The Sweetest Dark (The Sweetest Dark #1) by Shana Abe

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Title: The Sweetest Dark
Author: Shana Abe
Publish Date: April 9, 2013
Publisher: Bantam
Pages: 352
Other Books in the Series: The Deepest Night (The Sweetest Dark #2 - to be published in August of 2013)
Buy the Book: Barnes & Noble | Amazon
Rating: ★★★

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.

I adore this cover. Honestly, I really, really know that people say never to judge a book by its cover but can I just say "eye-candy"? There is something to be said about a cover that shows the amount of effort put behind it. It shows that it is not only important to the publisher but also to the author. It's the cover that first draws in the reader (despite what they say) and I am definitely no different. The cover definitely illustrates a major part of the book. It captures the main character flawlessly.

The Sweetest Dark by Shana Abe is the story of Lora, a girl without family, without money, without friends. After spending years being in an orphanage, she knows that there is something different about her and people don't seem to understand who she is. Being different in her world equates to being sent to a crazy house which is not a desirable outcome for anyone. So, being the smart girl she is, she hides her differences away under a facade of indifference and calmness. Very few things get under her skin. She is used to going without. She is used to fading in the background. She is used to being strange. But when she suddenly gets shipped off to Iverson School for Girls, she realizes how much harder it is to maintain a facade especially when she is faced with two boys who send her world spinning. It's hard enough being normal without someone awakening the songs in her with a newfound fury. All she knows is that her life will never be the same.

Eleanor or rather Lora is the main focus of this story, although the point of views shift occasionally. Her life during the early 1900s is not that different from most parentless girls that were her age and yet her struggle to remain unseen is something that draws you in. I never imagined that hearing music would deem someone crazy back then but apparently it did. At first I compared her to the great composers like Beethoven who claimed that he could hear music everywhere but it became clear that my assumption was off the mark. Her music came from something darker and deeper inside her. Something that she couldn't have imagined up in her darkest dreams. And it all begins with Jesse. From the moment she meets him, he awakens something inside her and the music in her mind seems to only escalate. She longs for him unlike anyone else. He is the one who teaches her just what she really is and what the means for her even though most of it is guess work. She is not human but made of magic.

Jesse is the grounds keeper for Iverson and does a lot of odd jobs around the school. Unlike Lora, he knew she was coming to him. He knew what she meant to him. How could he not? Her essence had called to him since she was born and his life was centered upon hers without a doubt. Some call it crazy, I call it soul mates. For most of the story, it seems like he is just waiting for her to realize her potential and see who she is underneath her facade that was built over the years. The other girls at the school think he is a mute, I mean he must be if he doesn't talk to them, right? They admire him from afar and it annoys Lora immensely.

There is always some other guy that is also in love with the main character and I always feel bad for them because they are good guys but not good for her. Yeah, you know those guys. That, for me, was Armand or Mandy (really?! What kind of nickname is that?). He is the son of the Duke and comes off like quite the ladies man, something he doesn't bother to disagree with. One of his passions is cars, which surprised me, and whenever I got to read about him driving, I could see why. There is a certain amount of freedom in driving and being reckless behind the wheel, there is a certain amount of control. He craves it in every aspect of his life. The only place he can find it is in a car. From the moment he is introduced to Eleanor, he can't seem to get her off his mind and he doesn't know why but she seems to consume every thought of his. Just like Lora, he is a master at putting up a facade and yet she disarms him, she makes him feel things he would rather avoid. He craves her more than he should.

The whole story was filled with spoiled girls who thought they were better than Lora and I guess that comes with the territory of placing the main character in an elitist school. Surprisingly though, I actually found one girl tolerable. Sophia, which is crazy since she is like the most horrible one from the beginning, seems to be the least rude to Lora as the story progresses. I think it has to do a lot with just wanting to control situations and make things happen the way she wants them to but I could see them becoming friends or something. Maybe friendly acquaintances? Mrs. Westcliffe, the headmaster of the school, is another person who seems to just give off the idea of being above everyone else. She is a stern woman who doesn't believe in giving out compliments and she keeps a watchful eye on Lora, pointing out her flaws at every turn. I like to think that she tries to find great fault in her but only sees the possibility of greatness because that's what I see when I consider Lora.

During the process of the story, I determined that the beginning and the middle were well paced but as the end neared, I felt the story get a little rushed. I missed the building climax in the story which I honestly think it could have had. That is why I docked it one star because it didn't quite reach my expectations or the build up of the rest of the story. Overall, it was a really good read and I adore the historical settings in the novel.

About the author

Bailee is the type of person you would expect to find with her nose buried in a book or a notebook and a pencil in hand. She loves reading and she loves reviewing the books she reads. This is certainly becoming a passion of hers.