora is a pretty interesting character to read about. Tossed away when she was a small child with no memories of who her parents were or how she came to being, she ends up in a situation where she has to struggle in order to survive in the Blisshaven Foundling Home for orphans. She doesn't whine about it. She doesn't feel sorry for herself. She does what's necessary to get by with a focused determination.

Given the opportunity to attend The Iverson School for Girls because of the war with Germany, Lora never bows down to her betters who have all come from royalty, nor does she change for the sake of changing. She finds some interesting factoids about the voices she continually hears in her head and for which doctors tried to cure her of. She learns about herself and her abilities slowly and yet the story wasn't bogged down by any unnecessary nonsense or angst. I loved the fact that she is a different kind of dragon (Drakon). She doesn't just shape shift or manifest into her alter ego right off the bat. I actually found this part of the story appealing and unique as well. Of course, I love reading about dragons so I may be biased.

As for the secondary characters, I absolutely adored Jesse Helms the groundskeeper at the Iverson's girl school and hope we will see him again soon. It took a while for me to warm up to the rakish Armand Louis, but in the end, he turned out to be fantastic as well. This is exactly the kind of story that I didn't really mind that there were two boys fawning over one girl. My heart and soul was with Jesse throughout the story and his connection with Eleanor was unmistakable. Yet, the fact that Armand and Lora are also connected in a way that Jesse can’t be, made it hard for me to keep up the masquerade that I really didn’t much care for him.

The Sweetest Dark is the first book in the series by the same name and I am absolutely ecstatic that I was also approved for the sequel called The Deepest Night through Edelweiss. I am looking forward to continuing about Lora’s journey and discoveries about what it means to be one of the last Drakon’s in existence.

*Netgalley 03/04/2013* Published: April 2nd 2013 by Bantam
Profile Image for Jennifer Rinehart.
Author 1 book13 followers
June 16, 2012
Wow, it's taken me a long time to finish this book. As far as books about loony girls go, I'd say it's five out of five for believable character, but one out of five for the story.

The story just dragged and dragged and I really never warmed up to any of the side characters, which is too bad because I was hoping they'd win me over after the first five chapters.

First off is the heroine, she's been raised in a London orphanage but was sent to a mental hospital on account of her jumping out of windows, hearing voices and spooky music. Right off, she's rewarded for all her crazy antics by being offered a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to attend a super hoity toity school called Iverson School for Ladies. She'll be the school's lone scholarship student, sponsored by a wealthy patron. The school is considered to be the topmost of schools for snooty (ahem, wealthy young women). On arrival, Lora is warned that no one will be her friend and to not aim too high, she's a poor orphan, a charity case and none of the society girls will want to be around her.

While at the school, Lora meets a beautiful boy named Jesse who works in the stable and the duke's son, Armand.

Both boys are completely obsessed with her. This was a little strange since she's surly, dresses like a charwoman and is described as too thin, pale with thin colorless hair and is very plain. Whatev's, they both really like her and have increasingly strange ways of letting her know.

Jesse steals into her bedroom, while she's sleeping, to leave her an orange. She confronts him, telling him to never do it again. He does it again!

Armand does almost the same thing, but it's while she's out and when she discovers him sleeping on her bed he threatens to kiss her! This would have been a little more realistic if their conversations up to this point had shown he had more interest in her than just that he kept staring and made little strange comments about things that were not explained;

"You have a lovely home."

His dark lashes lifted; his eyes held mine, "Do you think so?"

"Of course."

"Then you haven't seen enough of it"

Basically, I'm having a hard time with the mysteries. Some of them are revealed when Jesse speaks with Lora at his secret cottage in the woods, but they didn't make sense and were just too weird for me. Later on Lora reveals her musical magics- she plays music she hears in her head, but it left me shaking my head with baffled amusement as the music is neither explained nor commented on by anyone other than the main characters.

Like I said before, Lora is feisty, but it wasn't enough to keep the story going for me as she verbally spars with practically everyone in the book.

All in all, I just didn't like this book. The magic in it came off kinda weird and irritating to me and the buildup in the story wasn't resolved in a satisfying way in the end.
Profile Image for Emily Donnellan.
553 reviews429 followers
April 1, 2013
I must admit that from the first time I saw this cover I was in love. I know you’re thinking another girl in a pretty dress? Really Emily that’s all it takes to make you want a book? Yes! That is all it takes! Give me a pretty dress, smoke, and an awesome title and suddenly I have to have it. Luckily The Sweetest Dark was more then just a pretty cover it was also an amazing story.

The Sweetest Dark follows Eleanor “Lora” Jones as she is shipped from the orphanage she grew up in to a Girls Boarding school on the English Coast. The novel is set during World War I and that lends an interesting backdrop to the story. I actually wished that the war had been talked about more but for high class girls living on the coast it wasn’t as big a part of their daily lives as it would have been for those living in London.

I really liked Lora and the fact that she struggled with the thought that maybe she wasn’t supernatural but was actually just crazy. Books where characters question their sanity are some of my favorites and in the beginning of the novel Lora truly did question her sanity. I also liked that Lora wasn’t the type of heroine that let people walk all over her. When girls at Iverson, bullied her Lora didn’t sit back and take it, she fought back. Lora never really lost that tough girl exterior she acquired at the orphanage.

There was also a bit of a love triangle that wasn’t really a love triangle in The Sweetest Dark. Don’t worry and don’t avoid reading this novel because I said that! It was obvious who Lora loved and actually the romance added to the story rather then detracted from it. Jesse is the school groundskeeper and he is described as being mute, except I never got the vibe because he always talked to Lora. It was Jesse who helped her discover what she truly is and I loved the journey they took together. Then there was Armand *sigh* this boy, he has everything and yet nothing. I really liked how much his character changed throughout the novel. At first he was the board aristocrat and by the end he was so much more. I can’t wait to see how his character changes and adapts in The Darkest Night.

While I enjoyed all the aspects listed above my favorite thing about The Sweetest Dark was the ending. I loved that it was so perfect and so bittersweet. There was enough foreshadowing that I knew what was coming yet when it happened I was still surprised. I am now eagerly awaiting the sequel The Darkest Night and I can’t wait to see what happens next!
Profile Image for Shera (Book Whispers).
594 reviews288 followers
June 10, 2013
****Review copy received through Netgalley for an honest review.****

After the last page turned I could hear a haunting melody still weaving its way through my mind. To this day I can say only two other books have ever done that to me. I admit that The Sweetest Dark didn't have the intensity of those two titles, the point is that this book did sing.

Abe is an author I've heard many wonderful things about, yet I've been putting off for fear of being let down. Yeah, I do that a lot. The writing style reminds me of some of the most magical epic fantasy writing I've read, but mixed with a posh style of solid Historical Romance.

With the words "Those nights, in the sweetest dark, we shared our dreams." the tone of the romance is set (plus the basis for the title). It's beautiful and heart wrenching. The sweetness of first love and the bitter shock of loss. This book deals with grief, war, death, fear, madness, and the cruelty of humanity. That's not to say that the magic of simple acts and pure emotions doesn't balance it out. Not to mentions the magic of dragons and stars.

Many fans will know what's going on and probably be leaps ahead of first time readers. For first time readers the mystery of what dragons, or "drákon", truly is will just barely be answered. There's many questions and hints of what happened to the drákon race, are there only two left in the world, and so much more. My head was spinning with the possibilities.

Adult only readers should find comfort in the maturity of this YA title. Abe does a beautiful job and fans shouldn't be too upset about the age difference here. After this glimmer of the drákon world I know I'll be checking out her adult series. Fans of fantasy can not miss this title, especially fans of dragons. Don't be mislead thinking this books is "just" another YA historical romance soap opera. It's so much more.

Sexual Content: Mild sexual content, and some sexual talk. This is a historical setting around the time of WWII so it’s like elegant sexual content.

5/5- Fabulous, a beautiful obsession!

Originally reviewed at Book Whispers.
Profile Image for Marie.
504 reviews390 followers
March 12, 2013
The best part of this book is that it's completely unusual and different from any other book I have previously read.
This made it stand out and very refreshing to read.

However it was a little predictable. Up until the end nothing was grabbing my attention and made me sit up straight and look closer and say 'ooh this is so good'.

Near the end however the pace did pick up and it did get a little more exciting which is how it made its way into my good books again.

The characters weren't too shabby. They all had their interesting traits. Armand was my favourite character which is surprising since your favourite character is usually the heroin of the book no? But he was the only one for me who truly developed throughout the story and he was mysterious and intriguing, I rooted for him and Lora since their first meeting.
He was a sweetheart and really tried to make an effort and break out of his confinement, he has his own demons and his father was really strange and difficult to work out. It was annoying how Lora instantly stereotyped him to be a jerk and an arrogant rich kid when he didn't judge her straight away.

Lora wasn't a bad heroin I liked how an orphan girl who had nothing had a chance to get herself a better life and how by the end of this book life as she knew it anyhow had changed forever.

The writing was OK too I just felt like so much more could have happened and the excitement factor could have been raised. I got tired sometimes of reading this book BUT like I said at the end it did get better and therefore I will read the sequel. I'm sure there will be much more happening in book 2!

Profile Image for Christina (Ensconced in Lit).
984 reviews288 followers
February 17, 2013
I received this book from Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.

Sweetest Dark by Shana Abe is a unique story that focuses on a strange girl, Eleanore, and her journey from being a troubled orphan to her quick rise in status to becoming a student at a distinguished prep school. She meets a host of interesting characters including the sexy Jesse, who works as a stable boy, Armand, a handsome aristocrat, and Sophia, a spoiled mean girl, who turns out to be more three dimensional than we think. Eleanore hears strange voices in her head, and realizes that she has powers that she never realized.

I had a hard time rating this book. There are a lot of great things about it, including beautiful and lyrical prose, some really great characters (Sophia was my favorite), and a nice paranormal twist.

I was a little confused by the way the perspectives jumped from first person in Eleanore’s voice, to third person in either Armand or Jesse’s voice. These transitions were jerky, and I had a hard time thinking about what they added. I also had a difficult time figuring out the arc of the storyline—I suppose it was Eleanore figuring out who and what she was, but I just wanted more.

Overall, beautifully written with some great characters, but wanted more plot development.
Profile Image for Beth.
3,130 reviews270 followers
February 26, 2013
If you are looking for a non-stop action packed adventure this book isn’t for you.

If I had to pick one word to describe this book it would be beautiful. It was beautifully written and created. Highly complex, vividly descriptive, passionately conceived and emotionally gripping, Shana Abe’ plunges you into this fascinating world centered on England during the World War era.

The Sweetest Dark sucks us into a world where “dragons” and magic can exist, classes collide and finding ones true heart might bring true happiness. This was brilliant story telling with a love that will touch your soul.

This ARC copy of The Sweetest Dark was given to me by Random House Publishing Group - Bantam in exchange for an honest review. Publish Date April 9, 2013.
Profile Image for Tracy.
586 reviews43 followers
July 24, 2020
I'm a big fan of Shana Abe's Drakon series. If you haven't read those books, I recommend you read them.first. This book is the first in a YA trilogy telling of the descendants of the characters from the Drakon books. So, you can read this trilogy on it's own and enjoy it, but reading them after the Drakon series just makes for a fuller experience.

I enjoyed this. I liked watching Lora learn to use her abilities. I'm curious to read more and see how Armand comes into his. I appreciated the epilogue and knowing Jesse is still with them...

And more than anything I just think Shana Abe is a great writer! She has a very lyrical quality to her writing and it grabs me and envelopes me into the story which I love.
June 25, 2019
I started reading about the Drakon with the Smoke Thief, which I admit is my favorite by Shana Abe by far. However, despite the young adult theme, I found myself deeply involved in the story. It was slow at times, but that's characteristic of this author to deal more with emotional and subtle shifts between the characters. The ending, like a lot of young adult novels for some reason, is, of course, devastating, but I know there are two more novels to go, so I'm going to continue. Poor Jesse.
Profile Image for Megan.
165 reviews45 followers
April 19, 2013
I will not fall for pretty covers. I will not fall for pretty covers. I will not fall for pretty covers. I will not fall for pretty covers. I will not fall for pretty covers. I will not fall for pretty covers. I will not fall for pretty covers. I will not fall for pretty covers. I will not—

You probably get the point. What caught my eye for The Sweetest Dark was obviously its cover, and then the mention of Libba Bray, whose book The Diviners I absolutely adored. In a sense, I guess both this book and The Diviners have similarities. However, unlike The Diviners, I did not enjoy The Sweetest Dark at all.

Set during World War I, Lora Jones is an orphan who has always known she was different. When she gets accepted as a charity student into Iverson, a grand school for the rich and elite. As she struggles to fit in and adapt to this new way of living, she meets Jesse, the gamekeeper, and Armand, the duke's son. As their friendship grows, Lora soon comes to realize that she may have more in common with the both of them than she truly knows.

Much like The Summer Prince by Alaya Johnson, the main problem I had with this book was its plot. It went nowhere and everywhere at the same time, leaving me confused as I tried to pinpoint its direction. Not surprisingly, I couldn't come to appreciate the characters due to this - even Lora. Her narration itself ticked me off: it came across as whiny, confusing, and attention-seeking. I could not connect with her at all, nor could I discern her thoughts and feelings throughout much of the book.

Being the orphan she is, I'm not entirely sure why there were two boys fighting over to win Lora's love. Both aren't human and are more similar to her than she could imagine, which, I suppose, would bring them closer, but still, there was not the slightest bit of chemistry between them that I sensed, especially with Jesse. There was a lot of insta-love going on here, and Jesse rubbed me the wrong way. His dialogue was strange - a little off. I mean, I'm sure that boys liked showing off their manly side even during that time, but he...

"Stop, beloved," he said more gently, and took up my clenched fist with both hands. "I've upset you, and I shouldn't have. I don't want you to dread yourself. I don't want you to dread what is to come. Like I said, you're exceptional, so there may be nothing to worry about at all."

Some people might find that charming and sweet, but just the way he calls her "beloved," when they'd only known each other a few days, sends a shiver down my spine. There's more:

"I am both less than you and more," he said. "An alchemist, an amalgamation of two opposite realms. I'm the fabric of the stars."

Can you make any sense of this? "Fabric of the stars" - *snort* What the hell is the fabric of the stars? Even now, I still don't know what he is exactly. And here's what Lora says about Jesse beloved:

If Armand was darkened ruby, then Jesse was pure, vibrant gold. His hair was gold, and his skin was gold, and his touch lit gold inside me, a torch that burned still in places I'd never considered.

Cue eye-roll.

I'm still trying to figure out what the hell dragons have to do with the story.


PROS: Pretty cover (does that count?)

CONS: Annoying MC; the horrid love triangle strikes again; creepy love interests; hod-podge plot; insta-love; don't really know what I read

OVERALL: Plenty of people enjoyed The Sweetest Dark, but unfortunately, I didn't, couldn't. The Sweetest Dark promised romance and fantasy set in a different era, and that was what I was looking for. Not some weird tale about dragons (don't get me wrong, I have nothing against dragons. They're awesome, they're cool) that didn't provide me any information to the plot whatsoever.

This review also appears on my YA book blog, Ink Skies!
Profile Image for Anna.
620 reviews77 followers
September 6, 2012
3.5 stars.

Review posted at Books to Brighten your Mood

The Sweetest Dark was a surprise for me. And a pleasant one at that! As soon as I started reading it, I couldn't put it down and I kept making mental notes of all the things I liked about it.

And what I liked the most was hands down the setting and the writing style. Abe writes in such a lyrical and magical way that I kept turning my pages wanting to know what happens next. The way she describes Lora's life at the orphanage, at the clinic and at Iverson later was just amazing. The era she chose to set her story just complimented everything. Because setting a magical story full of colors and music in the midst of World War I was such a perfect contrast that had me hooked from the first page. I mean the way Abe described Lora's treatment in the clinic at the same page where she describes the songs she hears from gem stones was genius for me.

It's no secret that I love historical fiction. Something about the whole setting fascinates me beyond imagination. Add to that era a totally fresh paranormal element and you get why I loved The Sweetest Dark so much! Well, the paranormal aspect itself isn't that fresh, even if it's the first book about dragons I read, but it's not an overused one either. So to me, it was pure freshness! And the way the magic was all over the story, it was the center point of the whole plot but at the same time it didn't overshadow everything else, was another part I really liked.

The descriptions of Lora and her relationship with the rest of students at Iverson was another thing I really enjoyed. I loved all the dynamics between all those girls and reading about their interactions was another favorite part of the story. Lora is a strong, full of love and compassion character, smart and the way she spoke her mind and rose above her classmates' insults just made me love her.

But, despite all the things I liked about The Sweetest Dark, I strongly believe that it could have been so, so much better... The potential was there, and even though this one isn't a bad novel, not by a long shot, it still missed some things that could have easily made it a mindblowing one.

For starters, even if I wasn't bored or tired while reading, I still believe that more things could have happened. To put it simply, not much happens. Most of the story centers around Lora transforming to smoke, rather than to a dragon and there's not much happening actionwise either. It was a bit flat. Not boring, at least for me, but a bit flat. As flat was the romantic plot I'm afraid... I couldn't feel the connection between Lora and Jesse, not for the love of me.

Everything happened way too quickly between them and Lora took for granted everything he said to her way too easily. From a moment on, I just took for granted their relationship but I couldn't feel a spark between them. A spark that I could easily feel between Lora and Armand though. Not that Jesse was a bad character or one I didn't like, on the contrary, I just felt that the romance between them was a bit forced.

All in all, The Sweetest Dark was a novel I truly enjoyed but in the end of the day I feel that it could have been much better. Because in most departments it was more than good. And the potential is all there. Should a sequel be written, I would totally read it :)
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