“He called himself O.G.”
I’m pretty sure I about gagged right there. Full disclosure for the rest of this review, there will be a lot of spoilers because I don’t think I could get across my absolute abhorrence for this book without mentioning basically everything about the plot.
I think the most baffling piece about my reading of Roseblood was the sheer possibility that A. G. Howard might be a fan of The Phantom of the Opera because I cannot imagine anything or anyone managing to butcher and disrespect the phantom more than she did. Roseblood had a lot of issues. I’ve put off writing this review for a while mainly because a part of me wanted to forget that I ever bothered to read this book.
Now, here’s the thing. I’ve had a lot of issues with Howard’s stories. I started with her Splintered series mainly due to the fact that the covers looked cool and decided pretty quickly that I did not like the way she wrote about mental illness and I did not like the disrespectful men she wrote or the stupid choices her main characters made. But I gave her a bit of leeway since they were her first books and they were at least vaguely interesting. After Roseblood, I don’t think I will be reading another Howard book in the future.
And the saddest thing about it is the fact that I really wanted to like this book.
Roseblood begins with an awkward plot, a really ridiculous name (Rune), and a disturbingly over-forgiving mother. Howard spends a great deal of time simply throwing information at her readers in what appears to be an attempt to get all of it out and over with as quickly as possible. The beginning is so exposition heavy, filled with a deluge of backstory and descriptions. Most of this should have been introduced slowly and some of it shouldn’t have been included at all.
Returning briefly to Rune’s mother, the adults in this book are grossly unrealistic at best and disturbing at worst. I can promise you that there is no mom in the world (the universe, even) who would feel concerned for her child’s safety and at the same time insist that her child should forgive the psychotic grandmother who tried to murder her when she was a child.
Other questionable adults we meet include the head of Roseblood Academy, conveniently Rune’s aunt, and one of the Professors (who insists that the students call him Prof–oh dear, I’m gagging again–and assigns a student as a “referee” to a disagreement that had literally just resulted in the fake actual hanging of a dummy to scare the main character). I’m not even halfway through the book yet. And it is all made even more unrealistic by this strange notion that the school has no access to cell phone service or internet of any kind. Howard could have saved herself a lot of trouble by simply setting the story in a different world or in a time period that pre-dated phones and the internet.
Rune’s relationships with the other characters are deeply unrealistic.
Firstly we have the unnecessarily jealous bitchy girl who is angry solely because Rune has a nice voice. As a result of a callback for the school’s musical, this girl decides to do all that she can to make Rune miserable. This is such a stupid trope for a number of reasons, but it is made even worse in Roseblood on account of the fact that it literally gives nothing of value to the story as a whole.
None of Rune’s friendships make sense. We never see her truly getting to know these other kids and the few times that a connection is shown between them it comes off very forced and out of the blue. Even Rune doesn’t understand why these characters are opening up to her and I have to say that’s probably the most realistic part of the entire book.
All of this is already bad and not boding well for the story, but I plowed on. Sure, the main character is an idiot, unrealistic, and lacking any depth whatsoever. But I can read books with Mary Sues and not hate them immensely. It’s fine. Enter the Phantom. Or, really, the Phantom replacement because the little boy that Rune falls in love with is the adopted son of the original Phantom of the Opera. And he’s gorgeous (of course) which alone is kind of insulting to the original story because somehow Howard simply couldn’t honor it enough to show that a love interest didn’t have to be heart-stoppingly beautiful to be worthy of love. Instead, she had to further an agenda that the only people anyone could fall in love with had to look pretty. Thanks for that.
Oh, and if you missed it from the quote above, he signs his letters O.G. (Opera Ghost) even though his name is actually Thorn.
I’m sorry, what?
Don’t worry, though. It gets worse.
Apparently, the original Phantom of the Opera, Eric, also known as Thorn’s (or the Opera Ghost) father is still alive years after Christine (or Christina) has died because…he is a psychic vampire who sucks the energy out of people through his song. And both Rune and Thorn are also psychic vampires. And Rune’s grandmother tried to kill her because she was singing. Oh, and the Phantom owns a rave…so he can feed…
I don’t know how many times I facepalmed reading this book, but we’re up to about fifteen so far just in writing this review. I haven’t even gotten to the worst part yet.
So, ultimately, the book is terrible. The writing was awful, the plot was awful, the characters were awful. There was literally no saving grace at this point. I was pretty much destined to hate this book once I’d gotten to that point in the story. But the most unforgivable thing Howard did was destroy the character of the Phantom in her rendition of him.
Now, obviously, anyone who knows anything about The Phantom of the Opera knows that he was a deeply misguided person in part largely due to the way he had been treated his whole life. He was not utterly and irreversibly psychotic. Yes, he did try to force Christine to love him. But a lot of his actions were centered around the fact that he believed everyone hated him because of how he looked, not what he was doing. He realized what horror he had wrought by the end of the film and he regretted it. Well, in this book he was psychotic and only interested in his own agenda which was to cut out Rune’s voice (which she got from Christine) and use it to resurrect the daughter he’d had with Christine.
And of course he was foiled because Thorn and Rune fell in love because they were “twin flames”–which is Howard’s roundabout way of saying soul mates but only because she hates the term soul mates–and therefore destined to be together for ever and ever. Twin flames occur when a soul splits after it dies and is reborn inside two different people. And somehow, the soul that split was Christine’s! But the Phantom was still totally cool with ripping it out of the girl who was part of his love’s reborn soul in order to bring a daughter who died as a baby back to life.
Oh, but wait! There’s more!
In true abuse forgiving fashion (hmm, where else have I seen this before? Oh! Right. The Splintered series), Howard proceeds to blame Christine for the Phantom’s outright horrible behavior. Yep, he terrorizes her and Howard replies with, “She wasn’t ready for the selfless, soul-deep level of love he required.” The Phantom tried to force Christine to be with him by threatening to kill her fiancee and Howard responds, “They had a passionate emotional affair, although sadly, she was young and immature.”
What. The. Fuck.
A. G. Howard is so disturbingly okay with the idea of forgiving abusive men for their behavior that it sickens me to my core. And I don’t even know how to respond. Now, fortunately for her nothing she’s written has ever lived up to the level of disaster and disgusting that is 50 Shades of Grey, but that doesn’t make it acceptable. I’ve felt quite disturbed while reading the reviews for her books, baffled by how so many people seem to miss these abusive themes in her books (Jeb from Splintered et al. and now the Phantom here). Every rating above three stars makes me literally cringe.
There are so many more things I could point out to you about why this book was awful from the fact that Rune somehow remembered all these things about her father even though he died when she was six, the dumb and definitely expellable pranks the angry girl plays on her in the beginning, the fact that Thorn feeds off prostitutes, or the racist gypsy comments riddled throughout the entire novel…I mean, I could go on, but I’m tired and this book doesn’t deserve any more of my time.