The Sweetest Dark
Bantam, Aug 21 2012, $16.00
In 1909 a mute ten years old girl wanders lost on the London streets until she is sent to the Blisshaven Foundling Home. They call her Eleanore Jones. She begins to speak with a command and accent of the King’s English instead of a guttersnipe; but suffers amnesia and hears voices including songs from objects and inside her head that no one else hears.
In 1915 Eleanore attends the Iversion School for Girls as a rare scholarship student amidst the affluent. At the station she meets obnoxious Chloe and her boyfriend the duke’s son Armand. Taken to Iverson Castle by Jesse the assistant groundskeeper, headmistress Mrs. Westcliffe warns her to behave. The duke invites her for tea. The manor house looks like a madman designed it while the duke seems ill and haunted especially when he looks at Eleanore. Unable to sleep that night due to the thunder, Eleanore breaks curfew to run in the woods. She finds Jesse’s cottage. He explains to her who they are before kissing her. Armand likes spending time with Eleanore while Jesse wants her too but believes she is still too young. The trio learns what the duke plans for the castle leaving it to them to prevent his insane plot.
This is a strong and spellbinding young adult historical fantasy as the deft metamorphosis of the heroine makes the fantasy elements seem real. The WWI on the home front at an aristocratic school and the institutions the heroine was sent to live at anchor time and place. Although the storyline is slow as the emphasis is on developing the characters so they appear genuine, readers will want to find out the mystery of Eleanore.