Thank you to Amulet Books and NetGalley for providing me with an eARC in exchange for an honest review. All quotes are from the ARC and subject to change.
Author: A.G. Howard
Publisher: Amulet Books
Genre: YA, Fantasy, Retelling, Romance
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.
“Gaurd your throats and hide your eyes. He’s not dead, you fools. Legends never die.”
You know when a book is so good that you’re left speechless? When you can’t even form a coherent thought to write your review because of it? That is me right now because of RoseBlood. I absolutely adored this book. It was everything I could have hoped for from a Phantom of the Opera retelling. I had high expectations going into this because of the fact that I’m a huge fan of the original story. It was different than I expected but a good different. Instead of being a straightforward retelling it was more of a modern day continuation. Yes, a continuation, which means we do see the infamous Phantom (i.e. Erik) from Gaston Leroux’s original tale make quite the appearance. I won’t even begin to explain how that’s possible or why because it would give away a major part of the story. However, it’s incredibly unique and introduces something that I knew of but have never encountered in a fantasy novel before. Despite the inclusion of an iconic character who does play a key role in the book, RoseBlood is very much centered on Rune and Thorn’s story and how their lives are connected not only to each other’s but to Erik’s past as well.
In RoseBlood, A.G. Howard weaves together the tale of Rune who has been sent away to a French music school by her mother in the hopes that it will cure the “stage fright” she believes that Rune has. In truth, Rune has a problem that her mother doesn’t believe in – certain pieces of music seem to possess her to the point of her uncontrollably breaking out in song after which she is always left very sick. On their way to her new school this nearly happens and you can tell straight away why Rune would dread going to a school where she’ll be surrounded by opera music. There’s another catch, the building in which her school is located is rumored to be where the Phantom story first originated. Rune has taken a slight interest in Gaston Leroux’s The Phantom of the Opera and the fact that the opera house in his haunting tale resembles her new school makes her a little paranoid. Not to mention the fact that once they pull up to her new school Rune sees a familiar figure cloaked in a cape near the school’s rose bushes. He seemingly disappears, leaving dead roses in his wake. The figure, who Rune assumes is the Phantom, is actually Thorn, who lives with the Phantom and considers him a father. Rune and Thorn, who have never met, both find each other oddly familiar. Why is that? Why does Rune’s talent make her sick? What does the Phantom have to do with all of this? You’ll have to read to find out.
“This place isn’t just an opera house, it’s an opera: unrequited love, jealous rivals, eccentric personalities, stalkers, sabotage, and vandalism. And last but not least: mortals pitted against monsters.”
Rune and Thorn were both such brilliant characters who developed so beautifully throughout the story. I was blown away by the development that occurred character wise because standalones tend to lack in the character development department. That wasn’t the case here at all. Rune, in particular, is a character I feel is a rarity among female fantasy protagonist because of the fact that while she has a gift it isn’t one that she masters overnight. It takes her time and practice to gain control over it. And Thorn, I adored him. Despite everything he’s been through in his life he has somehow retained so much goodness and a very forgiving heart. I feel like I can’t go into too much detail about either of them because everything I want to say would give something important to the story away. However, they are both characters I won’t be forgetting anytime soon.
As for the romance, I was worried going into this that there would be a love triangle because of the fact that the original story has one. However, I had no reason to worry because A.G. Howard spun a unique and swoon-worthy romance without a love triangle. It was a slow build and I enjoyed every single second of it.
“All those nights we climbed the stars and rearranged the planets with our songs, we were complete and invincible when we stood together.”
Also, there were several secondary characters. Rune has a group of friends at her new school who all play small roles. I don’t feel like there was a lot of development with them but I attribute that to the fact that this story was definitely more plot driven while being centric on the main characters. Although, there was an interesting little character in the form of a cat named Diable. His abilities include unlocking doors with his claws and being cranky and I loved it.
Much like Phantom, RoseBlood is hauntingly beautiful and very atmospheric with just a smidge of darkness. I’m honestly in awe over A.G. Howard’s world building. From the gothic structure of the school to the Phantom’s lair to the secret places within the school grounds, everything was painted so vividly. I was completely swept away by the world she created and the atmospheric qualities in itself were so reminiscent of the original tale that all I wanted to do was listen to The Point Of No Return while reading.
“Fall flowers burst up from the graves of dead summer blooms, reluctant to shed their costumes of purples, oranges, golds, and blues, in spite of how garish they are against the withering landscape.”
Everything I loved about this book aside, I have to admit that it might not be for everyone. I have a feeling that RoseBlood is going to be a book that readers either really love or really don’t. The pacing was beyond slow and in a way that is a lot like the original tale, I feel. A little over half way through the book the pacing starts picking up though and doesn’t slow down. It’s getting to that point past all of the world building, backstory, revelations, plot twists, and overall initial introduction that is going to be tough for some readers. I thoroughly enjoyed most of it simply because I love the original story and was so immersed into A.G. Howard’s writing and characters that I wanted as much as I could get. However, some could struggle with the pacing.
Overall, RoseBlood was an insightful, unique, surprising, plot twist filled, and breathtaking retelling of an iconic classic. It was a book that I didn’t even know I needed and if anyone was going to retell one of my favorite stories I’m very glad it was A.G. Howard because she did it so wonderfully. This is the first book I’ve ever read by her but let me tell you I will officially be reading everything else she’s written and anything she writes in the future.
If you love The Phantom of the Opera as much as I do, then I highly recommend this book.
Have you read RoseBlood? Do you plan to once it’s released? Do you love The Phantom of the Opera?