The Sweetest Dark by Shana Abe is a dark love story of myths and magic. When faced with the unknown, the characters of this book take on the mysterious dark to conquer a great feat. It is maybe one of the greatest of all times.
When orphan girl Lora Jones is chosen to be the next charity case at the Iverson School for Girls, it seems an unlikely match for her. Iverson is for proper young ladies who will grow up to be part of noble families. The best Lora can hope for is to be one of their governesses. However, with the attack on England at the start of World War I, Lora takes her chances to get away from the dangers of her foundling home.
Ultimately, Lora just hopes to slide by at Iverson without too much notice because really she should be no more than an invisible passerby – just like the maids and other working hands. But when Armand Louis, the youngest son of the Duke of Idylling who just so happens to own Iverson, takes a notice in her, she becomes the centre ring of attention in the school. On top of having the full attention of everyone, Lora has to contend with something else she never expected – a dark, magical gift lying inside her. She had thought her madness long gone when she reached Iverson, but being around Armand and the Iverson working hand Jesse Holms it is starting to come about again. But perhaps it is much more than just madness that is going on inside her and she just doesn’t realise it yet.
A Sweet Love Story
By the sounds of it, this book seems to contain yet another love triangle, but upon delving deeper, it is clear that it is not the case at all. When Lora reaches Iverson, she meets Jesse Holms who is mute and has worked for Iverson for quite some time. It seems easy for her to connect with him, though she tries to just avoid him completely in the beginning. It isn’t a fast “Oh I love you forever and ever” kind of thing that she has going on with Jesse. It takes a good bit of time. But when she finally does start to fall for him, it’s easy to see that it’s true.
Lora has also caught the attention of Armand. However, she’s not incredibly fond of him as he seems to irk her completely throughout the whole book. He appears to be a spoilt brat. There are more layers to him too though once you delve into the thickness of the plot. But despite the fact that he is showing Lora extra attention, she does not much care for him. She isn’t constantly going back and forth between Jesse and Armand as we’ve seen in so many love triangles. However, Lora and Armand do become close, in a much different way that ties in with her gifts and the darkness of it all – they connect, but not in ways readers might suspect at first glance.
I was surprisingly pleased with the way this book turned out. I was terribly afraid I wouldn’t enjoy it because many of the reviews I read beforehand alluded to a strong love triangle. I was terrified that it would be based around that and nothing more. However, I’m so glad I decided to read it anyway despite the mixed reviews.
Throughout the read of this book, I recall thinking several times to myself that Lora is such a strong heroine. While she is scared of what is happening about and within her, she sucks it up and takes it head on. She works through her problems rather than trying to avoid them. Her arc is a beautiful one where she discovers herself while still keeping true to who she’s always been. It was great to see her transform and accomplish so much throughout the book.
I also really liked the characterisations of the two boys in Lora’s life. They are unique in their own ways and I’ve not quite read of other characters like them. They are complete opposites in every way possible, but in other ways, it seems like they are more alike than they’d like to admit. All three become close knit as their stories entwine and it was fantastic to witness all of their changes.
The only thing that irked me a bit throughout this book was the points-of-view. The majority of the book was told in first person from Lora’s p.o.v. However, it often switched to the points-of-view of Armand and Jesse. When it did this, it changed from first person to third person. So, really, it was almost as if it wasn’t from the boys’ perspective at all though it clearly seemed like it should have been. This was the only major flaw I found in Abe’s writing.
Overall, I’d recommend this book to people of the age 14-16 and up. It contains a bit of explicit language and some nudity content. I would not recommend it to a lower age range because of this. Finally, I give The Sweetest Dark by Shana Abe 4 out of 5 stars.