With Christmas over I have been curling up in the evening with a book so riveting that I was instantly bewiched by it. This is a new version of the Phantom of the Opera story (1991). I saw the stage play several times and loved the movie version, which I own. Tara Thatcher recommended this book as I have been reading sequels. This is the life story of Erick who becomes the Phantom. His birth to a young indulged widow was disturbing as the baby arrives with a face disfigured to the point of uncontrollable revulsion. I so wanted the mother to love the baby. I really didn't understand why she couldn't. But her immaturity and societial conventions created a disturbing relationship between the mother and child. From the beginning Erick has a supernatural genius with an understanding of music, architecture, science and magic, all of which create many interesting facets to the story. From the cradle Erick's voice was hypnotic and anyone who hears him sing is overcome with beauty. Erick runs away at age 9 and is kidnapped by gypsies, the first of his tragic adventures.
Susan Kay's writing is wonderfully lyrical, filled with angst, adventure, danger, romance and self discovery as we follow Erick through the intriguing experiences of his life. His character is tragic and powerful as he attempts to find a place for himself in a world of revulsion and rejection. I had empathy for his intense struggle with good and evil knowing how difficult this disfigurement was in a time of great superstition.
The story is told in first person from the experience of several of the characters. I liked focusing on different points of view.
The last 100 pages of a 450 page book deal with Erick's opera house experiences. I thought there were gaps and bumps in this part of the story as Kay tried to sort out the original story with the direction she wanted to take it. The best part here was her first person accounts from Christine and then Erick. Christine was realistic but fragile, as she needed to be, to get sucked in as she did. She was alone, confused and vulnerable in the beginning. She was unable to sort out her love from her empathy. Raoul's character was less prominant until the end when he wraps up the package. The details and depth of the Phantom and Christine's experiences together had to happen in order for Kay to end the story as she did in a very surprising way.
There is no explicit sex but one scene of eroticism, some murderous violence and drug use. Amazon has 375 reviews of this book, 331 gave the book 5 stars and 18 gave it 4 stars. This is a very compelling book.