Ughhhh, guys, its finals week here at uni, and I am just about done with it all. I am absolutely completely ready for summer break, and the free time (and reading time) that comes with it. I have such a long list of books to read and I literally can not wait to get started… so much that I am reading as a reward for studying. I have heard that it helps to reward yourself as you study, but I think it just distracts me. Not that I am not distracted as is.
Regardless, instead of studying, here I am writing a review about a book that I finished reading, instead of studying. Basically I am just doing anything I can instead of studying . But I’m not even that mad, because my procrastination let me finish an amazing book! All the reviews on Goodreads were very poor, so I was actually very worried that I would not enjoy this book. I got it at the library, where I pick out random books I haven’t heard of, and try them out. Sometimes I get lucky but other times I suffer for three weeks trying to finish a book that I don’t like (I absolutely HATE dnf’ing books — it has to be like a -1/5 star rating for me to not finish) so when I read the ratings for The Sweetest Dark I actually shuddered a little at the thought of being stuck again.
Despite my worries, The Sweetest Dark by Shana Abé was actually a very moving, well written book. Sure, there is a cliche love triangle, but some of the greatest classics ever written were based on one of those. And yes, there is the instalove that Lora experiences with Jesse, and the ever present mean girls at boarding school, but despite all these cliched, overused plots and settings there is also the element of the unusual. A story about dragons and alchemists and sacrifices set in the midst of a world war – now that is not cliche. That is gripping, unusual, and most of all – a great book.
For one, Abe’s choice of the supernatural/otherworldly creatures is something that deviates from the usual norm of vampires and werewolves. Her drakòn is something out of the past, a human that must first turn to smoke, to mist, before turning into a creature of magic. While some reviews say that it doesn’t make sense, “where do you get turning into smoke from dragon mythology”, in my opinion, it makes the story unique – you must learn to let go and become mist first, before you can be the powerful creature within. She also interweaves music into her dragon, making it a melancholy, beautiful creature. The other magical element in the story is in the form of an alchemist, a boy who turns living things to gold, who has a star inside of him – once again, quite unique from everything else that I have read.
As in many other magical books, every form of magic has a price, a sacrifice one must make, and the sacrifice that Eleonora and Jesse both make is not only emotionally moving, but is also relatable due to the historical setting of the book. Set during the time of World War I, the plot is much more realistic than books set in magical, far off lands. I could almost imagine the sound of bombs in the distance, and could entertain the idea that perhaps, somewhere around me is a song that only some creatures can here.
One other thing that I saw in many reviews is that the book moves too slowly for the liking. However, the way that Abe describes her characters and settings is exquisite; her prose flows and ebbs, with comparisons that draw and shape beautiful images, and tragic endings.
Not everyone enjoys books like this, but for me it was a welcome surprise. If you enjoy magical realism, or historical fiction then give this book a try; perhaps you too will fall for the story of a dragon and her star and the sacrifice that only true love makes. Let me know whether you plan to read this book or not, while I get back to studying (because lets be honest, as much as I love true love, I don’t plan on sacrificing my GPA for it).