The Sweetest Dark
Random House Publishing Group, Bantam
YA fantasy, historical paranormal
This book is totally gush-worthy, the best young adult fantasy I’ve read in a very long time, perhaps ever. Why? Because it’s heart-achingly beautiful. The prose is poetic, the words as ethereal as the girl who turns into smoke and then a dragon. The story is unique with a dreamy pace all of its own, and the characters are rich and endearing, particularly Jesse who as well as physical beauty has the beauty of a pure soul.
It’s a bittersweet tale, but oh, so sweet, and not the frivolous saccharine of some stories. The sweetness here is somehow soulful, the characters bearing witness to another layer of existence, not apart from our world, but hidden within, like a silken undergarment. Jesse, Lora and Armand share an existence where stones have their own melody, boys can belong to the stars and connections between people can be so deep that they communicate without words as easily as they breathe.
It’s a simple story, orphan girl ends up in posh school due to the war, meets magical boy who knows her soul and much more. The local Duke’s son takes an interest in her, and it could have dissolved into a typical angst-ridden love triangle, but thankfully it didn’t. The girl is not torn, her heart is clear, and the magical boy is not jealous, he sees too far, knows what’s to come, shares wisdom beyond his years. The Duke’s son has our sympathy, for despite his popularity and his riches, he is a lonely soul.
Lora is a Drakin, only she never knew it until she met Jesse who has been waiting for her all his life and calling her to his side. His absolute dedication to her is not an ordinary love, it is completely magical, forged in the time beyond time, undeniable and unassailable, and thankfully the author does not cheapen it with the idea of love at first sight, or the entanglements of a mind that wants to diminish it with labels.
The tension in the majority of the book is in the character relationships and Lora learning to transform into a dragon, but the end sees an unexpected event that raises the stakes to where many lives are at risk and people have to push themselves to their limits and beyond, because if they don’t hundreds will die.
Death hovers in the background of the whole story, dead parents, dead brothers, the price of a gift and the deaths of the war that comes closer as the story progresses, but it is not morbid, on the contrary, this stark background gives the story a fragility and vibrancy that leaps off the page and into your heart.
Yeah, I loved it! 5 stars