Synopsis: Lora Jones has always known 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 that 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 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.
The Sweetest Dark is a sort of companion/sequel YA series to Shana Abe's Drakon series. You don't have to read the Drakon series to enjoy The Sweetest Dark but you'll pick up on all of the hints of the previous series that Abe has scattered throughout.
I loved this book just as much as I loved the previous series. It's full of adventure and romance and magic and is written in such gorgeous prose that you will want to slow down and savor every single word. You will also want to tear through it to find out how it ends.
Lora is one of my favorite YA heroines of all time and it's a shame that more people don't know about these books. It is so refreshing to read about a powerful female heroine that is strong and tough and doesn't let people walk all over her. She knows how to hold her own. Something else I love about her is that she's kind of a bitch, when she needs to be. She's always got a cutting remark on hand for the snobby, bullying girls she's forced to mingle with at Iverson. But she can also be vulnerable; she's hiding a lot of pain and trauma behind that tough exterior. She is just so well-rounded and real.
Being a YA novel, this book suffers from the familiar love-triangle trope that, in my opinion, is getting a little tired. But I'm glad to say that Abe pulls it off in this book by making it a little bit more complicated than 'two boys drool over one girl and she can't decide between them.' Lora is sure whom she wants to be with - or at least she thinks she is. Without giving too much away, Shana Abe shows in her book that love is messy and complicated and, sometimes, we don't get the happy ending we want.
I will say that my favorite of the two love interests is Armand. He definitely plays the part of the bad boy at first - drinking, reckless driving, a ladies' man. But it is slowly revealed that there is more to him and I love the relationship that evolves between Armand and Lora.
If you love romance mingled with magic and dragons, you will love this series. I think any YA fan will love this series. If you've read this book or the preceding Drakon series, let me know what you think in the comments!