What: RoseBlood by A.G. Howard
Who: Amulet Books
When: January 10th 2017
How: A copy of this novel was provided by ABRAMS Kids for review via Net Galley.
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.
The Phantom of the Opera is my favourite musical ever. I’ve seen it so many times, and I’ve watched the movie more times than I could probably count. I love the story, I love the Phantom himself. I love everything about it. So when I heard that Howard was writing a retelling of this story I love so much I was so excited, as I loved her Splintered trilogy.
Alas, I didn’t end up loving RoseBlood one as much as I had hoped I would.
For one, RoseBlood is not a retelling. The Phantom is very much still alive. And there are references to the canon text and the people the people that inspired it, too. When I go into a book expecting a retelling and instead am reading an interpretive sequel I’m always disappointed. This hasn’t happened too many times, but I am never a fan of when it does. Especially since I was looking forward to a retelling of PotO so very much.
I understand that with every “retelling” the author brings their own elements, otherwise it would be boring and not to mention just straight up plagiarism of someone else’s story. But some of the elements that were brought into RoseBlood were just … weird. I guess what I’m about to say next is a spoiler, so just jump to the next paragraph if you don’t want to read ahead. As it turns out, Rune and the Phantom, and the Phantom’s adopted son are all psychic vampires. Yep – psychic vampires. Except the terms succubus and incubus are also used to describe them, incorrectly since succubi and incubi have sex with sleeping people rather than draining life force from auras as the psychic vampires in RoseBlood do. When I came across this part of the story I was just weirded out, to be honest. I didn’t even know what to make of it because it was so incredibly odd.
I really and honestly feel like RoseBlood needs trigger warnings on the back, or the first page or something. Because, around halfway through, it’s revealed that Thorn, the Phantom’s adopted son (which he treats like shit, fyi) was in a sex trafficking situation when he was about ten years old. I don’t know about anyone else, but I think if you’re going to put something that extremely heavy into a YA book for ages fourteen and up, there needs to be some kind of warning. On top of that, there is no exploration of Thorn’s feelings on the topic – it’s all very removed and it seems like that part of his life hasn’t even affected him at all.
Continuing on from this, the Phantom treats him absolutely terribly, and once again there was no exploration of this. He was hit by the Phantom when he was a child, and the Phantom continually emotionally abuses and manipulates him. Again, I’m not on board for introducing these themes to create a “broken, fragile, tortured” love interest and just leaving them at that. There needed to be so much more exploration of the effects these things can leave behind on the person that’s experienced them. Beyond just making them someone that the MC wants to fix with their love.
Rune, the MC, was pretty much your run of the mill special snowflake who hates the very things that makes her so special. I didn’t really feel much of anything towards her, especially since she was making outrageous decisions, being a terrible friend to people who randomly decided to care deeply about her after knowing her for a few weeks, and was completely selfish as far as I’m aware (the ‘I’m being terrible but for the benefit of my friend!!11!’ thing didn’t change this).
There is more that I could mention that made me not fall in love with this book – like the casual use of the word g*psy instead of just not being racist and using the word Romani, the way the Phantom turned into a horrible person (I know he was completely not perfect, but I didn’t like the portrayal of his character in this book), the lack of diversity beyond one half Asian side character and a bitchy girl who was very lightly inferred to be in love her female best friend, and the way it dragged on and on without anything happening.
Overall, I was really disappointed in RoseBlood, probably more so because I had been so very excited for it.
© 2017, Chiara @ Books for a Delicate Eternity. All rights reserved.
trigger warning: sex trafficking (of adults and children), animal cruelty, bullying, use of ableist language, death of a parent from cancer, abduction/hostage situation, emotional abuse and physical abuse from a parent, poverty, reference to murder, arson, use of racist language (the word g*psy), and stillbirth in this novel