Thursday, October 11, 2012

Review: The Sweetest Dark

Synopsis: “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.

My Review: This book left me feeling kind of torn.  There were a lot of aspects I liked, but a few that just fell flat for me.  The start of the book kind of threw me for a loop.  There's like two false beginnings that are just oddly narrated.  Granted they represented different times during Lora's life, but they were just incongruous with the rest of the narrative and stuck out like a sore thumb.

I really liked the setting to this story.  Granted I love anything that is late 19th or early 20th century, it's just a fascinating era, but I felt that Lora's back ground really added a unique element.  Lora is the new charity student at Iverson, an elite private school for girls.  But she has an even deeper past than just being from an orphanage.  Lora made the mistake of telling someone about the voices and songs she heard and consequently she was put in an insane asylum.  It was just really disturbing to read about the practices they did to mental patients to supposedly "cure" them.  The author doesn't go too heavily into Lora's time in the asylum, but I can't decide if I was grateful for that or if I would have actually liked more. It just felt like it would have been that drastically shaped who Lora was as a person, so I thought it would have had more prevalence in the story.

Iverson is of course you traditional English boarding school, full of bitches.  But what I adored about Lora is that she can dish it out just as good, if not better than the snotty rich girls.  She is not a meek little charity girl, she has a bite.  I will say there was one girl in particular that I grew to love.  Granted, she initially only started being civil to Lora because Lora pissed off her step-sister, and she hated her step sister, but that aside, she was awesome.  I wanted to high five her on more than a few occasions.  I feel like she has a lot more depth than her initial impression implies.  I'm interested to see more of her.

I was rather surprised by the turn of plot in this story.  I definitely wasn't expecting what Lora truly was (yes definitely magical creature).  It was a unique take on traditional lore and frankly I really enjoyed it. It's nice to see a new take in YA lit.  However, I have to say the climax of this story fell SO flat for me. So WWI is going on right? I absolutely HATED how it was brought into the story.  It was just lame.  Did not like it one bit.

And that brings me to the romance of this novel.  It kind of sets it up for there to be a love triangle, but really it was a non-love triangle because Lora is only interested in one of them.  I appreciated that fact.  One thing I cannot stand is an indecisive MC in her love life.  That being said, the romance just fell a bit flat for me.  Like I REALLY liked the guy she ended up being with.  He was awesome and sweet and was perfect for Lora, and yet I just didn't get the "spark" between them.  Maybe it was the writing. But when you're in LOVE with someone as Lora claimed, shouldn't there be more spark to it? I don't know, their relationship just fell flat.  And not that I liked the other guy better or anything, he was a decent guy and I don't have anything against him, but I was like what was the point? Also a small spoiler warning here, be forewarned.  If you set up a love interest and it actually works out they end up together in the first book of a series, you do not freaking kill him off! Seriously.  Huge ass no no.  The only person who can get away with that is Rae Carson, and I still haven't entirely forgiven her for that heart break yet.

End minor spoiler.

So all in all I really enjoyed this book until the last fifty or so pages.  That just kind of killed it for me.  I'd say this series still has great potential, and I'll read the sequel, but I'm just hoping for more plot development the next go around.