Phantom of the Opera retellings are pretty rare, but they’re ripe for the YA picking. A young woman with two male love interests, one of whom abuses her to get what he wants? It’s Twilight all over again. A.G. Howard‘s Phantom of the Opera retelling, RoseBlood, attempts to subvert the problems of Gaston Leroux’s 1910 novel, but is unfortunately sunk by other issues before the love story kicks off.
Note: I received an uncorrected proof from the publisher in exchange for this review. Any and all quoted passages may have changed in the final novel.
RoseBlood opens with its teenage protagonist, Rune, on her way to the titular Parisian school for musically gifted youth from the U.S. When Rune was very young, her father discovered that she had perfect pitch and the ability to sing any song, no matter how difficult, without having heard it before. Rune frequently cites her ability as part of her Romani heritage, but uses a common slur to refer to her ancestors — just one of the problems Howard’s lily-white book has.
Early in her tenure at RoseBlood, Rune meets Sunny Summers, a Texan student who speaks exclusively in over-the-top Southernisms. Sunny assures Rune that her oil baron uncle insisted that she be “taught proper grammar before he’d pay for [her] tuition,” as if public schools in Texas are incapable of — or unwilling to — teach Standard American English to their students. Sunny can’t say 10 words without proclaiming that something is “feral as a fox” or “creepy as a field of devil’s tongues.” The effect is similar to having an ultra-talkative Elly May Clampett tramping around Paris, and her presence is nothing less than cloying.
The problems with RoseBlood‘s dialogue are one thing, but Howard’s demands on the reader’s suspension of disbelief are quite another. A Parisian music school that only admits U.S. teens? A girl with the power to — for lack of better phrasing — know music? A brochure that uses the number of keys a building once had to advertise it? These items are more than a little jarring, and their combined effect left this reader’s connection to RoseBlood tenuous, at best. Ultimately, a single exchange between Sunny and Rune proved too much for me, and soured the entire novel. RoseBlood crumbles, not under the pressures of its premise, but its seemingly rushed execution.
My rating: 3 of 5 stars
Read my reviews and follow me on Goodreads!
Image credit: Tim Green