Published by Harry N. Abrams on January 10th 2017
Genres: Fantasy, Young Adult Fiction
Goodreads Synopsis: 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.
As soon as I started reading A. G. Howard’s Roseblood, I had a vague sense of déjà vu. Déjà vu, not because of the obvious expected connection to the original Phantom of the Opera story upon which it is based, but more so because main character Rune Germain’s story starts to follow a predictable pattern that I seem to keep running into when I’m reading YA fantasy. You know the one – YA heroine has a magical ability that may be a gift or it may be a curse because she can’t really control it. She is sent away some place where she can be trained to better control the ability, meets a boy along the way, and so on. Rune’s gift (or curse as the case may be) is that she can’t hear opera without literally bursting into song wherever she is. She has an angelic, mesmerizing singing voice but truly has no control over this overwhelming draw to opera. Then as if spontaneously bursting into song isn’t embarrassing enough, she also typically faints once she has finished these little outbursts of song. Weird, right?
Anyway, so Rune’s mother has been searching high and low for a way to “cure” Rune of this problem and decides to send her to Roseblood, a school for the Arts in France that happens to be located in an old opera house rumored to have ties to The Phantom of the Opera. I was a little skeptical about the choice of a music school over something a little more medical or psychological in nature, but whatever, I decided to just roll with it and see what happened next since this obviously got her to this old opera house and closer to the Phantom roots of the story.
Where I was a little disappointed was that I didn’t feel like I really connected much with Rune for the longest time and part of that had to do with the pacing of the story. So much of the first half of the book was devoted to Rune getting settled in at her new school that I really started to get bored waiting for something more exciting to happen. Thankfully the second half of the novel moves along at a much faster clip.
I think the other reason for my initial lack of connection with Rune was my feeling that her musical gift, curse, whatever was just so odd. I didn’t really start to feel any connection to her at all until she finally meets the boy that I knew would eventually appear in the story, Etalon (or Thorn as he is called by his adopted father, The Phantom! Yes, you read that right. The Phantom has a son in this story.)
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Now, where Rune’s story didn’t really tug on my heartstrings, A. G. Howard got me hook, line, and sinker with Etalon. Etalon’s story is just so heartbreaking. Etalon was orphaned as a young child, sold to the gypsies by his neighbor, and ended up imprisoned and abused by men who were known to sell children to those who wanted them for sexual reasons. Like Rune, Etalon possessed an angelic singing voice, which annoyed his captors so much that they poured lye into his throat to permanently damage his vocal cords. He lives at the mercy of these men until the Phantom finds and frees him, killing his captors and setting all of the other children free. The Phantom takes Etalon in and they live together as father and son, underground and in the shadows of Roseblood.
Etalon lives most of his life feeling indebted to his “father,” which leads to the biggest conflict in the story. The Phantom is desperate to be reunited with his lost love, Christine, and has actually come up with a pretty shocking way to make this happen. I can’t go into any details, but what he has come up with is truly O.M.G. The one catch though is that the Phantom needs Rune and her voice to make it happen. He charges Etalon with the task of getting close to Rune by convincing her that he can help her control her compulsive need to sign. Then he is to gradually gain her trust so as to eventually lead her to the Phantom so that he can use her to achieve his goal. As he gets closer to Rune, however, he realizes that they share a connection that he has never felt before, that she is his soul mate. This puts him in the impossible position of having to choose between the only father he has ever known and the girl that he loves. For me, Etalon’s internal conflict was what really made the story. I think I might have given up on the book if I had not found his story so compelling.
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In spite of my disappointment with the pacing and with the somewhat predictable storyline of Rune, there were still some things that I really liked about Roseblood.
Howard does an incredible job of conveying the creepy Gothic atmosphere that you would expect to find in a story about the Phantom of the Opera. I also liked that Howard stayed pretty true to the original Phantom story, actually using many of the details as a backstory for Roseblood, which seemed more like a sequel to the original Phantom story set in modern times, with the Phantom alive and well in 21st century France. I won’t get into how exactly that is even possible because that would probably be the biggest spoiler of the entire story, but it adds quite a twist and breaks up that predictable pattern that Rune’s story had started down.
I also really liked the chemistry between Rune and Etalon. Their chemistry is undeniable – the intense bond they share actually reminds me a lot of Feyre and Rhysand in A Court of Mist and Fury – and even though I’m not typically big into romance, I was all about hoping that somehow things would work out and these two would end up together.
I went into Roseblood expecting to absolutely love it because The Phantom of the Opera is such an incredible story. I don’t know if my expectations were just too high, but I have to say I came away a little disappointed. Don’t get me wrong – it’s a good solid read that I would still recommend to fans of the original story, but it just didn’t blow me away as much as I thought it would.