First of all, everyone should know that Shana Abé’s prose is awesome. It’s so pretty and evocative and descriptive—very atmospheric and it set the tone wonderfully. It did, however, verge into purple prose territory, which might not be to some readers’ tastes. I didn’t think it was too overboard, however, but that’s just me.
Also, The Sweetest Dark is about dragons! “But Renae!” you say. “Don’t you hate dragon books?” Er…theoretically yes, but I’ve never read a dragon book I actually disliked, so you know. And the dragon (or drákon) in this book isn’t a typical dragon but is really more of a shapeshifter type deal. But whatever we call it, that whole aspect was well-done and, I thought, unique.
As far as plot goes, this book is fairly typical. Poor girl arrives at swanky boarding school, mean girls are mean, two gorgeous guys flock to her side—surprise, she has paranormal abilities, etc. In the book’s blurb, it’s advertised that this is a good read for fans of Libba Bray, and I agree. In fact, there was one specific scene in The Sweetest Dark that was almost exactly the same as one from A Great and Terrible Beauty. Make of that what you will.
In terms of the love triangle…it’s not really a love triangle. Lora, the main character, has a bad case of instalove with godlike Jesse, and while she has a bond with the equally godlike Lord Armand, their relationship is never more than platonic. However, due to the conclusion of The Sweetest Dark, I’d probably categorize this as a love triangle overall, though it really isn’t.
Which then brings me to the novel’s conclusion, which was disappointing in so many ways. The first disappointment had to do with the pseudo love triangle, since I can only call Abé’s treatment of it a cop-out. The second disappointment had to do with the completely unrealistic events that happened—German U-boats and zeppelins and shooting and such. It was like a fairytale take on WWI that I found improbable at best and ludicrous at worst. I certainly finished The Sweetest Dark on a low note that heavily contrasted with the high note I began on.
In the end, I think the good points I found in The Sweetest Dark outweigh the bad. The book isn’t perfect, but I enjoyed myself quite a bit, and will definitely look forward to the sequel. I think Abé is a wonderful writer, and though I’m not a fan of her romance, I approved of nearly everything else. (Bonus: she’s written a whole other series about the drákon, so I’ll have to check those out pronto!)