Roseblood by A.G. Howard
Published by Amulet Books on January 10, 2017
Genres: Young Adult, Fantasy, Romance
This YA novel from New York Times bestselling author A. G. Howard marks the beginning of a new era for fans of the Splintered series. Rune Germaine moves to a boarding school outside of Paris, only to discover that at this opera-house-turned-music-conservatory, phantoms really do exist. RoseBlood is a Phantom of the Opera–inspired retelling in which Rune’s biggest talent—her voice—is also her biggest curse. Fans of Daughter of Smoke and Bone and the Splintered series will find themselves captivated by this pulse-pounding spin on a classic tale.
Rune, whose voice has been compared to that of an angel, has a mysterious affliction linked to her talent that leaves her sick and drained at the end of every performance. Convinced creative direction will cure her, her mother ships her off to a French boarding school for the arts, rumored to have a haunted past.
Shortly after arriving at RoseBlood conservatory, Rune starts to believe something otherworldly is indeed afoot. The mystery boy she’s seen frequenting the graveyard beside the opera house doesn’t have any classes at the school, and vanishes almost as quickly as he appears. When Rune begins to develop a secret friendship with the elusive Thorn, who dresses in clothing straight out of the 19th century, she realizes that in his presence she feels cured. Thorn may be falling for Rune, but the phantom haunting RoseBlood wants her for a very specific and dangerous purpose. As their love continues to grow, Thorn is faced with an impossible choice: lead Rune to her destruction, or save her and face the wrath of the phantom, the only father he’s ever known.
A. G. Howard brings the romantic storytelling that Splintered fans adore to France—and an entirely new world filled with lavish romance and intrigue—in a retelling inspired by a story that has captivated generations. Fans of both The Phantom of the Opera musical and novel, as well as YA retellings such as Marissa Meyer’s Cinder, will devour RoseBlood.
I was so excited to read Roseblood after hearing that it is a retelling of The Phantom of the Opera, and gratefully received an Ebook copy to review from the publisher. I loved the story concept behind Roseblood, in which a teenager named Rune attends an opera school in France where she meets a mysterious man who is helping her control her singing voice. Unfortunately, the book is executed all wrong for me, and I found it challenging to read to the end.
If you are going to read Roseblood, I definitely recommend being familiar with the original story. I saw both the stage and film adaptations of The Phantom of the Opera, but it has been years since I saw either, and I think I would catch on more to the little details in this novel if the story was fresh in my mind. I think watching the film before picking up Roseblood will help you understand more of what’s going on, and also increase your enjoyment of the book.
Moreover, my biggest issue with Roseblood is the book’s pacing. The story is very slow from start to finish, and it took me twice as long to read this than a normal young adult book typically does. Not only did it take a very long time for anything exciting to happen, but because there was such a long build-up, I kept putting the book down because there was nothing interesting to hold my attention.
Similarly, I found that the author missed many opportunities in the book. There were multiple times in the novel for a big and exciting reveal, but then the “Aha!” moment is answered quickly in passing. For example, readers know early on in Roseblood that Rune is some sort of paranormal creature. When we finally find out what kind of creature she is, it’s dropped into a sentence and never explained. These missed opportunities happen at other points in the story, making the moments where I expected big reveals very anticlimactic.
As I mentioned earlier, I absolutely loved the story idea behind Roseblood. However, the plot feels like it is reaching a bit to fit together. I appreciate all the research the author did to fit in a lot of historical details, but I felt like the building blocks holding the book in place were quite weak and could tumble at any moment. I’m disappointed that the plot felt so contrived.
Additionally, I was a bit put off by the romance. Although I really liked who Rune’s love interest is, and their history together, the love scenes felt too much like a cheesy romance novel. I fully recognize that this is a personal preference, and if you enjoy reading traditional romance books, you will probably adore the romance in Roseblood. When I couple the love scenes with the way the book ended, I feel a bit uncomfortable about the way things leave off, and disappointed that an awesome fantasy could end in such a way.
Finally, I want to talk a bit about Rune as a protagonist. She is a likable enough character, and I definitely empathize with her for all that she’s gone through in her life. Unfortunately, she has a huge character flaw in that she trusts people way too much. Rune will wholeheartedly trust whomever she is speaking with at that moment in time, but when the next person comes along with a contradictory opinion, she immediately changes her mind and trusts the new person. I wish Rune would use her own mind and intelligence more instead of blindly following others.
I also really did not like how Rune is so concerned with her love interest’s physical features. Although she does mention she would still love him if he were disfigured, Rune is beyond relieved when he has the perfect face and the amazing body that readers hear about far too often. When I contrast how much the book focuses on the beautiful person being good and the disfigured person being evil, I get a very bad taste in my mouth.
In the end, I am very disappointed with Roseblood, and would only recommend this to those who are Phantom super fans or those who really like romance novels. The slow pace, contrived plot, and lackluster protagonist just didn’t work for me.
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