The Deepest Night
Random House / August 13, 2013 / $16 digital, $10.99 digital
It’s 1915, and sixteen-year-old Lora Jones is finishing up her first year as a charity student at Iverson, a prestigious, gothic boarding school on England’s southern coast. While she’s always felt different from everyone around her, now she finally knows why: She is a drákon, a rare, enchanted being with astonishing magical abilities.
As war hits Britain’s shores, and Lora reels from an unimaginable loss, she finds that her powers come with grave and dangerous responsibilities. At the request of Armand Louis, the darkly mysterious boy whose father owns Iverson, Lora will spend her summer at his lavish estate. To help the war effort—and to keep Lora by his side—Armand turns his home into a military hospital, where Lora will serve as a nurse. For Armand is inescapably drawn to her—bound to her by heart-deep secrets and a supernatural connection that runs thicker than blood.
Yet while Lora tries to sort out her own feelings toward Armand, fate offers an unexpected surprise. Lora discovers there is another drákon, a prisoner of war being held in Germany. And that only she, with her newly honed Gifts, will be able to rescue him. With Armand, Lora will cross enemy lines on an incredible mission—one that could bond her to Armand forever, or irrevocably tear them apart.
Second in “The Sweetest Dark” series, The Deepest Night by Shana Abé continues to explore the world of human/dragon shapeshifters during the turbulent years of World War I. In this installment, the teenaged characters travel out of England and engage directly with historical events on a quest to rescue what might be another of their kind. Meanwhile, they struggle with their relationship and the possibility of marriage between them that might be of convenience…or might not.
The novel is categorized as YA. However, fans of Abé’s longrunning adult series about the drákon, beginning with The Smoke Thief, will likely enjoy it as well, particularly because it shows a different historical setting. If you are new to Abé’s work, important events from the first book in the series are described in the opening chapters. Note that this book has spoilers for dramatic events in The Sweetest Dark!
I was most intrigued by how the dragon shapeshifters and their abilities were described, for instance how they hungered for and lusted over their hoards of treasure, a disconcerting trait when they are in human form. The drákon were shown as mysterious and magical but simultaneously rife with human flaws, giving the story the aspect of a fairy tale world where magic is always entangled with raw humanity. Background information was delivered through the narrator, Lora. Lora’s voice was sometimes sarcastic and sometimes dreamy, with dollops of humor and poignancy for spice.
Throughout history, human and drákon destinies entwined, but it was only humans who scribbled down the tales: about how dragons devoured crops or babies or virgins (one French anecdote I read swore they preferred truffles) and apparently were never quite smart enough to avoid being hacked to death by blokes in shining armor. Then the drákon vanished. Just like that. Extinction came and ate them up like they were even more delicious than a virgin carrying a baby carrying a truffle though a wheat field. Or so I surmised. Because as far as I could tell, there were only two of us left in this great and awful year of 1915….Eleanore Jones, orphaned, impoverished…. And …Lord Armand Louis, the Most Honorable Marquess of Sherborne. For a few short days and nights of my life, there had been Jesse, too. He wasn’t a dragon. He was much, much more dazzling than that. But I couldn’t think about him yet. Not yet.
I was impressed with the lyrical way in which Abé described some of the drákonic abilities; it made them seem even more mystical, and generated tension in contrast with the mundane, gritty events of World War I. They are shown as having the constant temptation to leave their humanity behind entirely.
I…took a deep breath, and Turned to smoke. I’m not sure how best to describe what it’s like. Imagine all the weight of your body, all those heavy pounds of muscle and bone and fat, abruptly melted away. You still exist, but you’re vapor. Diaphanous coils, elegant and twisting, lighter than air. You can see and hear, even control your direction. You’re not cold or warm. You feel no physical pain. Only the hunger to fly. This is the first step to Becoming a dragon. As smoke, you can sift through an open window, float out past the walls of a castle. You can spread yourself as thin as sea spray or bunch up thick like a cloud. You can rise and rise and hear the stars more clearly than ever before, pulling at you, celebrating you. Humming and praising.
Readers of Paranormal Romance, Young Adult fantasy, and Historical Romance might all find aspects to appreciate in The Deepest Night.
Learn more about or order a copy of Shana Abé's The Deepest Night, out August 13: