Tuesday, February 7, 2017

RoseBlood by A.G. Howard

ROSEBLOOD is about three of my favorite things: The Phantom of the Opera, the Comte de Saint-Germain, and vampires. All three together? Oh, heck yes. Set in a gloomy boarding school/converted opera house in the middle of France, I was certain that this neo-Gothic, ROSEBLOOD, would be able to do one of my favorite classics justice in a new and interesting way.

I was wrong.

It kills me to say this, because the writing in ROSEBLOOD is so beautiful that it actually almost convinced me that ROSEBLOOD was a better book than it actually was. A.G. Howard can write. However, her characters and story-telling choices are odd. Like, campy 80s horror movie odd. There were so many moments in here that had me blinking, and going, "Did that really happen?" Towards the end of the story, it happened more and more.


First, let me get something out of the way that really bothered me. I hate this new YA trend of taking the "ugly" characters in classic stories and making them beautiful. Sarah J. Maas did this in A COURT OF THORNS AND ROSES, taking the "beast" and making him a gorgeous fairy prince cursed to wear a mask. A.G. Howard does this in ROSEBLOOD, with the "phantom" love interest being not the tortured, disfigured genius, but the tortured, disfigured genius's adopted (but gorgeous) son, Thorn. Coincidentally enough, Thorn also wears a mask, just like Tam Lin, only for fun. When you do this, it takes all the original meaning out of the story. Part of what made Beauty and the Beast such a powerful story was that the beast was a horrible man when he was attractive and human; it took being ugly and monstrous to make him realize how lonely and awful it is to be despised when your exterior matches your interior, and it took a love that was based on more than looks (well, you can argue about that, since, you know, "Beauty" and the Beast) to redeem him. Likewise, part of what makes Phantom of the Opera such a tragic story is that Erik's genius and artistry goes unappreciated because of his lack of looks; what draws him to Christine isn't just her ethereal beauty and innate talent, but also because he sees her as his soulmate; the beautiful foil to his hideous appearance.


Anyway, to the plot of the story. Our heroine is named "Rune." She has a tragic history. She doesn't want to go to this special school because she has a special ability: she is compelled to sing at certain moments, and always does it beautifully. Naturally, she is "compelled" to do this while the resident Queen Bee is auditioning, before pretending to pass out. Her mother sticks around for a while but is about to go on honeymoon with Rune's new stepfather, so like Bella Swan's mom, or Mindy from Animaniacs, she goes, "Okay, I love you, bye-bye," and swans off, leaving Rune to her own devices.  Luckily, Rune makes a whole bunch of friends, immediately, who are so fascinated by her lack of personality and her special secrets that they see absolutely zero problems about sneaking into her room and snooping into her belongings. This happens several times.

Rune meets a boy named Thorn who appears around the Opera House. He always wears a half-mask, but is super attracted to the half of the face that she can see. He tells her that they're "twin souls." No, literally, they are two halves of the same soul: incarnations of the Christine from the Phantom of the Opera myth. Only, Thorn can't sing because when he was young, he was kidnapped by sex traffickers, and his voice scared them so much that they poured lye down his throat. So instead of singing, Thorn plays the violin, and when he plays, Rune no longer feels sick after she sings.

This is because Rune, Thorn, and the Phantom (Erik), are all PSYCHIC VAMPIRES who use their magical abilities to draw out people's life force.

Psychic. Vampires.

Erik even owns a themed club in Paris. A rave club, where he picks off victims when he's so inclined. This is one of many moments, when I was just shocked and could only mumble, "Phantom...of the Rave? Phantom...rave...huh? Rave...phantom...rave..."


I'm sorry, I can't let that go. Erik doesn't belong anywhere near a rave. I refuse to believe that his artistic integrity would allow him to tolerate dub-step.

If you're wondering where Rune fits into all this, it ties back to the Phantom. Apparently, he and Christine got together at one point and had a baby (YESSSSSS). The baby was stillborn, but Erik has been keeping it alive in a Frankenstein-style incubator for all these years, waiting for Christine's reincarnation so he could kidnap that person, cut out their vocal chords, and implant them in the baby...because this will bring the baby to life again for some reason. All his attempts to get to Rune have been to activate her power, have Thorn seduce her, and then basically cut out her throat.




I've seen and read several Phantom of the Opera adaptions, and this was one of the worst because it was so weird. It reminded me, actually, of that bad Italian remake, Il fantasma dell'opera (1998), which features Julian Sands looking less like the Phantom of the Opera and more like a reject from Interview of the Vampire since a) he's not disfigured (and is actually pretty hot), and b) the movie is less about him pursuing Christina for his sensually artistic purposes and more about sex (if I recall correctly, it actually features an orgy scene) and countless violent murder sprees. Not that ROSEBLOOD was gratuitously violent or needlessly sexual - it wasn't; it's similar because, like Il fantasma dell'opera, it was so over the top that in its attempt to differentiate itself from the work it was paying homage to, it pretty much lost sight of the original's purpose and become something totally and completely different. For better or for worse.

P.S. I'm disappointed to say that the Saint-Germaine connection basically goes nowhere, which is a shame, because he was a fascinating guy. For another story about Saint-Germaine and vampires that's actually pretty good, I suggest you check out Chelsea Quinn Yarbro's Saint-Germaine series.

2 to 2.5 out of 5 stars.


  1. Wait, wait, wait... If Rune and Thorn and "twin souls", did Thorn's vocal cords have to be cut out, too? Or do you just need one set to reanimate a dead baby?

    WTF?! LOL

    1. Thorn's vocal cords were damaged by the lye he was forced to drink by his sex trafficker captors, but yeah, originally the Phantom was going to use his. When he found out Thorn's were damaged, he kept him as a son, and assumed it was somebody else, not knowing they were twin souls.

      It's really weird! LOL