By A.G. Howard
Summary: In this modern day spin on Leroux’s gothic tale of unrequited love turned to madness, seventeen-year-old Rune Germain has a mysterious affliction linked to her operatic talent, and a horrifying mistake she’s trying to hide. Hoping creative direction will help her, Rune’s mother sends her to a French arts conservatory for her senior year, located in an opera house rumored to have ties to The Phantom of the Opera.
At RoseBlood, Rune secretly befriends the masked Thorn—an elusive violinist who not only guides her musical transformation through dreams that seem more real than reality itself, but somehow knows who she is behind her own masks. As the two discover an otherworldly connection and a soul-deep romance blossoms, Thorn’s dark agenda comes to light and he’s forced to make a deadly choice: lead Rune to her destruction, or face the wrath of the phantom who has haunted the opera house for a century, and is the only father he’s ever known.
Source: I received a hardcover in the January 2017 Owlcrate.
RoseBlood was the chosen book for the January Classic themed Owlcrate box and I was really excited to read it. I almost picked it up at the bookstore before realizing it might be the book in the Owlcrate box, so it was definitely a book I wanted and would’ve bought myself. The cover was gorgeous and when I opened it up, the ink was a dark red, which was stunning! It wasn’t difficult on the eyes, either. The book promised so much beauty and was based on The Phantom of the Opera.
Unfortunately, RoseBlood wasn’t as good as I expected. It had a lot of potential and drew inspiration from The Phantom of the Opera and other dark classics. Each chapter heading had a quote, with most of them from a pieces of literature that also dealt in dark themes. I was eager to escape into a rich fantasy world in a dark setting.
Instead.. I was completely disappointed.
My first issue was that the main character, Rune Germain, was such a YA main character stereotype. (Don’t even get me started on the name Rune…) She was “cursed” with the ability to mimic opera. She could, without any practice, stand up and sing the most complicated of operas in the their original language and render a crowd speechless. However, her gift came with a price and it drained her almost completely and made her sick. She couldn’t stop the song from wanting to burst out of her, so it wasn’t an ability she could avoid. Anytime an opera caught her attention, she’d vibrate with the need to sing it. I probably should’ve just put the book down at the beginning that that was revealed. I mean, really? A poor girl with a woe-is-me attitude who is gifted with the ability to just flawlessly belt out tunes that others train years to do? Why would anyone even make a character do such a thing? I don’t even feel bad. The sickness she felt is probably still not nearly equal to the amount of blood, sweat, and tears a truly talented opera singer puts into one piece. And then she was going to go to a private school for gifted musicians and of course, didn’t want to be there and didn’t want to fit in, so of course she would gain the attention of the catty competitive girl, and bat her eyes at everyone about how it’s not her fault she’s stealing the limelight, she doesn’t even actually WANT it. That’s not a conflict I can be on board with. It’s overdone and it steals from the rest of the book that has to deal with fantasy and the paranormal.
My second issue was the narration. The book was mostly in first person narration from Rune’s point of view. I didn’t care much for her character, but I thought her narration was good and believable. But then the book shifted unexpectedly to third person POV to the mysterious gardener Rune glimpsed in the garden in the beginning. Suddenly, we were privy to his actions as he went on to reveal who he was and who he was working with. I think that immediately made me sigh out loud in frustration. I HATE when books do that. It’s so cheesy. If you cannot build a story from first person narration and make it still make sense and still reveal whatever it is you need to reveal, than don’t do first person at all. Do third person and then everyone is okay with the camera coming off of the main character and showing something she doesn’t know. But ripping me away from first person POV to show me something someone else is doing because it builds the story is lazy and I absolutely hate it. I think the entire book was written in a way that was overly descriptive, so I know the author wasn’t lazy, but her storytelling techniques were not up to par. It ruined all of the mystery and intrigue of the character!
My third issue with the story was the plot. (This is perhaps a spoiler, but let me explain why I don’t think it is.) From the very beginning, Rune’s mom takes issue with Rune being overly susceptible to superstition and nonsense and her mom doesn’t really understand or believe Rune’s talent is more of a curse or even a gift. Rune’s father was superstitious. The mom just jabbered on about it, so the whole concept was hammered on just about every page from the beginning when they were driving to the school for about the first third of the book until Rune’s mom finally left. So, Rune’s ability having a supernatural element was no surprise. And of course, it’s the key to everything. I mean, it wasn’t even unexpected.
And of course, because the book is full of YA tropes, Rune noticed a mysterious boy who just happened to be a part of everything and together they would create a plan and fall in love and.. are you rolling your eyes yet?
What frustrates me the most is that the book had so much potential. The pieces were all there. In fact, if Rune’s gift/curse was done in a better way that didn’t spit in the face of people who hone and practice their real talents and the POV didn’t switch, it wouldn’t have been half bad. If the author didn’t rely on familiar YA tropes to draw her story together, it could’ve been really stunning. There were bits of great writing peppered throughout the book, so I know the author can write well. I suppose I just wish the story was well written as a whole. The book was not creepy or thought provoking or mysterious because it was over-told and written in a way that told instead of showed. There was no mystery, the plot was literally just written out in front of me plainly.
I don’t recommend RoseBlood unless you’re new to YA paranormal stories that begin in some sort of private/boarding school and therefore aren’t going to notice the familiar tropes as much.. or if you just absolutely love The Phantom of the Opera enough to ignore the tropes and you just want something that isn’t the same book but contains the elements of the story you love. If none of those apply to you, it’s best skipped. I don’t regret having it, though. It’s a beautiful book that I do like looking at, so it’ll be a great Bookstagram prop.