My trio of reviews is completed today with this unusual take on the familiar ‘Phantom’ story. I reviewed it on 10 July as part of theteam.
Publisher – Createspace
Pages – 438
Release Date – 6th May 2016
ISBN-13 – 978-1530273287
Format – ebook, paperback
I received a free copy of this book
An orphaned daughter of political refugees, Lilith Samar has lost the last connection to her family, and has come to the final stop in her journey, the Palais Garnier. But someone is waiting for her at the Paris Opera; someone impossible from her tumultuous childhood.
Despite their rocky past, Aamin Bahadur trusts Erik with his life. But ever since this singer arrived, the detached, brutal Erik who used to assassinate for the Navraj has reemerged, as well as his morbid obsession with a long dead girl. The more infatuated Erik becomes, the less hold he has on reality, and no matter how hard Aamin tries to reconnect with Erik, the more pain and destruction is suffered by the opera company.
Since Lilith abducted her from a life of poverty in the American South, Rebecca has chased two dreams she never thought would be possible: make something out of her passion for dance and find the family she never knew. Now that they’re in Paris, she can finally do both, but with Lilith’s violent past quickly catching up to them, will Rebecca lose the family she has looking for the one she lost?
In this feminist revision of Gaston Leroux’s Le Fantome de l’Opera, Lauren Gattos pulls you into a thrilling, provocative gothic romance that examines gender, race, religion, and the “monster” that wanted Christine Daae to have a career.
I was slightly worried when this book appeared on my Kindle with a request for me to read and review. Never a fan of rehashed literature, I feared this self-proclaimed feminist revision of ‘The Phantom’ would fail to appeal, so I approached the task with a degree of trepidation. However, after the first few pages, I realised that Gattos’ work deserved my full attention.
She has clearly researched her story well and on a quick internet check, I was able to verify several operatic and balletic facts about which I previously knew nothing. The balance between dialogue and description is just about right and whilst the book is quite long, the story keeps moving and I didn’t feel there was superfluous padding.
The cover design is intriguing. At first glance I couldn’t decide what I was looking at. Is the female figure facing to the left or right? Is she auburn or brunette? There is much to ponder and I’m still not sure I fully appreciate the symbolism behind the image but I admire the fact that the author has steered clear of the iconic mask.
The story is written in the third person and told through the perspective of several different characters. We have several dips into the past to provide backstories for the main players which fleshes out their personalities.
There is no sign of Christine in this tale and I confess I didn’t miss her at all which is testimony to the skill of the writing. In Lilith, we have a strong and determined lady with a dry wit who is fiercely protective of her ward, Rebecca. She is also ready to fight her own corner as she arrives in Paris and embarks on a tentative friendship with the ballet mistress, Alianore Giry, at the L’Opéra Populaire.
Erik is an altogether different character in the hands of Gattos; whilst still fatally flawed, the author managed to evoke a certain sympathy which was absent from the original. Apart from his problematical relationships with Aamin and Alianore, Erik’s other interactions are based solely on fear, so it was with a sense of foreboding that I read of the burgeoning dynamic between him and Lilith.
It was all shaping up very nicely and definitely heading for a five star rating. Erik was such a larger than life character that I was sure the conclusion would befit his stature, so I’m sorry to say the last chapter proved something of a damp squib. The dramatic gothic tale of pathos, oppression, romance, menace, obsession and intrigue that I’d found totally absorbing for over 400 pages, just fizzled out. Whilst I’m sure some will disagree, I felt the main players deserved an edge-of-the seat, breathtaking finale.
Nonetheless, this is a well-constructed multi-layered story which will certainly appeal to many readers. In spite of the ending not working for me, I award ‘Black Paper Mask’ a strong four stars.
Writer. Classic horror lit and film nerd.