RoseBlood by A.G. Howard (2017)
YA Fiction | Paranormal | Romance
“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.”
pooled ink Review:
Right on the very front cover we are told that this is “A Phantom of the Opera-inspired retelling” and indeed it is! The book is chock full of little references and ties to both the original story and to the famed Broadway musical. Some are more obvious while others lie hidden wrapped within the prose but it’s equally fun whenever you spot one.
Told in alternating POVs between Rune and Thorn, I’d say that this is almost a contemporary gothic-style paranormal story. Through them we meet a varied and lively cast full of people you’ll love to hate, hate to love, or are too fun to do anything but smile when they grace the page. We also get to glimpse plenty of back-story for all the mysterious characters presented if you’re patient enough to let them share their memories with you – and they really were quite interesting albeit quite dark or tragic.
Initially I wasn’t sure if this book really would be a paranormal story or if it would lean more towards metaphor, but having read it cover to cover I can inform you that it is indeed a paranormal novel through and through. Almost right away I began comparing the strange magical nature of Erik, Thorn, and even Rune to some sort of vampire. I wasn’t sure what they were but in the back of my brain I couldn’t help but draw distinct similarities. And then later the truth is unveiled, mysteries and histories are dragged into the cold light…it’s an interesting twist indeed.
Back to the two protagonists: Rune and Thorn. Even though Rune has the voice of an angel, a voice to be compared to the famous Christina Nilsson/Christine Daaé, the story really belongs to Thorn just as the original tale revolved around Erik, the Opera Ghost. For although we spend most of our time with Rune as she unearths her true heritage and self, and while she plays a key part in the Phantom’s grand plan, it remains Thorn who is confronted with the great pivotal decision as he bears the crux of the plot. Thorn is the bird who must accept/forget the bars of his cage or choose to defy them and fly free. So even though we do not get to spend as much time from his POV as we do Rune’s, in many ways his character goes through the greatest change and who ultimately defines the story. The three biggest players in this book are obviously Rune, the angelic voice, the Phantom, the haunted soul, and Thorn, the beating heart.
Actually, to compare this story to the 2004 movie adaptation, Thorn plays a combination of both the Phantom and Raoul. Despite the madness and violence of the literary character most people swoon over the Phantom in the film instead of the intended Raoul. So this book did an excellent job of crafting a leading man that is heroic, warm, and good-hearted like Raoul but also dark, tortured, and mysterious like the Phantom.
One thing I didn’t like was Rune’s character, actually. She just didn’t connect with me and she somehow managed to be both impulsive and totally passive at the same time. Gah! Furthermore this whole book was written like that. Certain moments and information would just randomly pop up, while much of the story felt passive with scenes unfolding and information unveiling just to the convenience of Rune. I dunno, I liked this book but at the same time I believe it could have been a lot better. It was easy to guess the truth about characters and how the book would end, which is always a bit of a bummer. I’m glad I read it but I’m not convinced I’ll read it again.
Yes, this book is very Yong Adult Paranormal, for sure. There are irrefutable tie-ins to the classic story but it does take some bold liberties and interesting twists, especially with regards to the paranormal aspect. It aligns better with the original story than with the more romanticized movie, choosing to emphasize Erik’s madness and obsession thus initiating the horrors of the plot seen over a century later in this book.
Overall I enjoyed RoseBlood. But I enjoyed it as a YA paranormal book more than I enjoyed it as a Phantom of the Opera-inspired book. That’s not at all a bad thing though, it’s just that the musical in particular is so beloved and breath-taking that it’s hard for anything related to come close to it. So I really loved all the references and subtle hints, jokes, or tidbits, but as a Phantom retelling? It was good. As just a YA paranormal novel? It was pretty stellar.
The research was thorough, the concept of flamme jumelle (from Aristotle’s theory of love: one soul in two bodies) was beautiful and alluring, the twist of vampires who feed off energy was surprising and interesting. This book was not entirely what I expected but I rather enjoyed it all the same.
Definitely packed full of creativity and love for the Phantom story, RoseBlood brings a 19th Century legend into the modern light unveiling a few otherworldly surprises as it goes.
Purchase here: RoseBlood
Meet A.G. Howard!
A.G. Howard is the author of the New York Times-bestselling Splintered series and is a huge fan of the classic Broadway musical The Phantom of the Opera. As a writer, A.G. is most at home weaving all things magical into everyday settings and scenes. When she is not writing, A.G. enjoys rollerblading, gardening, and visiting eighteenth-century graveyards or abandoned buildings to appease her muse’s darker side.