Roseblood by A G Howard
Roseblood is a story that breathes new life into the gothic tale of the Phantom of the Opera. This isn’t a re-imagining as such, more a new tale with a different spin on things that resurrects the Phantom and shines on him an altogether new light. I wouldn’t say that I loved this quite as much as I hoped but it did hold my attention and I must concede that I went into this with impossibly high expectations!
The story revolves around the main character of Rune Germain. At the start of the story Rune is being enrolled at a private arts school, run out of an old Opera House in France. As we accompany Rune and her mother on the drive to her new school we pretty quickly discover that things are far from rosy in Rune’s life. Rune is both gifted and afflicted with an amazing operatic ability. Her singing is practically hypnotic and could charm the birds from the trees, however, her need to sing controls her and not only does singing leave her mentally and physically drained of energy but she is unable to stop herself from bursting into song, usually at the most unwanted and inappropriate times. On top of this, Rune’s past is also a little bit dramatic. She’s still grieving over the death of her father, her grandmother tried to drown her and is now imprisoned and her former boyfriend lies in a coma and nobody seems any the wiser as to how he came to be in that condition. Rune really does need a fresh start and maybe a school that showcases her talent could be the very thing. On the other hand, a school with deep connections to the Phantom and a highly competitive environment of students all aiming to be the best, where Rune’s spontaneous singing could be taken the wrong way, might not be quite as good an idea as it might originally appear. On top of that, a mysterious character who seems to be able to appear and disappear unseen by any others seems to be stalking Rune and taking an interest in her musical ability.
So, to my ‘likes’ and ‘dislikes’.
I think the author has come up with a very creative story in respect of the Phantom lending him a supernatural aspect that really does work well and that element of the story coupled with the creepy opera setting with its overgrown gardens and subterranean rivers really were well done I thought. However, to be contrary, this is also one of the aspects that gave me niggles – I wanted more. More gothic. More Phantom. More fear of what was really happening in the hidden depths and secret passages. I admit that the Phantom was well written in that I veered from thinking of him as a monster in one moment to actually having sympathy for him in the next but what I also wanted was to feel his sorrow and his madness and this didn’t come across well for me. Thorn, on the other hand I thought was really quite well done. Thorn is a new addition to the story, he thinks of the Phantom as his father and undertakes his bidding, however, he starts to feel conflicted about his actions as his feelings for Rune begin to develop. Thorn has a good backstory that made intriguing reading. I could understand why he felt so tormented between his wish to please his father and his desire to protect Rune and he makes a suitably handsome yet brooding male. He definitely has something of a ‘presence’ and in fact I think he could have usefully taken over a little more page time with no problem whatsoever.
In terms of Rune and the friends she meets at school. Well, I liked the group of friends that Rune makes but I didn’t feel I spent enough time with them to really like them which made it difficult to care about some of Rune’s actions and the impact it had on them all. Rune. Well, I didn’t dislike her but conversely I didn’t love her either. I liked that she showed some strength of character, not to mention stubbornness, refusing to be cowed or scared but I was left feeling overall that she was lacking a little something and I didn’t totally buy into her feelings for Thorn.
As I said above, I think the concept here is very imaginative. The writing is easy to get along with although maybe a bit sugary in parts, and definitely overflowing with clichés. I like clichés though – I confess it! Boarding schools. Brooding love affairs. Teenagers who turn out to be the absolute ‘best ever’ at whatever particular talent or magic they’ve just discovered they have. I can live with these sort of clichés. I think though, that in spite of some very creative thinking going on in Roseblood there is also an overabundance of ideas and some of it does make you do a double take. I don’t want to give away spoilers so it’s difficult to elaborate but there was just so much to take in that the plot ended up feeling a little cluttered. Secret clubs, hidden passages, soul mates, familiars, Halloween parties, deadly traps and although a number of these ideas did help to explain certain elements of the story I think it might have been better if the story had been stripped down a little and got back to the main principles. As it is there were certain points where rather than simply enjoying the story I was instead left puzzled about how all these elements would eventually come together, if at all.
On the whole, I enjoyed Roseblood. I think it maybe loses an opportunity to be a much darker and gothic feeling read but I imagine that the character Thorn and the romance between him and Rune will definitely appeal to a wider (and maybe) younger audience.