2.5 Stars, Completed January 14, 2017
– read bold text to avoid SPOILERS –
I need to know why I’m so broken, so I can fix myself. One way or another. Maybe this place can help me do that, and then I can finally look forward to my future. Because I’m starting to realize there’s something worse than stepping up and facing your fears – and that’s living as if you’re already dead.
RoseBlood is a modern day spin on Leroux’s gothic tale, The Phantom of the Opera. In this YA retelling, Rune Germain is a girl with a peculiar operatic talent. In the most unexpected moments, Rune will burst into song if she hears music that speaks to her. And, unfortunately, this all consuming musical flair has also lead to some tragic events. Rune’s mother decides to enroll Rune at RoseBlood, an elite French arts conservatory that is the very opera house rumored to have ties to the original classic, in hopes that Rune will tame this musical blessing/curse. There she secretly befriends the masked Thorn, a mysterious violinist who lurks in the school’s shadows and helps guide her musical transformation but with a dark, ulterior motive. The two will uncover that they have an otherworldly, soul-deep connection, and Thorn is forced to make a deadly choice: lead Rune to her destruction, or face the wrath of the only father he’s known, the phantom who has haunted the opera house for a century.
This place isn’t just an opera house, it’s an opera: unrequited love, jealous rivals, eccentric personalities, stalkers, sabotage, and vandalism. And last but not least: mortals pitted against monsters.
I actually liked RoseBlood a lot, but my biggest problem was that I wasn’t able to come to this conclusion until I was well past the 70% mark. In other words, RoseBlood starts off as an extremely underwhelming, lackluster read and it doesn’t pick up until the last quarter of the book, which is really too late to salvage much of the readers’ interest.
I guess it’s fortunate that I am a fan of The Phantom of the Opera, the musical and film then. (I’ve never read the original book by Leroux though.) Because that was the only motivation I had to patiently pioneer and see this retelling through the end. But, like I said, there was plenty I did enjoy once I was able to get past the initial snail pacing and the other reservations I harbored.
“Guard your throats and hide your eyes. He’s not dead, you fools. Legends never die.”
This book was dark, creepy, grotesque, and very strange. And, to my surprise, many of the creative twists actually did work for me. As I read RoseBlood, I did indeed see why this was advertised as a The Phantom of the Opera inspired story, but it could have perhaps passed as an YA quasi sequel even. Of course, not as a sequel because it rivals the epicness of a classic but because it certainly gives off “Erik’s life after The Phantom of the Opera” vibes.
“Embrace your revulsion,” Father Erik’s resonant, masterful command had cradled Thorn in softness that day, quieting the buzz in his throbbing ear. “But never pity me. Never. For pity makes us both victims. Be true to your instinctive horror. Turn it outward and wield it.”
It was interesting how Howard managed to use Erik’s presence in the original story and history to mold him to the character he is with this book. The Phantom is still illustrated as a tormented genius that is blindly lovesick and obsessed.
As for the other characters, I found most of them to be totally bland; I didn’t feel much of anything towards them. (You know it’s bad when my favorite character is a cat that roams a haunted school. Diable is a cute furball though.) Rune isn’t a complex protagonist and her affliction towards her musical talent is solved rather quickly when Thorn comes into the picture.
“Today, you become someone new. From this moment on, you belong to the underworld, from which you were born. You are something monstrous, but beautiful. Something fierce, yet fragile. You are Thorn. The part of the rose that is unloved . . . that everyone fears for its ability to bring a soul to bleed. That was your gift, and shall now be your identity, to honor what was taken from you by vile and treacherous men. It is a falsity, that monsters are the instigators of all the evil in the world. Our kind is capable of acceptance and mercy where mankind is not. For we see beyond the surface, as we live beneath it.”
However, with Thorn, unlike Rune, I found his character intriguing. Or more specifically, his past fascinating. Getting to know Thorn and learning his backstory with his childhood and mother and then his relationship with the Phantom were probably my favorite parts of this novel. There’s a strain in Thorn and the Phantom’s father-son relationship, for sure, but I liked how that dynamic was explored.
The romance, however, took some convincing because there’s some weird instalove situation going on. In addition, I initially found Thorn’s infatuation with Rune uber creepy because he’s basically a random guy that is skulking in the shadows and keeping tabs on her. Alarms blaring “stalker” were going off in my head. But once I was on board (much, much later in the reading journey for particular reasons), I did find Rune and Thorn’s attraction to be quite romantic.
I also really liked that this was set in Paris, but like Romancing in the Dark in the City of Light the descriptions showcased the more grungier sides of the beautiful, romantic city.
But then there were also moments that I wasn’t so impressed by.
“I’m Sunflower Summers. But you can call me Sunny.”
I was especially annoyed by how the only supporting character I liked was portrayed. Of the side cast, I was the most fond of Sunny because she may have been the only one that had a personality. (And her name? Cool beans.) Her character isn’t layered either but she’s crazy and different. She also hails from the south which is where I’ve grown up all my life. What I didn’t like was that it didn’t end with her just having a southern drawl. Was it necessary that the dialogue included “ain’t”s? I don’t know this irked me more than it should but that’s so stereotypical. I’m from South Carolina (where pretty much the entire state loves sweet tea and pecan pie), but I, in truth, think I’ve made it a point in my life to never say “ain’t” and “y’all” and those around me don’t say these contractions (especially the former) at all really.
…I realized why I was enchanted by the spider’s feeding rituals, that there was something in my gypsy blood-something tainted and wrong… just as Grandma said.
I’m not sure if you guys noticed but something is very wrong here (with this quote). In Roseblood there are uses of a racial slur: gypsy. I don’t know why Howard didn’t just call them Romani? And, honestly, the fact that the term is used negatively and repetitively in the story was absolutely unnecessary.
Another jarring flaw I could not ignore was how extremely easy it was for readers to catch on to Erik’s secret and where the plot was heading. Hmm. Like, what paranormal creature stalks the night and feeds off of human energy? Oh and sleeps in coffins? That’s familiar. Even though I can see how this made things convenient for the author in terms of explaining why the Phantom is immortal… And as many of you know, it’s not that I don’t like books with vampires but I had hoped Howard would chose another and more imaginative solution to get around that that age loophole. It was just so obvious and, in turn, it made the plot very predictable.
To tie this review up, I’d say the positives of RoseBlood lied in the last quarter (where Thorn’s past is revealed, there is a bulk of music involved, and the otherworldly romance unfolds). I would give the creativity of recreating a beloved classic a 3/5 in execution because overall it was acceptable to me. (There were instances in which I did roll my eyes at though. Like a vampire rave? Really?) But aside from these elements, this was more disappointing than impressing. And it’s truly a bummer that RoseBlood couldn’t capture the readers’ interest sooner. Unless you’re a fan of The Phantom of the Opera, I would encourage you to give this a pass. There are few things this book has going for it beside its stunning cover.
Quotes were taken from an uncorrected advance readers copy.
Thank you Amulet Books and Netgalley for the opportunity to read and review RoseBlood. In no way did this affect my reading experience and honest review.