Thursday, September 5, 2013


Review: The Sweetest Dark by Shana Abé

Release Date: 02/04/13
Author Info: Website | Twitter | Facebook
Publisher: Bantam
Format: eBook
Source: Purchased
Buy the Book: Amazon | The Book Depository
My Rating: 2.0 out of 5 stars
The Sweetest Dark by Shana Abé
Description from Goodreads:
“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.

I really wished that I enjoyed The Sweetest Dark by Shana Abé. The premise was intriguing and from the blurb, it seemed like a decent, quick YA read. With an alluring blend of historical fiction, fantasy and romance, it's rare that such combination can do any wrong. Unfortunately this was not the case here. Instead, I was left feeling underwhelmed and indifferent at the end, wondering why it was a good idea to drudge through this book. It's even more difficult to write a review about a book that you have no strong feelings for so there is nothing really going for me at the moment.

One of the things that I liked about this book was its beautiful setting. The descriptions of early 20th century London were lush and vivid which painted lovely images in my head. With a WWI backdrop, Abé was successful in creating an authentic historical feel to the story despite its fantasy filled plot. Furthermore I liked the eerie and foreboding atmosphere that was not only present on the streets of London, but also within the boarding school Iverson. I'm a huge sucker for gothic settings so Abé easily won me over with the expansive school grounds, quaint cottages in the middle of the woods, old chapels, aristocratic manors and secret passages in the school castle. The setting can be loosely compared to Harry Potter however that is the only remotely common link between them. I have not read Abe’s previous adult series that is set in the same world however I could recognise the subtle details and intricacies in the world-building that may be more apparent if you are familiar with her other books.

Abé’s prose is also very beautiful and poetic. It is clear that she is skilled writer as she does have a lovely way with words that makes every sentence such a pleasure to read. Unfortunately I felt that this book was all style but no substance. Despite its intriguing setting and atmosphere, it had a number of major flaws that significantly impacted upon my reading experience. The book started off on a strong foot with an intriguing and ominous prologue that immediately drew me in. Yet even an appealing premise and writing style could not hide the dull plot and characters. I felt utterly bored throughout reading this book and it was a struggle to finish it. There were too many YA tropes for my liking (those who dislike love triangles and insta-love between characters would do well to avoid this book) and the events were too predictable. I was never a fan of alternating POVs as they often detract the mystery and suspense from the story when poorly done. This was certainly the case with this book as the thoughts of the main characters were simply not engaging enough to make me want to be in their shoes.

I could not connect to any of the characters. Lora’s voice and personality did nothing for me and I was even less impressed with Jesse and Armand (the latter’s nickname is “Mandy” which personally sounds ridiculous in my head, especially when it replaced his proper name on most part during his POV). Also, does every YA novel that is set in a boarding school NEED to have so much drama, bickering, jealousy, gossip and backstabbing between girls who have to act so bitchy? (I’m looking at you Shadow and Bone). Although I understand the school is catered for the extremely rich and wealthy however I wished that it was been written in a less clichéd manner that doesn’t make me want to excessively roll my eyes. The plot was uninteresting and the pacing leaves a lot to be desired as you can skip about 50 pages and still not miss anything substantial. Despite the decent writing and world-building, the tension and conflict of the novel failed to engage me in any way. I did not feel that there was enough urgency or drive in the story to keep me interested. The climax was laughable and I could not sympathise with the characters' stakes no matter how dramatic it were.

Overall, this was an underwhelming, lacklustre novel that did not stand out to me at all. After being drawn to the blurb, this book was unfortunately not for me. I enjoyed Abé’s writing style so I may try her other books in the future in hope their storylines and characters are better. I would recommend this book if you are looking for a light, quick YA fantasy read and are going in with low expectations, otherwise there’s a chance that you’ll be disappointed.


Nara @ Looking for the Panacea said...[Reply]

hahaha I totally agree that Mandy is just the stupidest nickname....
I actually really liked this book. Something about the writing style just grabbed me, and I also quite liked Lora as a character. But I can definitely see why others might not enjoy the book. It was a tad slow in sections, and perhaps a bit cliched too.

Estelle said...[Reply]

Thanks for commenting and I'm glad that you enjoyed it! I understand how it's writing style can easily win people over. This reminds me of the recently released book called Between The Devil and The Deep Blue Sea which has such beautiful writing and atmosphere that I felt oblivious to the perceived flaws that other reviewers had pointed out haha

Janina said...[Reply]

I've been really curious about this book. I've heard some mixed things on and it has me really on the fence about reading it. Great review and thanks for the honest opinion :)

Janina @ Synchronized Reading

Francoise said...[Reply]

It really sucks when you have to give a negative review. I've seen many different opinions with this book so I'm not too sure what to think. This was never high on my priority list of things to read so it's not a huge deal.The summary did seem pretty interesting though. Great review! Thanks for keeping us readers posted

Nara @ Looking for the Panacea said...[Reply]

I really need to read that book! It sounds so good! Plus the cover is fabulous :D

Estelle said...[Reply]

I know right? The cover is absolutely swoonworthy. It was quite a nice book to read, definitely recommended :)

Estelle said...[Reply]

Thank you for dropping by, this book was definitely not for me however that may not be the case for you here :) I guess it's still worth borrowing a copy from the library, it's up to you haha. Hope I helped!

Estelle said...[Reply]

Yeah writing negative reviews can really get so tiring at times. Sometimes I just want to forget a bad book and distract myself straightaway with another haha. Glad I helped, thanks for commenting :)

Melanie Z said...[Reply]

Despite how much I love author's writing within a book, the characters MUST click for me to like the book. Passing this one!
Fab review, Estelle! <33

Estelle said...[Reply]

Thanks Melanie! Yeah, I definitely wasn't too impressed with the characters here however I'm currently in the middle of the sequel and it's slightly better haha. We'll see how I go.

Book Swoon said...[Reply]

I actually adore Shana Abé, there is just something about her lyrical writing that I love. I've read her adult stories set in the same world, so when she started writing YA it was a must for me. Thanks for the honest review! :)

Estelle said...[Reply]

Her writing is indeed very lyrical and beautiful. I'm glad that you enjoyed her other adult books! I might pick them up some day to see if they are any good :)

Christine P said...[Reply]

Ah man.Sad to see this one didn't turn out very well. The gothic setting sounds beautiful and I'm sure I would love that aspect of the novel. But if the characters just didn't work, had no voice, and I can't connect with them? This novel would be a bust for me, too. The characters have to be relatable or else that ends up being all I can focus on, how unrealistic they are. And why on earth is a male's nickname "Mandy?" That's so strange. I'd probably forget he was a guy while reading.

Thanks for such an honest review! Reviews like this are always the hardest to write for me. If you don't like something, it's difficult to portray why and still be nice and positive about it. You did a great job with this!

Alise (Readers in Wonderland) said...[Reply]

Yeah I hear a lot of decent/bad things about this one. Connecting to the characters is really important and if you don't have that, it really brings the whole story down. I think I may skip this one because I feel like I would get frustrated with the same things. Thanks for an honest review!

Estelle said...[Reply]

Thanks for the thoughtful comment :) The gothic setting was indeed quite nice and the writing amplified that. However I definitely agree about characters needing to be relatable or engaging for me to like the book.
OMG YES, at some moments it didn't feel like he was a guy at all haha, a terrible nickname does that to you...

Thank you again for dropping by :)

Estelle said...[Reply]

Yeah, this book overall did not work for me however it seems like quite a few others had enjoyed. It's up to you and I'm glad that my review helped you :) Thank for commenting!

Amanda @ said...[Reply]

That's a question I ask myself ALL the time when reading YA novels (especially YA Paranormal or Romance)... why does there always have to be so much girl rivalry/hating? It's now one of the first things I look out for when choosing a book to read. Ah well, there goes another title to cross out of my list.

Estelle said...[Reply]

Ah, I'm glad that you had found my review to be useful :) I admit that is also one of my biggest turn-offs when reading a YA novel as well and I often want to bang my head against the wall whenever it comes up urgh.

mayceegreene said...[Reply]

This is my first romance on dragons that I can recall. It is very
different from other dragon stories that I know of. I'm not sure if this
book is set to be a series, it seems like it shouldn't be, but I would
buy a sequel if given the opportunity. I will definitely be checking out
her adult series.
Best One Way Links website

Estelle said...[Reply]

Hi there!
There does seem to be a sequel called The Deepest Night. Hope you enjoy it!

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