I received RoseBlood, by A.G. Howard, right at the start of the year in a subscription box. The book is a retelling of The Phantom of the Opera, which was a unique choice in my opinion. I often see traditional fairytales, like those we see in Disney princess films, so I was intrigued to read RoseBlood. I don’t really know Gaston Leroux’s original story, having never read the book or seen the musical. Despite this, I was excited to read the book and it certainly delivered. I really couldn’t put it down!
Warning: there will be lots of spoilers in this review. Even if you know the original story, please read with caution.
Even opening this book has a luscious, yet sinister, feel. My hardback copy is printed completely in red and has gorgeous vine illustrations at the top of each new chapter. I wouldn’t normally mention the design of the book but this really fits in with the style of the novel and adds to the overall reading experience (although red isn’t as easy to see in darker rooms). RoseBlood follows Rune, who has a natural talent for opera, when she’s offered a scholarship to the prestigious RoseBlood music conservatoire in Paris, where rumours spark about the Phantom’s origins and the real life events that could have inspired Leroux’s novel. This was a new take on retellings from what I’ve previously read as it did not purely retell The Phantom of the Opera, but instead created a world where the original tale also existed. As the novel started off I found it slightly confusing as Rune often referenced the Phantom story, which I didn’t know. However, this wasn’t a huge problem because the plot was intriguing and everything did fall in to place so I didn’t struggle for too long.The school setting made RoseBlood work for me. Alongside Rune’s personal journey to release her song curse, I was immersed into her school life and all the usual worries that come with making friends and enemies in a new place. As someone who loves performing, the musical aspects to the book helped me to relate to the characters. Howard didn’t waste any time in setting up the secrets of Rune’s family history (which were all a shock to me, but probably not if you know the Phantom story). As the protagonist didn’t know these either, I felt like I was on her journey of discovery as I turned the pages. I loved the supernatural elements of the plot, from the gothic architecture to powers and rituals. These all added to the clues which revealed Rune’s purpose in life. The novel became a sort of coming of age mystery, which I really loved.
We all know I’m not really a fan of love stories, but the relationship between Rune and Thorn worked in the context of the novel. Surprisingly, I really enjoyed reading it and was often left smiling. As RoseBlood does not revolve around the romance, it became one aspect of a good story, intertwining through the plot. This wasn’t your typical cutesy teen romance, where they worry about if their first kiss will go to plan. The romance was a lot more than physical as fate came into play. There were some gorgeous, sensual moments that were so pleasing to read. I fell completely in love with Howard’s writing style and her ability to portray a sense of belonging within another.
I liked how the story in RoseBlood carried on from The Phantom of the Opera, taking it as reality and extending it. This brought us the wonderfully mysterious Thorn, who was an endearing character that I grew to love lots, and of course the Phantom himself. With many mystical characters with an assortment of powers and skills all fighting for different outcomes, the plot was rich with lots of layers. You never really knew who was telling the truth until the novel reached its climactic ending. I loved how it built by revealing small pieces of information relating to the retelling and the original, which was exciting and thrilling in many places, building to this crescendo at the end. I never anticipated the plot twist involving the cryogenic chamber which had me on the edge of my seat. I thought this was a great extension of the original story and was used well within the novel to drive the plot without the reader being none the wiser until the end. The ending itself was so satisfying, summing up the story perfectly and providing so much hope and eternal love.
So as you can probably tell from the length of this gushing review, I really loved RoseBlood. At first I wasn’t sure how I would feel, especially about a partial retelling, but I couldn’t put this book down. The story was very intriguing and the slow drip of clues kept my attention. I also loved feeling like I was learning alongside the protagonist. Rune and Thorn were loveable characters and the Phantom was the perfect villain, with a rounded background and a human side. I’d recommend this to everyone looking for a good read and can’t wait to read more of A.G. Howard’s books.
Do you have any book suggestions for my TBR pile? Will you be reading RoseBlood or have you already? What did you think?