SPOILER FREE REVIEW
Synopsis (Taken from Goodreads.com):
In this modern day spin on Leroux’s gothic tale of unrequited love turned to madness, seventeen-year-old Rune Germain has a mysterious affliction linked to her operatic talent, and a horrifying mistake she’s trying to hide. Hoping creative direction will help her, Rune’s mother sends her to a French arts conservatory for her senior year, located in an opera house rumored to have ties to The Phantom of the Opera.
At RoseBlood, Rune secretly befriends the masked Thorn—an elusive violinist who not only guides her musical transformation through dreams that seem more real than reality itself, but somehow knows who she is behind her own masks. As the two discover an otherworldly connection and a soul-deep romance blossoms, Thorn’s dark agenda comes to light and he’s forced to make a deadly choice: lead Rune to her destruction, or face the wrath of the phantom who has haunted the opera house for a century, and is the only father he’s ever known.
Goodreads Rating: 3.45/5 Stars
My Rating: 3.5/5 Stars
I am a huge fan of The Phantom of the Opera. It was the last musical I worked on during my Senior year of high school. I own two different versions of the show on DVD and have a playlist of the musical that I occasionally listen to on Spotify. So when I saw that this tale was getting a retelling in young adult novel format, I was ecstatic. I was able to purchase a copy from Half Priced Books (I was going to get it from Amazon, but since it was right there and in store, I just had to get it) and read it during my spring break from school.
Needless to say, I have mixed feelings about this book, which is why it only got 3.5 stars from me. (A middle ground score for a book that I am still processing.) On one hand, I wanted to get swept up in the magical realism and simply enjoy the novel. On the other hand, my inner book critique came out to play as I was reading.
On the grounds of this novel being a retelling, I believe it worked fairly well. I could see A.G. bringing in elements from Gaston Leroux’s novel, while also balancing it out with Andrew Lloyd Webber’s musical (and various renditions of that). In addition, I enjoyed how most of the retelling was reflected because of location and of Erik, the Phantom. All in all, I found that this was the strongest part of the story.
In contrast, I was struggling with the characterization a bit. It wasn’t as strong or pronounced as I would have wanted it to be. Also, there was an imbalance between the main and minor characters. For myself, I wanted more from the minor characters – mainly because, nine times out of ten, I liked the minor characters more than the main ones – and their moments to shine were fleeting. In all honesty, it sometimes felt as if A.G. forgot that she had minor characters, due to how often their relevancy was. For a 430 paged book, she definitely had too many characters drawn into her pages.
Furthermore, the magical realism was another area in which I struggled to connect to the story. I believe this is a result of the poor execution it was undergoing. A.G. was attempting to subtly hint and weave it in in the beginning, but it wasn’t until the 200-300 paged range that we got a better explanation as to what was going on. Magical realism isn’t an easy aspect to pull off, which I understand completely, but it definitely distracted me when I was confused about the lore, versus paying attention to the events unfolding on the page.
The pacing and the realism aspects were two other things I wanted more attention drawn to. For myself, the book didn’t start picking up until page 220 or so. The first chunk to the novel unfolded slowly, whereas the back-half moved rapidly, so you had to pay close attention while reading in order to avoid missing details. I wanted the pacing to be more balanced; in that way, I might have been immersed in the novel sooner. Along with this, I was having difficulty with the realism. Many events and conflicts opened and resolved too quickly, which I disliked. I wanted to see the characters emotionally and physically struggle with what was occurring. Not to mention, the ending wrapped up within a mere chapter. One. Chapter. The resolution definitely did not experience enough flushing out time to make it satisfactory.
Don’t get me wrong, I did enjoy this novel. It had a beautiful cover and the pages were covered in this deep, red ink. (The one downside is that if you weren’t reading in the correct light, it was a little painful to look at other things [i.e. screens] afterwards.) The plot was relatively balanced between the retelling and Rune’s story that was being told. In the end, I just wanted a little more push and clarity from it, is all.
“Guard your throats and hide your eyes. He’s not dead, you fools. Legends never die.”
― A.G. Howard,