Type of Fantasy: Gaslamp
Isda does not exist. At least not beyond the opulent walls of the opera house.
Cast into a well at birth for being one of the magical few who can manipulate memories when people sing, she was saved by Cyril, the opera house’s owner. Since that day, he has given her sanctuary from the murderous world outside. All he asks in return is that she use her power to keep ticket sales high–and that she stay out of sight. For if anyone discovers she survived, Isda and Cyril would pay with their lives.
But Isda breaks Cyril’s cardinal rule when she meets Emeric Rodin, a charming boy who throws her quiet, solitary life out of balance. His voice is unlike any she’s ever heard, but the real shock comes when she finds in his memories hints of a way to finally break free of her gilded prison.
Haunted by this possibility, Isda spends more and more time with Emeric, searching for answers in his music and his past. But the price of freedom is steeper than Isda could ever know. For even as she struggles with her growing feelings for Emeric, she learns that in order to take charge of her own destiny, she must become the monster the world tried to drown in the first place.
I was so excited for a gender-swapped retelling of Phantom of the Opera because I love that story (especially the musical!), and there aren’t many retellings of this age-old story. At least not that I’ve come across.
The memory magic was an interesting element, if creepy and kind-of random. I also loved the atmospheric, Gothic vibes. It was not spooky or scary, just slightly creepy (like Phantom of the Opera ;).
But the main thing that took some stars off my rating was that for about 90% of the book, I didn’t like Isda, which is such a shame because she has such a beautiful name! But her personality is not as lovely as her name. She definitely has reasons to be angry at the world, but she was too vicious and didn’t care much about others. Her character would have been more realistic if she had at least vacillated a little bit about her choices or not seen everyone as the same kind of ‘evil’/out to get her.
Emeric, on the other hand, was wonderful–so sweet and too good for Isda. I’m not actually sure what he liked about her, besides maybe her voice. There was too much instalove between them for me. Also, the kissing seemed to always happen when one or both of the characters were seriously injured/in pain. I’m not sure that’s what I’d be thinking of in those circumstances…
Also, there were a few problems with the ending, which I’ll try to keep as spoiler-free as possible:
Why in the world did the MC not go to the opera house via the sewers as she had earlier in the book? It would have saved her a lot of pain and misery. This felt like a huge plot hole that the editor should have filled in.
As a warning, the ending was super sad, and I’m not sure that it would have solved the problem that Isda was trying to solve.
All that to say, if you’re a fan of morally grey characters (or even morally black ;), Phantom of the Opera, atmospheric/moody books with endings that will tear your heart out, then this book is for you!
Have you read or seen Phantom of the Opera?