First Lines: At home, I have a poster on my wall of a rose that’s bleeding. Its petals are white, and red liquid oozes from its heart, thick and glistening warm. Only, if you look very close, you can see the droplets are coming from above, where a little girl’s wrist–camouflaged by a cluster of leaves–has been pricked by thorns as she reached inside to catch a monarch.

I’ve been putting this book off for a while, for a couple reasons, I guess. While I like A.G. Howard’s work (Splintered), she can be a little bit…much. Also, this book has a 3.37 rating on Goodreads, which worried me that it might not be that great.

Rune Germaine has the voice of an angel–but every time she finishes a performance, she feels sick and drained. Convinced that it’s just stage fright and proper direction will help, her mother sends her off to a French boarding school for the arts, rumored to have a connection with the Gaston Leroux and The Phantom of the Opera. Shortly after arriving at RoseBlood conservatory, Rune starts to think maybe something otherworldly is happening here. There’s a mysterious boy in the graveyard who disappears as quickly as he appears. But as Rune starts to form a friendship with the boy, Thorn, who wears 19th century clothing as well, she finds that she’s cured when she’s near him. And Thorn may be falling for the girl with a voice from heaven, but he’s got to manage the real phantom…who will force Thorn to make the toughest decision of his life: lead Rune to her destruction or face the wrath of the phantom, a man who is the only father he’s ever know–and a very dangerous enemy.

A.G. Howard has gained a reputation of being able to twist a well-known story into something new and fresh while still retaining the essence we love so much.

She really wasn’t off the mark with this one.

I rather enjoy the musical, which is most of my understanding of the Phantom of the Opera story, though I have read the book before. I’m just far more familiar with the musical. And it was nice to see those little bits and pieces I recognized crop up in this story.

Here, we are introduced to Rune, a young girl with the voice of an angel–and singing she can’t control. When she sings, it makes her sick. But she physically can’t stop herself from singing an aria if it gets into her head. She doesn’t even have to know the song–she’ll be able to sing it flawlessly. She’s starting to hate her gift, even though everyone else loves it. Rune starts off the story somewhat beat-down and lost, fearful that this new start at a French music school is going to be just as disastrous as life in Texas. As the story continues on, it was really cool to see her change.

But I won’t lie, the mysterious Thorn was really more to my taste. When he narrated the story, I felt like the story moved so much faster and was so much more interesting. He has a dark past, secrets, and a simple hope for a better future that he’s not sure exists for him. He was actually really sweet and I kind of love him.

It’s hard to miss that some people really seem to dislike this book and I can’t pretend I don’t know why. Parts in the middle are really slow. And some parts are really weird. (There’s one twist I won’t spoil, but when I read it, my first reaction was, “Oh great. Here we go,” with an eye roll.) It wasn’t what I expected–or really even wanted–but I kept with the story and I actually liked how it ended.

I have a hard time pinning this story down. It’s urban fantasy, but not really. It’s a tale of magic, but it’s also not? It’s a retelling, but it’s a totally new story too. I guess maybe this is the kind of book you need to look into yourself to figure out what it is because I think most people will categorize it as something different.

I liked it. It wasn’t my favorite fantasy/urban fantasy/retelling ever, but it had its moments.

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