I’m more and more convinced that Michelle Rodriguez’s writing is like a drug, a sugary-sweet, sizzling-hot, emotional-roller-coaster kind of drug. No matter how much I get, I just keep coming back for more. How reassuring, then, that she never disappoints!
“Rib-caged Hearts” first. It started off with a curve ball, and it just kept going from there. I can’t say much about the story without giving anything away, so I’ll focus on the other details. Such as…the writing! Lush as ever and poetic as can be. I mean…. “One small tremor could quake the world on its axis if it strikes the right fault line, and you… You are my tremor; you shake me to my bones.” The hopeless romantic in me adored this story. It takes the original themes of obsession and redemption, and takes them in a new direction. And while I knew how the story must end, it put me through the wringer first. Put another way… “Broken hearts hurt; there was no sugarcoating that proven fact. But sense reinterpreted the pain and insisted it meant he’d loved, genuine and real, and wasn’t it better to live and feel than to exist with a heart in a cage?”
And then there’s “Unconditional.” There are curve balls, and then there are CURVE BALLS. What I loved seeing here was Christine having her greatest reason so far to be strong and not only rising to meet that need, but shaping into a mature woman and not the naive girl from the Opera House. Again, I can’t say much, but I think this is my new favorite among Michelle’s Phantom stories, beating out even The Opera Ghost Unraveled. Gasp! If I was to list my favorite quotes, I’d have to copy Chapter Four in its entirety! There are so many different factors that make this one stand out for me, and more than anything, I’m just glad that I got to read it.
Bottom line: If you haven’t read any of the Manifestations collections yet, what’s wrong with you? And if you haven’t read A Duet yet, what the heck is wrong with you?! ...more
Chanson de l'Ange Book One: Orphan in Winter was such a strong start to the Chanson series I wasn't sure how the rest would stack up to it, but The Bleeding Rose kept things rolling. There's a LOT more intrigue than the first book, not to mention more tension and unrest, but with Erik moving out of the shadows and finally revealing himself as a man instead of an angel there was less magic...*sniff* I missed all the magic...
That's not to say there wasn't a lot going on here. I spent most of the book in utter exapseration with these people. I've been plenty irritated with the characters when reading Leroux, but good grief! Where are all the adults?! Erik is throwing temper tantrums, Christine is being an airhead, Madame Giry is keeping secrets, and Philippe is an ignoble ass! Who is responsible for these children? The only two among them who seem to have heads on their shoulders are Meg and Raoul. Raoul, how my heart bleeds for thee! Christine doesn't deserve someone as selfless, kind and forgiving! She's stomping all over you, man, just ditch her fast!
Ugh, Christine! Yep, she's a teenager all right. She's fickle, immature, and doesn't seem to realize how her actions are affecting the people around her. She shows occasional wisdom, and I particularly liked her composing a new aria for the Joan of Arc opera with Erik, but for crying out loud, girl, make up your mind already! Hamlet didn't take this long to make a decision!
Christine is only one out of an entire cast that needs a stern talking-to. I'd say Erik is definitely high on that list. He's showing more of the aggression that was missing from the first book, but it's definitely about time he quit projecting it onto everyone else. It's your own damn fault you're in this mess, mister! You're the one who thought it was such a good idea to pretend to be an angel for seven years, and now you wonder why Christine is so confused? Start taking responsibility! I defnitely see the adolescent in a grown man's body angle that was prevalent in the '04 movie, and it fits right in line with the way Paisley has interpreted Erik. He's infuriating, and he's still touching at times.
It strikes me that Erik and Christine probably don't need to be in a relationship with anyone, let alone with each other, the way they're acting. They have some serious growing up to do, a fact that makes me more than eager to see how this works out. That mother of a cliff hanger doesn't hurt, either! I picked up on some Chaney insanity there! Quick! Onto the next book!...more
FINALLY! Years and years of patience have been rewarded! I haven't even been waiting as long as some readers, and certainly not as long as the author herself. Ten years of love and labor are richly paid off. Congratulations, Swannie!
Book one sets the stage for what is bound to be an amazing journey into the world of The Phantom of the Opera. One of the things I missed in Gaston Leroux's original was more detailed characters. There is solid framework in the rather short novel (too short for my liking!), but Erik, Christine, and Raoul remain archetypes. I wanted deeper psychological profiles, and Paisley didn't disappoint me. The focus of Orphan In Winter is the beginning of Christine's relationship with the Angel of Music and her slow entrance into adolescence and adulthood, so I'll start with her.
Christine is usually portrayed as an insipid, insufferable child, complete with the trademark Sarah Brightman vacant stare. Paisley brushes that aside, showing us a lost little girl grieving her father and so desperate to have him back that she clings to his final promise to send an angel to watch over her. The Angel appearing while she is still a child makes her seem less gullible and more like a kid believing in Santa...and when Santa remains a constant presence for seven years straight, it's no wonder she still believes in him. She inspires empathy and love--I would call her one of the few Christines that have inspired such feelings apart from the original. She is fanciful, not simple, and her slow awakening to womanhood is remarkable.
Which brings me to Erik. Very well-written, capturing all the power, mystery, and tragedy of his character. He is a complex man, to say the least, and difficult to write, and it spells disaster for any writer who fails to pull him off...fortunately, Paisley did. His eroticism and masculinity were thrilling indeed, but I was even more moved by his changing feelings for Christine. He becomes her benefactor on a whim, like he has nothing better to do, then comes to care for her as a guardian until his love becomes the obsessive, consuming passion that drives him onward. A gripe I always had with the '04 movie's attempt at a backstory was how it contradicted what the audience already knows about Erik, and I appreciated how neatly Paisley sorted out that tangle. I would have liked to see more of his dark side, since he is by no means a selfless, benevolent, rational man, but the story has only just begun...
Raoul, the Vicomte de Chagny. I can't clear out of here without saying something about him. Oft abused, usually the victim of horrific character assassination by extremely biased writers that refuse to give him any credit whatsoever. I was ready for all of that when he showed up in the last half of the book, but I was delighted with the accurate portrayal! A sensible, caring, impulsive young man head over heels in love with his childhood playmate. After seeing him trampled so many times I've taken to carrying pom poms for him, and I'm glad he wasn't written into an abusive/alcoholic/unlovable loser we've seen so often (by simple virtue of his not being Erik! What gives?)
To wrap up my discourse on characterization, I applaud Paisley's portrayal of the Girys! They were precisely what I've imagined, and I love that they play a key part!
The rich detail and stunning imagery are wonderful, but what I loved most about Orphan In Winter was the budding romance paired with the disturbing aspects of Erik and Christine's relationship. It's complex, as it should be. She has known him as an invisible Angel. He's been a father figure to her, and so twined with the memory of her father that any idea of a romantic relationship seems, well, disturbing. Music remains the binding force between them, and Christine's song "The Bleeding Rose" serves as a brilliant theme, tied to her past and foreshadowing the triangle to come. Ending with Christine's debut in Faust was absolutely breathtaking, and thank God I had Book Two ready to pick right up!
Chanson de l'Ange outstrips most Phantom retellings I've read. There is a genuine love and understanding of the story that is too often lacking, making it all the more amazing when you find it. I put it on the shelf directly next to Gaston Leroux with select other retellings, and there it will stay. If the other books are half as good, they will have earned it!...more
I can't say anything about Michelle's writing that I haven't said before, and yet I can't say enough in praise of it, either. She consistently remains among my favorite authors, and this collection is excellent proof why, with her best and most daring Phantom retellings to date. As with the original Manifestations, I'll break this review down with a few comments on the highlights of the collection.
"Haunted" - a previously unpublished story that was definitely a surprise. Michelle crosses territory not usually covered and puts in it a bittersweet light. The outcome is bleak, but she rarely leaves off without some ray of hope, and this is no exception. I appreciated Erik's view on how faithful music always is to him, and yet it's still a cold comfort without Christine. This line in particular got me: "But he beckoned insanity and convinced it to possess him to every corner and fingertip. When she nodded and set her hand in his, it felt real, and he knew he was crazy and welcomed it."
"Ordinary" - another unpublished one, another bittersweet one that ends with hope, and another of her famous filler fics. This one flip-flops the original obsession angle, putting Christine in Erik's shoes and makes him her obsession, which intrigued me right away. The masquerade theme made this one, just as it made "Monsters and Masks" in the previous Manifestations, and Christine's earthbound angel costume felt perfect in the light Michelle painted the story. I loved the imagery of an angel chasing Red Death across a crowded dance floor, and the story opens up some interesting questions about what it would truly mean for Erik to be ordinary. Exquisitely done!
"Captivated" - holy flying sheep in a ship wreck! This one is more territory that is very, very, VERY rarely covered, and I give Michelle a standing ovation for going there. Not many Phantom writers dare to, whether out of blind love for the characters or fear of backlash from readers, and it's about time we took the blinkers off! There's some intense moral complexity in this one...Erik's actions as a captor are, on the surface, despicable, and yet his motivations are desperate enough to inspire pity. The decisions he makes are appalling, and yet there is always the chance of redemption in his love for Christine. And in the end, it's love and nothing less that matters. Love through desire, and desire through love...yes, you can read between the lines and tell that this one definitely isn't for the faint of heart. But if you like steamy, kinky stuff, forget Fifty Shades of Grey! Don't even give it a thought! This is what you should be reading!
"Forget Me Not" - an amnesia story, as you might have guessed from the title, and one of the most haunting Michelle has ever written, in my opinion. A classic fanfiction twist, and I have to call this one my favorite rendition. If "Ordinary" and "Haunted" are bittersweet, then this one is doubly so. Again, Erik's actions are deplorable, but his motives still drive it home. This is a man desperate for his beloved to love him in return, and it drives him to do desperate things. This one is probably the most tragic Michelle has ever written, because it might have ended happily! If not for another lie, it would have! I don't really blame Christine for her reaction, but my heart still breaks!
"A Twist In My Story" - an oldie, but a goody. I love angry Christine! You never see enough of her in other retellings, as most authors opt for the bland, one-dimensional airhead (thanks a freaking lot, Webber). Christine as Leroux wrote her had backbone, and she was rightfully furious that Erik had deceived her by pretending to be the Angel of Music, and I'm so glad Michelle explored that aspect in greater detail. It hurts to see him trying so hard to make up for the lie and getting nowhere, but I'm 100% on her side in this one. It takes a monster to manipulate someone like that, and his further actions do nothing to atone for it. Under close examination and after deep thought, I'm going to call this one my favorite of the book. Nice psychological insight, and more of the music that binds these two together, no matter how irritated Christine is by that simple fact. Brava!
"Let It Bleed" - no, wait, this might also be a contender for the favorite...Too many people shy away from an Erik that's this aggressive, but I love it! His duality is summed up perfectly here, with anger and rage followed by tenderness and repentance and topped off with a little of his trademark self-loathing. The aspect of the original story that always attracts me is the symbolism of mirrors, and Michelle uses it to good effect here. She brings her story full circle, from a monster reflected in a mirror to a man in need of forgiveness and understanding and back to his determination to be a monster if it means he can have the woman he loves. Christine's line from the musical comes to mind: "It's in your soul that the true distortion lies." Erik in a nutshell!
So, bottom line; if you like The Phantom of the Opera and you want more, you need to give this one a shot. Everyone is guaranteed to find something to love here, and definitely something to think about. The face doesn't make the man. It's what's in his heart and the choices he makes that reveals a flawed but beautiful human being. A worthy addition to any Phantom collection, and I'm already eager for a third volume!...more
I ping-ponged back and forth on my rating for a second, then decided to round it up. What I liked outweighed whatever little nitpicks I had.
First off,I ping-ponged back and forth on my rating for a second, then decided to round it up. What I liked outweighed whatever little nitpicks I had.
First off, I wish this could have been longer. Some parts were nicely developed, and others were good enough that I would have liked more time spent on them. I never got bored while reading (which happens too often when reading Phantom of the Opera retellings and sequels, only a handful of which are worth the time and effort) and enjoyed the story so much I hated to see it come to the end.
I admit, I had my doubts at first. In the beginning, it felt like déjà vu with a heroine similar enough to Christine it could have served the same purpose just to drop thoughts of an original character altogether and just rolled on with the existing one. Is this the same story all over again? No, wait, Antoinette is spunky and stubborn and the exact opposite of Christine, barring the fact that she has a near-perfect voice that needs tutoring. Oh no, it's worse than I thought! It's a Christine 2.0!
Ha ha, not. Antoinette looked like a potential Mary Sue, but as the story went along she grew. She got more and more interesting, and soon enough she was interesting on her own, not just for the way she managed to push Erik's buttons. She didn't behave like most OCs I've read in various fan fictions, which was a huge relief, and she did a few things I've never seen ANY characters do in various fan fictions, which was a breath of fresh air.
Erik's characterization was spot-on. Ms. McQuinn nailed the vital traits such as sarcasm, arrogance, bad temper, odd humor, and a little self-pity. The interaction between him and Antoinette took up most of the book, and I'll repeat the phrase "ping-pong" to describe it. They bounced back and forth, bickering and pestering each other and trying to wear each other down, then everything moved from there. And the best part about the E/A love story? It didn't happen right away! There is nothing more annoying than a sequel in which Erik miraculously forgets his all-consuming obsession with Christine in favor of a girl who just walks into the lair, sees past the hideous disfigurement that has made him an outcast his entire life, and instantly falls in love with him. The instance of Antoinette finding herself in the lair to start with seemed a bit unlikely, but the important plot point was not.
The second half of the book was my favorite, with all of those rare plot twists that actually work, but it's where I found most of my developing nitpicks. I would have liked to see more about the rivalry between Antoinette and Juliet and a little more of a transition between the Comte as a smitten suitor and the Comte as an abusive a-hole. On the other hand, I have no beef whatsoever with the climax and the ending. If the Erik-has-a-deformed-child ending is rare, then this one is just about unheard of. In fact, I haven't seen one like it yet, and I applaud Ms. McQuinn for pulling it off.
Let's see, what else? It was an enjoyable read, and certainly not one I regret, like others I could name *cough*The Phantom of Manhattan*cough* There were enough Leroux elements to satisfy me, with a few Kay and Webber twists to keep me on my toes. Tired of the same old, same old in the world of Phantom fan fiction? Give this one a try! ...more
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 postedFinally! 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!...more
Oh boy, am I ashamed I didn't review this faster! The only problem is that it's so darn hard to review story collections...especially the good ones. IOh boy, am I ashamed I didn't review this faster! The only problem is that it's so darn hard to review story collections...especially the good ones. It's so easy to just go on and on about them!
I was jumping for joy when I heard that the wonderfully talented Michelle Rodriguez was publishing some of her amazing Phantom stories, and to see not only several of my favorites, but new ones as well, made my day! I laughed, cried, you know, the whole nine yards. Maybe even ten, because Ms. Rodriguez knows how to get to you. It's impossible to pick one single favorite, so I'm going to look over my notes and share a few thoughts on a few specific stories.
"To Look With Blinded Eyes" - This one has been a favorite of mine for a looong time. And it's no wonder why, really. Take, for instance, this line: "At least her fear I could control when her heart was full of lies anyway." That's just heartbreaking, and that's only the tip of the iceberg! Erik's musings on love feel spot-on, and I go from crumbling to melting in the span of a few paragraphs. The tragedy and scope of his character are perfectly detailed in this piece, the love, the pain, the self-loathing, and the certifiable hope. Major love!
"Monsters and Masks" - I was first struck by Erik's views of masquerades, and struck hard. It's not a game for him; he's like everyone else only when they pretend. What's only imaginary for others is real for him, and that just...it hurts, man. It hurts. A maskless Erik being the most intimate possibility of all is a nice detail, because it's true. But I also feel pity for Raoul, loving Christine as he does, yet she hides everything from everyone until she's alone with Erik...and I love the phrase "the truth in the darkness." Love it! Love it to pieces!
"Something Like A Promise" - This would be one of those new never-before-seen ones, and it didn't disappoint. It's rather decadent...bittersweet, yet with just the right amount of fluff. And hey, look at that! Philippe is here! And...wait for it...I cried! I swear, this woman turns me into the biggest darn baby!
"The Anatomy of a Kiss" - I'm just going to quote straight from my notes on this one, as my thought processes on it were vaguely amusing: Why should so much hang on a kiss? Why are they so important, and if they really are, why are they treated so lightly? Christine's confusion in thinking she'd made a mistake in kissing Erik if she was supposed to be in love with Raoul, then that her kisses with Raoul since the opera were lies after all drove home how mixed up she is. (Recognizing Raoul's worth, but damn it, he's just not Erik! Sob!) I like her hurt at being upbraided in her own choice and her grudge with Erik on that issue. The walking sin comment was really striking, him hiding his identity with the mask, and her hiding hers with the wedding gown, and also a tender image of him holding her in his arms. Sigh-worthy in every aspect. Erik assuming she lied when she kissed him, but being so confused because he doesn't know what a kiss should be, and asking her to make it a lie so he can learn...sob! Going about it as if it was all an experiment was bizarre and genius! Reject Raoul and the lies she felt for him and embrace the truth that comes with kissing Erik! See the light, Christine! See it! Clever observation in that they've only ever lied to each other, so how could they possibly see the truth when it's ringing the doorbell? Short, sweet, and moving.
"Lie To Me" - Favorite! Favorite! (Well, one of them, anyway...) So damn awesome! Intense, seductive, and dark indeed, but in more ways than one. I LOVED Christine's musing in the first few paragraphs. Has this darkness in her soul always existed, or is it of Erik's creation? Is she evil because of it? Will the world see it on her? It sickens her, but she doesn't care, she's that far gone. You know, it's rare to find a Christine so dark, yet sound so in character. And this Erik is...just...WOW! So aggressive, and I mean aggressive, yet still longing for her love and so wounded that she won't give it. He's not so much the Phantom here so much as a man holding on with both hands to what he has but wishing he had even more. He really does love her, but all she is willing to admit to is the desire he inspires within her. I didn't cry; I wanted to beat my head against a wall. It has that effect on you.
"A Passionate Interlude" - Another new one, and...WOW! Good God, I wasn't expecting THAT! Naughty! Kinky! Scandalous! Holy cow! Fluff, you say? I think NOT!...no, wait, that ending has the warm fuzzy feeling inherent to fluff...all I can say is, boy, this was FUN!
Now, about that rumor I hear about a second volume......more