Friday, January 25, 2013

Reviews From an HBN (The Opera Ghost Unraveled - Michelle Rodriguez)

You have NO IDEA how pleased I am to be reviewing this one! No. Idea. :D

Before Christine’s father died, he promised to send the Angel of Music. As no more than a voice, her angel appeared, stealing her loneliness and teaching her to sing, but now she has fallen in love with him and wishes he were a man of flesh and bone who could love her in return. Under the guise of angel, Erik tries to find a window into Christine’s life. When being an intangible voice is no longer enough and the Vicomte de Chagny threatens his hold over her heart, truths must be revealed. As the illusion shatters and Christine learns her angel is really the disfigured Opera Ghost with a sin-filled soul, will Erik lose every chance at winning her love and claiming his happy ending? First posted on an online forum, “The Opera Ghost Unraveled” has been read and adored by phans worldwide. It is a passionate variation of the original beloved story and shows the power of love’s transformation. As the omnipotent Opera Ghost “unravels” and exposes the vulnerable soul beneath the scars, love and obsession intertwine as Erik seeks to teach Christine to be brave and follow her heart.


 Finally! I get to review my absolute favorite! Yay!

I'm going to try to avoid reminiscences about the first time I read this...back when it was posted online, and the wonderful suspense of waiting for the next chapter...but if I venture down memory lane on occasion, forgive me. Overall, it's even more wonderful to just sit down with the book and read and read and read some more, then turn around and re-read it all again the instant you come to the last page. Which I did!

So, moving on...simply put, this is my favorite retelling of The Phantom of the Opera I've read. Period. The love Michelle Rodriguez has for the story and the characters is undeniable, as is her spot-on skills for putting the reader right there with them and making them feel every emotion and then some. She pays tribute to both the Leroux and Webber versions, and also makes the story her own. Her take on the much-beloved, oft-massacred character of Erik leaves nothing to be desired. He is every bit as arrogant, dangerous, and terrifying as he should be, but also passionate, tender, vulnerable, and just plain Erik in a way most authors never manage to pull off. It's so easy to sacrifice the dark side of his personality in pursuit of an ideal romantic hero (which, let's face it, he isn't), but that never happens here. Erik himself is responsible for the majority of the emotional thrill ride when his rage, pain, love and desire come spilling out; Like I said, you feel every emotion as you read it. In particular, the unmasking scene and the infamous Chapter Eighteen hit me the hardest. All the impact of a punch in the face, and so much feeling that I cried and couldn't stop!

Christine is another tough character to get right. She can come out insipid, co-dependent, idiotic, boring, etc. when not handled carefully. Here, though, she remains in character. She loves the Angel of Music but fears the Opera Ghost, and must reconcile each as mere roles Erik must play before she can truly love him. She must also be strong enough to face what life with him will mean, and she grows as a character with every step. Erik's character arc is fascinating, but Christine's growth into a woman who can be a match for Erik is truly impressive. She begins as a naive young girl, full of fantasies and in love with a heavenly angel. To watch that childishness fall away and blossom into maturity, strength and passion that equals Erik's own is one of the most gratifying things about reading this. Her relationship with Erik, contrasted with her interactions with Raoul, shift and progress from timid/uncertain/passive to confident/assured/assertive. Comparing her first and last scenes with both men drive it home how much loving Erik transforms her, as much as loving her transforms him.

I always appreciate Michelle's treatment of Raoul. There is never any character assassination whatsoever; he is simply the spoiled, self-assured, stubborn boy he is in Leroux. He honestly loves Christine, and tries to act in her best interests, but...he has listening problems and he just won't leave well enough alone! He has his moments of being sweet and charming, but there's always that trait that's so visible in the novel: He refuses to understand what he doesn't comprehend. He is the moral compass of the story and the voice of reason, but he is blinded by his own love and prejudice to see where Christine's heart lies. And again, that infamous Chapter Eighteen...damn you, Raoul! Damn you!

As always, I adore the language and the words themselves. Each character has a definite voice (that remains true to each character...bonus points for that!) and there are so many quotable bits, my favorite still being Meg Giry's "Bright lights distract me! And I sometimes forget to look beyond my own nose!" Adorable! Then from Erik: "...what good is a clean soul in a blemished vessel? Being penitent won't put me one step closer to heaven. Curse salvation! You are my salvation. If you can love me, I'll be sorry." That's just...oh wow.

Looking over my comments posted on each chapter as it went up online, I notice that I refer to Michelle as the Diane Warren of fiction and that I idolize her as much as Robin McKinley, and I still stand behind those words. This is still one of the most beautiful, gorgeously written, kick ass things I've ever read, and that's even outside of Phantom! This was the story that cemented my admiration and respect for Ms. Rodriguez, and I'm so happy to have read it. Even happier that she published it! Brava!

Your humble book nerd,


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  2. I couldn't have said it better myself; an excellent review! "The Opera Ghost Unraveled", and
    Michelle's other Phantom stories, have pulled me through a low time in life. Di


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