Book Review: The Sweetest Dark

The Sweetest Dark
(The Sweetest Dark #1)
By:  Shana Abe
Published By:  Bantam
Publication Date: April 2nd, 2013
Page Count:  352 pages
Source:  Book Purchased by Reviewer
  Audience:  Young Adult Historical Fantasy 

The Sweetest Dark is Shana Abe’s debut into the young adult genre.  Having read the first two books in the author’s Drakon series – which were geared towards adults – I was already familiar with the world she created around this hidden society of fantastical creatures that looked like you and me but also harboured a secret that they guard fiercely and closely…for they can turn into dragons, and some could yet also turn into smoke.

The Sweetest Dark takes place some 150-200 years later from the original Drakon books, in the early 1900’s and World War I in progress, with small references to the characters from the original series.  Things have changed quite drastically over the course of time and the Drakon race has all but died out.

However, in this new story, total extinction might not be the case.  Eleanore (Lora) Jones grew up in an orphanage in the bad part of London, England and knows nothing of her past.  She has always heard inner voices and powerful songs that seem to come from various elements such as precious gems and metals.  She also has vivid dreams of being able to fly. They thought she was crazy and treated her as such for most of her childhood…until she is plucked from the orphanage to attend prestigious Iverson…a school for the well-to-do.  There, some answers finally come to light about who (and what) she is.

I really liked Lora as the story’s protagonist.  She had a sardonic sense-of-humour that served her well.  She was pragmatic and possessed a thick skin, which she ultimately required attending a school for snooty, spoiled children of Dukes and government officials.  Perhaps, her upbringing at the orphanage contributed greatly to that tough disposition.  She took risks that were not always well thought out as she seemed to begin trusting that inner primal voice of hers.  I suppose finally getting those answers that perplexed her for so long, contributed greatly to her embracing the truth about herself.

And her lack of physical modesty (you’ll know what I mean when you read the story), had me chuckling and shaking my head on SEVERAL occasions.  Again, I think it was a testament to who she really was that contributed to her not caring when she found herself in those revealing situations.

Lora was never ashamed of who she was or where she came from…which gained the admiration of at least one ‘frenemy', one Duke’s son, and one grounds-keeper.

The two boys that were utterly intrigued by Lora were about as different from each other as two could possibly be.  Armand was the Duke of Idylling’s son…a privileged boy who, to everyone on the outside looking in, had the idealic life.  But he too, had some secrets of his own.  The revelations of those secrets were not surprising, however.  I suspect his character, and his relationship with Lora, will be further developed in subsequent books.

Jesse, along with his uncle, served the school as hired help.  He definitely had a magical air about him…a serene, yet knowledgeable boy who seemed to already know a lot about Lora.  I especially loved one of his terms of endearment for Lora…the way he called her ‘dragon girl’ melted my heart. Their feelings for each other were literally ordained through the stars.  He was tender and loving but not in the story enough for me.

Although this story was seriously lacking in thrilling action – that is, until the very end – I still found myself engaged.  I wouldn’t classify it as a book I couldn’t put down but I did enjoy getting back to it when I had to.  The words that come to mind if I had to describe this story briefly would be subdued but compelling.  Shana Abe has a really eloquent writing style.  She paints pictures with her words and they flow pretty effortlessly.  I am looking forward to the next instalment, and may even go back and finish the original series to see what happened between these two series.


For fans of Lauren Kate and Libba Bray, The Sweetest Dark is filled with thrilling romance, exciting adventure, and ancient magic. Shana Abé brilliantly captures the drama of post-Victorian England, while unfolding a passionate love story that defies time.
“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.



  1. I've read a lot of positive reviews for this book. It sounds really interesting and Lora sounds like a protagonist that i'd like. Great insight!

    - Ellie at The Selkie Reads Stories

    1. I hope you read it Ellie! Let me know what you think! :)

  2. Oh this sounds interesting. I might have to check this Author out.


  3. I had this recommended to me the other day when I mentioned I love Dragon stories. I am not a huge historical fiction fan but for a good dragon story I definitely plan to pick this one up. I will pick it up when I am not in the mood for a thrilling action story! Great review.

    Ashley @ The Quiet Concert

  4. Ashley, I love stories about dragons too...I hope you like this one as well!


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