Author: A. G. Howard
Publisher: Amulet (Abrams)
Release date: 2017
(Finished copy sent courtesy of Abrams Press)
ROSEBLOOD is a thrilling tale that stems from the original Phantom of the Opera novel, and which highlights the musical relationship between Christine Daae and the infamous Opera Ghost in a modern setting that appeals to younger audiences. Weaving in ancient lore and real-world elements, ROSEBLOOD is a must-read for fans who want to read more about the Phantom and what happens after the fire at the Opera Populaire.
Short summary taken from Amazon:
Rune, whose voice has been compared to that of an angel, has a mysterious affliction linked to her talent that leaves her sick and drained at the end of every performance. Convinced creative direction will cure her, her mother ships her off to a French boarding school for the arts, rumored to have a haunted past.
Shortly after arriving at RoseBlood conservatory, Rune starts to believe something otherworldly is indeed afoot. The mystery boy she’s seen frequenting the graveyard beside the opera house doesn’t have any classes at the school, and vanishes almost as quickly as he appears. When Rune begins to develop a secret friendship with the elusive Thorn, who dresses in clothing straight out of the 19th century, she realizes that in his presence she feels cured. Thorn may be falling for Rune, but the phantom haunting RoseBlood wants her for a very specific and dangerous purpose. As their love continues to grow, Thorn is faced with an impossible choice: lead Rune to her destruction, or save her and face the wrath of the phantom, the only father he’s ever known.
A. G. Howard brings the romantic storytelling that Splintered fans adore to France—and an entirely new world filled with lavish romance and intrigue—in a retelling inspired by a story that has captivated generations. Fans of both the Phantom of the Opera musical and novel, as well as YA retellings such as Marissa Meyer’s Cinder, will devour RoseBlood.
I’ve written a spoiler-free review for ROSEBLOOD, but there are spoilers ahead from the original Phantom of the Opera novel by Gaston Leroux.
I was quite intrigued when I saw that A. G. Howard – a favorite author of mine because of her Alice in Wonderland retelling – had written a young adult novel that centered around the Phantom of the Opera, but set in modern-day. Of course, knowing my deep love for anything Phantom-related, I had to read her book. Rune is the heroine of the story, and she is blessed (or cursed, depending on how you look at it) with the gift of song. She is sent to study at a French boarding school that was designed based on the original Opera Populaire (the famous opera house at the center of the original Phantom story). Already I was intrigued, because I was interested to see how the author would tie in the Phantom since it had been hundreds of years since the original story.
Something very interesting is the fact that the author made the Phantom an older man, and had the story focus on his adopted son Thorn. While the Phantom plays a large part in ROSEBLOOD, it is Thorn that steals the show and the attention of Rune. Without revealing too much of the plot, the Phantom is trying to lure Rune to him so he can attempt to steal her voice back – she is a, for lack of a better word, a “descendant” of the original Christine Daae. [revealing who/what she is would be a spoiler, so I will keep that secret for now]. We find out in the story that the Phantom and Christine had a child, but it is not Rune. The Phantom adopted Thorn many years ago, and this is where the author introduces an aspect of the Phantom of the Opera that I had never thought of before: he is a vampire. The reason he has lived so long and never died (and eventually outlived Christine) was that he was basically immortal. A. G. Howard’s unique interpretation of the Phantom as a vampire did open up a new world of thinking for me, and I am definitely looking at the overall story differently now.
While the main plot was interesting and a nice homage to the original Phantom story (the Phantom trying to lure Christine to join him so he can “cultivate” her musical talents), the twist that A. G. Howard added made my head spin a little bit. Like I said, I am not spoiling anything, but in ROSEBLOOD, the Phantom wants Rune for a very unique reason – and it is not at all romance-related. The romance falls into Thorn’s hands – and, while reading, I could not help but wonder if Rune liked Thorn solely because of her obsession with the Phantom of the Opera story. I did feel that their romance, while beautifully written and described, was forced at times. And now comes the confusing part. I had heard of the terms “incubus” and “succubus” before, knowing that they existed in dark demonic mythology, so I had never really had an interest in reading about that aspect of mythology. If you aren’t sure what they are, look them up for yourself…their origin stories are a tad bit gruesome. So, when the author introduced the idea that Thorn was an incubus and Rune his succubus, it kind of creeped me out a little. Besides the fact that this addition to the story felt rather forced, the original origins of those creatures aren’t very nice, and made me look at Thorn and Rune’s relationship in a totally different way. I wasn’t really a fan of this aspect of the book, and felt that the underlying meaning behind incubi and succubi as a whole is not altogether age-appropriate for young adult readers (i.e. young adult readers who are actually in the age-range specified by whoever specifies the age ranges for book genres – I am sure some older young adult readers would be fine with this content). Even though I am over the age range specified for young adult books, I still felt that this addition was unnecessary and detracted from the overall story. Still, I have to give the author credit for thinking of a way to connect this “new generation” Christine and Phantom romantically, besides the obvious fact that they are the new Christine and Phantom.
The relationship that Thorn has with his foster father, the Phantom, is actually a rather sweet one. At first, their relationship is rocky, but as the book progresses, they grow to love and care for each other more. I loved this part of the book, because the original Phantom of the Opera novel’s ending doesn’t really redeem the Phantom or make him seem very human. The fact that A. G. Howard made the Phantom a father-figure was a great twist that gave him some redeeming moments.
So, Rune is in a boarding school in the French countryside, and obviously there are more students her age there. She makes a funny friend from the States called Sunny, but other than Sunny’s Southern uniqueness, I was rather disappointed in the other students at the school. They were all stereotypical high-school students (the handsome hunk, bratty blonde, conniving girls, the misfit loners), and I felt like so much more could have been done with them to make them unique and realistic. While they play a role in the book at the start, they are kind of cast off to the side as Rune’s relationship/obsession with Thorn and the Phantom start to progress.
If you can’t already tell, I have a dislike/love relationship with ROSEBLOOD. While I think this is one of the most entertaining Phantom retellings that I’ve read, I felt like the overall plot was too similar to the original, added unnecessary content, and was a little overwhelming at times. At the same time, though, I read it all in one sitting. So, I was very intrigued by it and I did enjoy a lot of aspects about it. That being said, the ending was a plot-twist that I was not expecting and the writing style was lyrical and easy to read. The descriptions were gorgeous, and the way that A. G. Howard described music and opera makes me think she’s had some sort of experience with it. I can clearly read her love of music – specifically the Phantom of the Opera music from the Broadway show. The whole book was very reminiscent of the Phantom of the Opera movie starring Gerard Butler and Emmy Rossum, and I loved that aspect of Roseblood. The writing was beautiful and lyrical just like the play, and it flowed very well. If you are I hopeless romantic like I, you’ll highly enjoy The old-world French costumes, architecture, mannerisms, and references.
All-in-all, I did enjoy ROSEBLOOD and was entertained by it! I do not think of my review as negative, because I liked a lot of the aspects of the book. This review simply and concisely states my likes and dislikes about the book in what I hope has been a professional and diplomatic manner, and is my truly honest opinion. Like I mentioned above, if you’re a huge Phantom fan like me, you’ll enjoy this unique retelling! I do always recommend reading a book for yourself so you can form your own opinions; so, if you decide to read ROSEBLOOD, make sure to let me know what you think of it.
ROSEBLOOD receives 3.9 stars out of 5.
(All opinions and views are my own, and I always review honestly while trying to be kind and diplomatic. I support and appreciate the efforts of the authors whose books I review, and I highly recommend reading a book for yourself to form your own opinions of it. Thank you for reading my review!)