RoseBlood by A.G. Howard
Publication Date: January 10th, 2017
Publisher: Amulet Books, an imprint of Abrams Books for Young Readers
“This can’t be a coincidence, and there’s no longer any doubt in my mind.
I am in a horror story.”
Rune Germain is on her way to a private school for gifted artists in France, on the recommendation of her estranged grandmother. Rune’s traumatic summer and recent death of her father puts her at a disadvantage, as she’s not ready to move away from her friends and start a new school. However, when she arrives at the mysterious RoseBlood school, Rune feels like she’s being watched. When strange mysteries begin unfolding around her, it soon becomes clear that she’s reliving the Phantom of the Opera story in her own life. Will she survive?
I loved what AG Howard did with Alice in Wonderland in the Splintered series, and since I’ve had a love affair with the Phantom of the Opera all my life, I expected to adore this book. Once I finally received an eARC of this book, I began reading voraciously, but I soon began to have serious problems with this novel, mostly where the character development is concerned.
Rune is being sent, largely against her will, to a private school for gifted artists in France. Except, apparently in this world, “gifted” really translates to eccentric and at times just plain alien. Rune, herself, has serious issues: she feels her sanity slipping through her fingers, mostly because she believes her father’s death is her fault, a conviction which none of the adults in her life attempt to help her understand or verbalize. Oh did I mention her grandmother tried to kill her? No? Oh… well she does and I still am not sure what the point of that information is other than to make the plot seem more dramatic. When she finally arrives at this school for the gifted, she starts seeing someone in shadows and feels watched. She soon discovers, after weeks and weeks go by where random, mysterious crap keeps happening to her, that there is a phantom abroad and he has special plans for Rune and her vocal talents. Honestly, I found the whole process tedious and boring. I kept waiting for the plot to advance, to learn more about Rune other than her “issues” and it just never landed for me.
Rune, sadly, is your classic Mary Sue; she’s really not special but the author continually bangs you over the head with her ingenuity, that you kind of start to believe it. But then you keep reading and growing more and more annoyed with her apparent willful ignorance that you lose all sight of her supposed special nature. The friends that she makes at RoseBlood seemed very disingenuous; I work with all kinds of teens on a daily basis and the way these teens spoke and interacted was not at all realistic, so much so that it was distracting.
The Phantom has a protegee in this story. Thorn is a young man that was rescued in a similar way as The Phantom was. And apparently Thorn has found some way to infiltrate Rune’s dreams and influence her “special talent.” When the two finally meet, it’s over-the-top cliche; two people who have actually known each other most of their lives finally meet and fall in love/need to save each other. Thorn’s adoration of and devotion to The Phantom and his plans for Rune suddenly falters when he meets her. I didn’t find this believable at all.
This book took me over two months to read. It’s boring, not well paced, and in sore need of a serious edit. I was hoping for a new, explorative rendition of The Phantom of Opera, but really, POTO is just used as a guise for a bad plot and cliche YA characterization and tropes.