Shana Abe has an unmistakeable lilt, a mystery and music to her writing that transcends individual stories and knits together the whole. Like Robin McKinley, Abe lets time and distance deepen the mysteries between her books, she employs the realistic vagaries of history to make each new story a haunting new landscape. There are hints of the drakon, notes from Rue, yet THE SWEETEST DARK is unmistakably a new and unknown present tense. Even new readers, unaware of the threads leading back to prior drakon books, will discover this world afresh through Lora's eyes.
And though Lora is one of the deserving poor, this orphan is no Mary Sue. Intelligent, passionate, and isolated, Lora is neither a martyr nor a mean girl. I loved rediscovering Abe's draconic magic through Lora's experiences, I loved placing the reality of transformation in this "modern" time period. And though the love story in THE SWEETEST DARK isn't clean and simple, Abe gives nuance and depth to the messy passions of Lora, Mandy, and Jesse. Rather than villain versus hero, poor little rich boy versus a noble servant, both men are well developed characters shaped as much by their human passions as the magic of this world. Abe never divorces her characters' humanity from their actions, which means even the most charismatic person could become the villain, the force of darkness that breaks my heart.
I'll admit, in the past I lost the thread of Abe's Drakon series, confused from book to book about where the fate of this secretive race was going. THE SWEETEST DARK wipes the slate clean, however, and focuses in on Lora in a way that is gripping. Abe loses none of her poetry in this series, but this more focused YA series promises to draw me into the series more effectively than any prior Abe story. Lora is the kind of heroine that leaves me day-dreaming for more.
Full review to follow.
Sexual Content: References to sex.