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.
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.
Thanks so much Abrams for a review copy!
Being a fan of The Phantom of the Opera and knowing Lloyd’s works for the broadway play on piano, I was super enthusiastic on picking this book up. Yet probably because of all the hype building around this book when the blurb first came out, combined with the author’s popularity with her previous book series, I was a bit wary. Quite honestly though, this book surprised me in the best of ways. I ended up falling in love with it – from the descriptive writing to the haunting setting to the extraordinary characters and their passion of music, all of which touched my heart. Roseblood is a superbly written tribute to The Phantom of the Opera that fans will no doubt be delighted to read. I know this fan was.
We begin with the main character Rune’s arrival from Texas to Paris to RoseBlood Academy, which bears a strange connection to the opera house in The Phantom of the Opera. Rune knows this, and even tells her mother about her misapprehensions. But a scary event that happened to her in the states had made her stuck in this haunting building that may or may not have entities lingering in it underground. The only problem is that RoseBlood is a music conservatory for students with musical abilities. Rune’s singing is so glorious, so ethereal that she can’t control it, and in the first chapters of the book we see her let go of it, ruining a play audition in her very first day at the academy and experiencing the toxic consequences of letting herself go like that.
“Up until recently, I’d never had a voice lesson in my life. Yet, ever since I was small, opera had been a living, breathing part of me. The problem is that as I’ve grown, it’s become more demanding… an entity that controls me. Once a song speaks to my conscious, the notes become a toxin I have to release through my diaphragm, my vocal chords, my tongue. The only way I can breathe again is through a binge and purge of music.”
This poses a problem, as well as the fact that she ruined the play auditions. That still doesn’t faze her new friends though, and soon enough she becomes a part of a friend circle who seem normal enough – that is, they don’t notice the signs of someone watching them. While we are getting this narration from Rune’s first person POV, we also read from a third person limited POV of the mysterious Thorn, who is for some reason watching over Rune. Who for some reason is torn between his attraction to her and the duty he has towards his father.
Thorn was such a mysterious figure in the beginning of the story, but readers slowly get to know and emphasize about his past. He is a violinist and ex-singer, with his voice being ruined after an incident when he was younger. One of the biggest things that really stayed with me after reading this book was Howard’s description of music, and the passion the characters have for it. They are lush, enchanting, and her lyrical writing just creates a gorgeous melody without the embellishment of notes on a staff. I had to stop reading twice to just catch all the feelings in me – just because the way Howard writes about music just captured my soul at times. Not only is this book a memorable retelling of The Phantom of the Opera, but a tribute to the opera – and music – in general.
“My plain floral dress transforms into a red opera gown, flowing and lush. He latches his fingers to mine and draws my chest against his, my cheek nestled between his sternum and collarbone. His free hand skims to my lower back, and we fold into one another like rose petals, so close we move as one. We dance. The violin becomes his voice, serenading me as I serenade him back.”
You can really tell that the author spent a lot of research on The Phantom of the Opera and is passionate about the subject herself. The story she weaves just fits, and the way she incorporates all the elements of the phantom into it is just perfect. There’s a surprising amount of supernatural stepping into the story, and I loved every aspect of it. It’s a mix of fiction and reality, myth and truth – a mix that also gives a satisfying conclusion that stayed with me even after reading the end.
The characters were all so three-dimensional, diverse, and real. Whether it’s the gifted yet cursed main character, her new eclectic circle of friends, or the mysterious “phantom” that haunts the school, everyone was written with such authentic voice. The antagonist is as empathetic as he is underhanded, and readers will definitely appreciate what Howard has done to his character. There’s never a boring moment in the story, yet the plot slowly unfurls like an exploration you never want to stop discovering.
Maybe a complaint people will have is the “insta-attraction” that goes on in the book. That is not necessarily true, as readers will find out that the attraction between the love interest and Rune stem way beyond their first physical meeting. It may be cheesy at times (although let’s be real, having the concept of soulmates is never easy to pull off without some cheese), but wholeheartedly passionate and romantic. Despite the lack of proximity of the couple during the majority of the book, their interactions still left me fanning myself and the burning chemistry is palpable. It’s a romance where the characters understand each other, help each other out, while still respecting each other to give the other space. It’s a romance that left my heart pounding in accented, staccato beats.
“All those night we climbed the stars and rearranged the planets with our songs, we were complete and invincible when we stood together.”
Music, magic, and a spellbinding romance makes Roseblood a scintillating read that I can’t wait to get ahold of in physical form. Howard writes an enchanting tale with gorgeous prose and such passion – from both author and characters – that readers will never get enough of. Fans of The Phantom of the Opera must grab a copy of this YA retelling (or is it really a retelling?). Words can’t describe how much I adore every aspect of this story, and the brilliant and heart-wrenching feelings it left me as I read the last page, and ever after closing the book. Roseblood is romantic, daring, and passionate – features that captivates an audience as much as a stellar singer does in her solo.
Edit after writing review: Although I thoroughly enjoyed this book, Emily from Emily Reads Everything brought me to attention the fact that Rune employs the word “gypsy” in this book multiple times. I do understand that the original Phantom of the Opera story uses the word to describe Erik’s past, but it’s also important to note that it has very negative connotations for the Romani people. I do hope people who are more knowledgeable on this subject can address it, since I can’t speak for them, but research has shown me that generally it’s seen as a derogatory term which I think should be mentioned, and it has definitely changed my thoughts on the book a bit. Here are some articles explaining Why ‘Gypsy’ Is A Racial Slur, how it came from the word “gypped”, and why the word gypped hurts the Roma. While I did love this book, I also can’t ignore this choice of word used and how it may affect future readers.