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.
I received this book from Abrams Books in exchange for an honest review.
The Phantom of the Opera once again entranced me through the work of A.G. Howard, much like her Splintered series. Growing up I always had a strange fascination with the Phantom of the Opera movie with Gerard Butler. When I heard A.G. Howard was going to write a retelling, I knew I needed to get my hands on an advanced copy because no way I was going to wait until it released. Well folks… it would have been worth the wait.
A.G. Howard gives Phantom an even more gothic take by introducing the idea of psychic vampires (They feed off of life energies. Yeah, how’s that for awesome?) and twin flames. I had not read a book about psychic vampires before, but I had heard of the idea. Initially, I felt wary about the idea connected with my beloved Phantom. I should have known, however, to trust A.G. Howard when she gets an idea because they’re always brilliant.
Rune, the main girl, tells her journey from a young age with her father playing his violin to the end of the book. Having the flashbacks to Rune’s childhood brings details to the story which felt unnecessary (Except what kind of great writer puts in unnecessary details?) but later brought the plot full circle. Occasionally, I felt like Rune wasn’t seeing obvious connections which could have sped the plot up. Also, her character really flipped back and forth with believing Thorn to not trusting him at all but at one touch she would fall back in love with him again. This flip-flop bugged me because it felt like Rune was just another cheesy contemporary girl. I knew she could be better. But at the end of the story when she tried to be confident and stand up for herself, I felt like Rune was out of character and skipped a ton of potential development. The story happened around Rune without her character developing and remaining stagnant.
On the other hand, Thorn’s character struggled internally and developed better than Rune. If the entire story was told from Thorn’s point-of-view, I would have loved it better. I fell in love with Thorn from the instant Rune saw him in the gardens. His backstory added to his character and explained details about his actions in the story. Thorn’s character remained constant and developing towards helping Rune and caring for her. He never wavered like Rune continually did. Everybody needs a Thorn in their life.
Sidenote: Rune + Thorn= Tune
Much like her Splintered series, A. G. Howard continues the Phantom’s story instead of retelling it. I loved the twists with the psychic vampires and twin flames (although I feel like the twin flames are the same as soul mates) to explain the Phantom’s life and connections with Rune and Thorn. A.G. Howard definitely reworked Roseblood’s original story more than Splintered, and I could tell the amount of time and effort put into the story through the final story.
Finally, the end scene of the story felt a little too happy for me, if we’re being honest. (Which we always are, come on.) To have both come out okay with no damage done is too happy for a gothic story like Phantom. Someone needed to end up dead or seriously injured more than a teacher. Don’t get me wrong, I’m happy people survived, but I expected more. Yup… more. Overall, a great read.
Have you read Roseblood? If so, what are your thoughts? Do you like Phantom of the Opera? Which story should A.G. Howard retell next? Tell me in the comments!
Much love, XOXO,
~A Writer Named Charley~