I’m a huge fan of The Phantom of the Opera. It was the first musical my parents ever took me to see when I was six years old and it’s been something I’ve bonded over with them ever since (especially my dad, who listens to the soundtrack with me at least once a year). I also read the book several years ago, so of course the cover of this book by A. G. Howard caught my eye when I happened past the YA section of my local library a few months ago.
The cover claims it’s a re-telling of TPOTO, but it’s more of a sequel. It takes place in modern day and focuses on a girl named Rune who has a spectacular soprano voice, but she can’t control it. Sometimes, when she hears an operatic aria, the song kind of embeds itself in her and she becomes obsessed with it until she finally gives in and sings it all the way through, but that leaves her so exhausted she usually collapses when she’s done. Despite her determination to avoid this mysterious power of song, Rune’s mother enrolls her in a music school (RoseBlood) in the French countryside.
Rune bears a number of similarities to Christine Daaé. In addition to the miraculous voice, she has a dead father who used to play his violin for her and helped train her voice before he died and she bears a striking resemblance to Christine, at least as she appears in the Broadway musical (green eyes and long, curly brown hair). After her father’s death, his violin mysteriously disappeared, but Rune also started having dreams in which her father would play his violin with her and and she would sing with him.
Rune is also familiar with the story of TPOTO. She’s read the book and even done some research into the origins it shares with this new school she’ll be attending. Apparently the school used to be an opera house for a wealthy French aristocrat until the top three floors were damaged in a mysterious fire in the 1800s. The opera house that is now RoseBlood was also apparently the inspiration for the setting of Leroux’s novel.
So it doesn’t take much for Rune to start seeing shadows behind the mirrors that are everywhere in her new school. She does make friends quickly (although she gets a room to herself, which I don’t believe, but whatever). The top three floors are still off limits as a result of the extensive damage done by the mysterious fire all those years ago. Once at RoseBlood, Rune’s dreams of singing and being accompanied by her father’s violin start up again, but she’s not the only one.
Turns out the phantom (Erik) got a little lonely and adopted a small boy about Rune’s age. His name is Thorn and he used to have a miraculous singing voice as well, but it was destroyed by human traffickers. He has been working for his adoptive father ever since, learning from him and doing his work for/with him. A few years ago, Erik gave him an exquisite violin with the initials “O.G.” carved into it. When the violin belonged to her father, Rune was told they were the initials of an ancestor (Octavius Germaine), but anyone familiar with the play would know exactly what they really stood for: Opera Ghost.
Thorn and Erik genuinely love each other because, much like in the original, Erik is not a total sociopath, he’s just lonely. But the book does not downplay the fact that he is also a crazy mofo who will stop at nothing to get what he wants and is always three steps ahead of his opponents (and team members). He is sad and terrifying at the same time and I thought it was expertly done.
So Erik is a few centuries old at this point because he’s a kind of a vampire who can suck the life force out of people and absorb the rest of the years they were supposed to live. The same is true of Thorn and Rune, although Rune doesn’t know this until after she meets Thorn. Unlike Erik, Rune and Thorn are not willing to kill people to get what they need to live – they take just what the need to keep going, leaving their victims alive, but without any memory of what just happened.
Rune and Thorn fall in love, but Erik has his own plans and is understandably upset when his adopted son betrays him (but he is prepared for it, because, ya know, he’s The Phantom). The book switches POV between Rune and Thorn and my one complaint was that we never saw exactly how Thorn convinced Erik to let him go and be with Rune. It’s a pivotal part of the story and I think it (and Erik) warranted direct attention.
Actually, I have one more small complaint: Rune supposedly arrives at RoseBlood mid-September and spots Thorn tending to the roses in the garden. Roses don’t bloom in the autumn. They’re a spring plant. In a greenhouse, maybe. Outside, nope.
Other than that this book was a super fun, exciting read that I would definitely recommend to any fans of the original book/play/movie.
What did you guys read this week? Any other fun adaptations?