Narrator: Emily Ellet, Tom Berkeley, Michael Crouch
Published by Penguin Random House Australia
Published on 17 August 2021
Genres: Paranormal, Romance, United States, Young Adult
Source: my local library
Seventeen-year-old Stephanie Armand doesn’t believe in ghosts or spirits. Despite her six-year-old sister, Charlie, insisting a masked figure is hiding in her closet, and the rumors at school, Stephanie isn’t convinced her father’s latest renovation project–a crumbling Victorian mansion–houses the soul of a monster.
So when the very charming (and paranormal obsessed) Lucas Cheney takes an interest in both Stephanie and her notorious home, the supernatural and romantic activity escalates to an all-time high. And that doesn’t even take into account the dashing, British-accented eighteen-year-old boy, Erik, who’s taken up residence in Stephanie’s nightly dreams. A boy who may have something to do with the man in the mask, and the strange occurrences taking place at Moldavia.
A steamy YA romance with Twilight vibes, inspired by Gaston Leroux’s classic The Phantom of the Opera
I have many feelings about this book.
First of all, I think it did an absolutely wonderful job of telling a tale inspired by Gaston Leroux’s beloved gothic classic, The Phantom of the Opera, better known to many people worldwide by the phenomenal West End musical and lesser known from the gorgeous but not quite as good film version from 2004. Many people would be aware of the tale of the disfigured genius living in the catacombs of the Paris Opera House and the ingenue he falls in love with. Creagh reimagines it as a teen love triangle crossing dimensions and involving curses, a girl mourning the absence of her own mother, and a hot jazz-dancing glasses-wearing Captain America nerd.
I remember when I read Creagh’s Nevermore (a long time ago) that I loved her attention to detail, which is present again in this novel and might be a Creagh hallmark. I love all the original stuff Creagh wove into this tale so deftly to the point where people unfamiliar with the intricacies of Phantom might think it was wholly original.
I absolutely loved that Montcharmin and Firmin Richard were reimagined as Stephanie’s little sister Charlie and dad Richard, together the three of them using the Armand family name. I also loved the absolute chemistry between Stephanie and her Captain American wannabe Lucas, who was so incredibly adorable. They were so cute.
I also loved how the audiobook used sound effects. The first time one was used i think I jumped out of my seat. It was such an effective use of sound that it felt so immersive, and even more like watching a movie in my mind than reading normally does to me.
What I didn’t like boils down to inconsistency.
I know this is a reimagining and not a retelling, so I’m not expecting things to be faithful. I really loved how bits and pieces of the original story were used and other original elements were introduced, including the character of the Persian, forgotten in the musical but essential in the book, here playing a clairvoyant medium. What I need someone to explain to me is why, if using Montcharmin, Firmin and Carlotta’s names (the latter introduced as Lucas’ former flame, Charlotte, and part of the ghost hunting group they formed), why on earth were Christine and Raoul renamed Stephanie and Lucas? I don’t get it. What am I missing here? Do they have the same meanings in French? Is Stephanie a derivative of Christine? Erik was still Erik, so I don’t understand how Stephanie couldn’t have been named something like Christina, and I just have no idea where Lucas came from. Didn’t want to call him Ralph?
I also didn’t like the use of multiple first person point of view. I really felt that this novel could have been a lot better, tighter, and less repetitive using only Stephanie’s point of view, and I really feel like it could have been done. We didn’t need to see inside Erik’s head, and we didn’t get to see inside Lucas’ for well over half the novel. There was absolutely nothing that happened in Erik’s POV that we couldn’t have seen or had recounted to us as Stephanie. And because of the weird use of the POV shift to retell us things we have already seen, it ended up super repetitive, seeing the same scene from different angles without providing anything more than we already knew.
The chapters were very short and often ended in weird places, like spending time building up to a climax only to cut it off, which I found frustrating. And because they were sometimes so short, less than half a page, and the POV changed so frequently without resolving anything, they also seemed redundant.
I also pretty much ended up disliking Stephanie. I can understand the decisions she makes from the point of view of a teenager. It didn’t help that although I liked the book, I wasn’t really buying the ‘romance’ between Stephanie and Erik. I think she felt sorry for him, and I have no idea why he liked her at all. There appeared to be nothing deeper beneath their lust. At least Stephanie and Lucas bonded over their ghost hunting. True, the original story was weird, and Raoul was basically abusive towards Christine, and the musical makes it a much better romance and a choice between a mad disfigured genius who wants you to live with him in eternal darkness while he writes you music and makes you famous (and quite the hottie in modern day productions, though he was originally played by 50 year old Michael Crawford in the original West End) or literally a rich handsome boy who loves you wholesomely and would literally die for you, but I just wasn’t feeling it. I think maybe because Erik, in Creagh’s book, was also handsome? So it boiled down, again, to the choice between two hot guys. Literally neither of them were offering Stephanie anything: she wasn’t choosing, for example, to be a vampire or stay human like another famous love triangle this book was for some reason compared to (Twilight). So I think, somehow, the book maybe missed the mark with that? View Spoiler »I feel that there is redemption for Erik in letting Christine go, so when it didn’t happen in this novel, I felt disappointed. « Hide Spoiler
Overall, despite the technical style that annoyed me, I was really impressed with the audiobook production and the three narrators, each of who did really decent voice changes. I loved how the author wove an original story into a beloved classic with such deftness, and I enjoyed the story overall, though I probably won’t reread it.