Author: A. G. Howard
Release: January 10th 2017
Genre: Retelling, Urban Fantasy, YA
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.
Like the majority of people, I, too, did not enjoy this book. And that is mostly due do the unbearable purple prose that snakes its way through the entirety of the book, poisons every verb and adjective, shooting it with deep dark green venom, until the book dies, spasming with the its last breath, wasted away.
I hope I have made my point quite clear with that. There's a fine line between lyrical, poetic prose and just... ridiculous writing. More often than not, this novel teeters on the latter.
“She wanted those wings so she could fly away, because the pain of trying to reach for them was more tolerable than the pain of staying grounded, wherever she was.”
“The sky darkens to a bruise that resembles evening more than noon. Intermittent bursts of lightning shift the landscape around me[.]”
“With a swish of fabric, he flourishes the cape to hide himself. A puff of glittery smoke, pungent with sulfur and ash, forms a wall. Once it clears, he's gone, as if he vanished into the floor.”
At some point, I stopped marking them, because they got way out of hand. I'm sorry, but the lines are either a) extremely faux "deep" and philosophical or b) just utterly fucking ridiculous. I'm sorry, but the last one? I can't help but imagine a Scooby Doo-like cartoon scene where the villain's every gesture is overly saturated with fake drama.
Alas, the characters are cardboard cutouts that can't save this mess either. I'll throw a bone here and say that I didn't even mind the protagonist, Rune, that much, but that's mostly due to the fact that she is just so plain and has no real personality that marks her as any different from the 2984239 other YA heroines that suffer from the same problem. Thorn, however, really grinds me gears from the very first moment he is introduced because he — and his subsequent romance with Rune — are just way, way too trope-y even for me. I truly forgive a lot of tropes and clichés, especially if they're written well, but this was just infuriating. He's, like, five tropes all rolled into one. The brooding boy with the tragic past, which is the reason why he helps the villain (not really a spoiler, that's revealed pretty early on), who has visions of the one girl he is destined to be with (gee, who could it be) but can't have (of course), nevertheless he instantly falls in love with her as soon as he sees her and can't stay away. It is just as terrible as it sounds.
[spoiler] Also... why was he conveniently male? The concept of twin flames is kinda cool, but you know what would have made it a lot cooler? If this had been gay. At least give me something to work with here, Howard. Or are you telling me that twin flames always reincarnate into one male and one female? Lame. [/spoiler]
The story in and of itself is pretty boring, too. Nothing to be done for it. The academy setting is never really delved into much, which is a shame, because I'm usually really into boarding school stories. It just made me re-read Hex Hall for some reason, which is not a good sign. Rune's friends at RoseBlood are of no consequence and just as flavorless as she is. The big "plot twist" can be smelled, seen, heard, tasted and felt from a thousand miles away. Really, it is so obvious, and then Howard pulls this out on page 300 like it's some big ass shocking reveal. Even if there hadn't been a shitload of foreshadowing, anyone who knows even the tiniest bit about common supernatural creatures can figure it out pretty quickly.
I have never seen nor read The Phantom of the Opera, so I can't really say anything about how well it was "translated" into a modern retelling, but I can say that I'm not really into the premise in the first place. So maybe that's also part of why I didn't like this book.
At the end of the day, this book can be summarized with one word: Bland. Every single aspect about it is just bland, bland, bland. So bland that I won't even bother to google a synonym for bland, because using this same word over and over (again) emphasizes my point pretty well. You could do a lot worse than this book, but you could also certainly do a lot better.