Friday, April 19, 2013

The Sweetest Dark by Shana Abe Review


The Sweetest Dark(#1)
by Shana Abe
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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.
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I was really surprised by this book! I hadn't heard much about it and I'm kind of late reviewing it. But it was so incredible, I couldn't believe there hasn't been a huge push about this book. Or did I miss it?
I mighta missed it. Cause this book hits all my must haves- magic, romance, wait, not romance, I don't know how Shana Abe did it, but she made this an epic love story in a couple of meetings between two characters. It felt EPIC! And oh yes, it is a gothic historical magical realism romance! So, if that isn;t enough labels for you, then I don't know how else to help you. I won't give away the magic.

The book is set in the years of the beginning of WWI. Don't get confused, this is England. They were in it before the United States, just remember that. Because I had to call the man with the elephant memory (they aren't supposed to forget anything) and ask him when the U.S. got involved in WWI. It matters because I needed to know how old the main character is when things happen. Anyway, Lora, has a rough time growing up but she's finally caught a break. She was found mute, homeless and orphaned at 10. She served time, and I do mean that, in a mental hospital after admitting some of her secrets. No one believed her hence the mental hospital and her "treatments." Then her orphanage is bombed by the Kaiser. But it's okay because she is headed to Iverson, an elite boarding school for girls, on the coast of England. It's in a dark gothic castle and her room happens to be in one of the towers.

Now, Lora sounds like a pathetic or at least sympathetic character doesn't she? But not once did I feel sorry for her. She's not written that way and she doesn't live that way. She learned in the orphanage how to be street smart and she knows people. When she gets to Iverson, she's already landed on her feet. She knows how she'll be seen and treated and she really doesn't care, she knows she's in a lot better place than she could have been. She's not feeling sorry for herself and events change in a way so that she gets the upper hand on the most uppity and therefore meanest girl to Lora. Some of the girls she attends school with are "Lady" This and "Duchess" of That. This is very upper class. And Lora's benefactor is a Duke who owns the castle and a monstrous home he's building some miles away from the school. Lora is actually funny in some of her observations claiming that on rainy days "all the girls in all the years recognized that they were made of spun sugar: Rain would surely melt them into puddles." (end of chapter 15) Sometimes she's saying one thing with her mouth and something totally opposite in her head. I'm not used to this type of character set in this time period. I really loved her! And even when something bad happens or something she can't believe, she's still very strong.

There were other characters that made the book amazing, but the magic and the ending. I can't say anything about it except to say Lora is not crazy and she learns about herself at Iverson. And the war comes to Iverson in one way and many others. I think Shana Abe has created an incredible first book in a series that I am popping to the top of my favorites list for this year. I will be looking at her other books, she's got a bunch and the next book in this series The Darkest Night comes out in August!
Yes, and thank you! I'm not sure I could wait a year after that ending. I'd be doing everything to get an ARC of that one. But this being April, I feel like I can wait. And just read The Sweetest Dark over and over. And read Shana Abe's other books.

Thanks to the publishers at Bantam for the E-ARC I received through NetGalley! The opinions expressed in this review are my own. I was not compensated for this review.

GET THIS BOOK!!! I'm getting my own copy for sure!

Heather

22 comments:

  1. I do not like seeting around WW I must say which is why I dismissed this book. But… your high praise make me reconsider:)

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    Replies
    1. Danny-
      I can understand, but as I remember, Lora's focus of hatred was on "the Kaiser" and never the German people. She was most angry at the war itself rather than the Germans. It wasn't the focus of the books, believe me.

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  2. Glad you liked the characters, magic and the ending. I don't do HF, but I keep staring at this cover. I haven't heard a lot about them.
    Brandi @ Blkosiner’s Book Blog

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    1. This is just set in that time period. It does have some part of the story, but the bigger story is about Lora and the two boys who are the other main characters. The magic is phenomenal.
      Don't miss it just because of the history!

      Delete
  3. This book sounds amazing and from your review I am surprised I didn't hear more about it. Awesome to read it late and not have to wait so long for the next one. :) That is my plan most of the time! Great review.
    ~Jess

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    Replies
    1. Jess- I love that as well! i hate waiting for sequels! I know it's difficult to write them, but I checked and Shana Abe has written many books. So I guess she knows how to write sequels!

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  4. I really enjoyed this one as well. I have heard of this author and have a couple of her books on my wishlist, but this book moved it up that list! Really like the way she writes. I also enjoyed these characters even though she made me cry in this book! Bad author! LOL

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    Replies
    1. I know, but the epilogue was good. I don't think that part of the story is over! I just ordered a set of her series from BWB.
      And she has a mermaid trilogy!! She's really hitting all my buttons!

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  5. I really like your impression of Lora; she sounds like a nice strong character. The fact that book two comes out so soon is a nice incentive to dive in to this series as well. I'll have to give it a shot soon :)

    Erin @ YA Book Crush

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    Replies
    1. Erin-
      My review today is't nearly as beautiful as yours, but I chose to focus on Lora even though there were two boys that were also main characters because she made the strongest impression on me. She is a very strong character. She grows from a kind of shell shocked but tough right out of the mental hospital girl, into a full fledged powerful character. She is a beautiful character.

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  6. This isn't my normal kind of book, but you were surprised by it and it sounds pretty good. I may have to check this one out as soon as I catch up.

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    1. For a very long time it read like straight up historical fiction except for her hearing songs and having a voice inside her telling what to do. But that soon changed at Iverson. It's worth a shot. On her website (link provided) there is a sample of the book.

      Heather

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  7. I'm glad you loved it too! I've been shocked that this one hasn't got more attention because it pretty much blew my mind! I just loved her! And the romance was great even though I cried like a baby at the end! Wonderful review!

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    1. I still say that part of the story isn't finished. But she took it like a champ. She was very strong. I loved Lora. She didn't take any shit for that girl Chloe. When she tried to frame her. And putting the girls in their place that first night, I loved it! She's my kind of girl. She'll be rewarded in the end. I got almost the whole Drakon series on BWB for less than twenty dollars. And the mermaid book! I love me some mermaids!

      Delete
  8. I am so anxious to start this now. I have been reading a lot in the WWI era as of late and I am fascinated by that time period. I do not know what happened to this book. I got it last year off Edelweiss and then they changed the pub date to this year and then they are releasing book two which you can grab on NG in August I think. I wonder if the author got sick or something because there was a bit of buzz early spring last year and this book died. So weird. I will be reading it soon!

    ReplyDelete
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    1. Heidi-

      I don't know about what happened to it. I just picked it up on NG this year. It way exceeded my expectations. Actually, I didn't even read the synopsis before I read it so I had no idea what it was about when I went in. It was so good! And The Deepest Dark is available on NetGalley right now! The books publishes in August!

      Delete
  9. I hadn't read this one yet either and really, really want to. I don't know how I missed it. So glad you enjoyed it enough to want to pick up your own copy.

    - Jessica @ Book Sake

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    1. It's not often that I'll spend the money when I already have it on my Kindle, but that cover is beautiful and it's just so great to be able to flip through your favorite parts. One character I didn't write about, he's the sweetest, kindest, gentlest soul I've ever read about. I'd love to flip through all the scenes with him again and gulp back the tears.

      Delete
  10. YAY!!! THIS BOOK FLOORED AND MOVED ME!! OH my GAWSH!!
    Okay I want to say this in the coolest most non creepy way... I LOVE THAT YOU LOVED SWEETEST DARK... :)

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    1. Ria-

      Not creepy at all! Just sharing a love of books!! I totally got floored by how great this one was. I didn't expect it and it's always so much fun when that happens!

      I don't know how to get to your blog if you have one, I added you on Google Plus. But I'd love to visit you. You obviously have good taste in books!

      Delete
  11. This is next on my tbr pile! I actually just got the second book as an e-galley on NetGalley (squeee!) so I plan on reading them back to back! I love your review. It has made me even more excited to read them both.
    Following you! You can find me here:
    Sabrina @iheartyafiction

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  12. You know, reading this book made me realize how much I've missed Shana Abe. Her first Drakon book was one of my most favorite books but then I stopped following the story after book three. Not sure why. This book reminded me what I've been missing all this time. It's as lyrical as poetry and the story is as beautiful as a fairy tale. From the beginning, I was hooked.
    Best LHI One Way Links information

    ReplyDelete

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