I love Sherlock Holmes and I love the Phantom of the Opera. So you can imagine my interest when I found that someone had written a Sherlock Holmes/PhaI love Sherlock Holmes and I love the Phantom of the Opera. So you can imagine my interest when I found that someone had written a Sherlock Holmes/Phantom of the Opera crossover book in which Sherlock and Erik go head-to-head. Instantly I knew I had to check this book out. Even though a friend warned me that this book was actually really bad and that I shouldn't read it unless I wanted a really good laugh I carried on and read the thing anyway. My friend was right. 'Angel of the Oper'a IS a bad book. Wait, no, it isn't. It's an awful book. It didn't even make me laugh and I hated it more than I hated Susan Kay's Phantom! This particular book made me very angry indeed and my reasons for hating it so much are many. And now I'll try to explain why in a way that hopefully won't be incoherent and rambling!
Now the major issue that most Sherlock Holmes fans tend to have with this book is that John Watson, the loyal sidekick/best friend/faithful chronicler of Sherlock Holmes, isn't even in it. Instead the book is narrated by Dr Henry Vernier, Sherlock Holmes's half-French cousin. Now before I carry on with this review, I will give this book's author, Sam Siciliano, some credit. He obviously did some research before he wrote this book because Vernier is actually a legitimate Sherlock Holmes character. In one of the Arthur Conan Doyle stories there's a reference to Watson selling his medical practice to a man called Verner, who later turns out to be a cousin of Sherlock's. I suppose Siciliano changed the name from "Verner" to "Vernier" in order to make the name sound more French. Sherlock Holmes is part-French after all and changing "Verner" to "Vernier" isn't too much of a stretch. Siciliano also seems to have read Gaston Leroux's Phantom as well because the Persian and Raoul's brother Philippe are both in this story. These characters don't often feature in Phantom of the Opera adaptations. However, despite the fact that Siciliano has obviously done some research he messes so much stuff up! Now as most authors would surely realise it is NOT a good idea to anger your target audience right from the first page but that's precisely what Siciliano does when he disses Watson on the very first paragraph! Why would you do that?! After all, who would be likely to read this book? Sherlock Holmes fans of course. Didn't Siciliano think that slagging off Watson, the much-loved narrator of the Sherlock Holmes stories, might not be such a good move?! Did he not think that he might annoy a few people by doing that?! But that's exactly what he does. Siciliano's narrator Henry Vernier claims that Watson's writings are "foolish" and inaccurate. Watson himself is depicted as being petty and stupid. Here's a direct quote:
"Watson had little imagination and was extremely conventional in the stuffiest British sense...I cannot forgive him for parading so distorted, so petty a rendering of my cousin before the public for all these years. Since I, too, was trained in medicine, I can state that his failings as a physician were even greater than those as a writer. I encountered several examples of his incompetence firsthand!"
I swiftly realised just why exactly Siciliano (through his narrator) had chosen to portray Watson in this way though. It was so he could go completely against the Sherlock Holmes that is depicted in the Arthur Conan Doyle stories, so he could create his own Sherlock Holmes by changing aspects of the character's personality. I did NOT care for these changes at all.
The first change that Siciliano makes is that now Sherlock is capable of romantically loving women and isn't asexual. This was really annoying. The second change that Siciliano makes is when he has Vernier state that all of the quotes and incidences from the Conan Doyle stories which suggest that Sherlock believes in God were just an invention of Watson's and that Sherlock is actually a firm agnostic. This was another really annoying change that I didn't care for. Sherlock being an agnostic has no relevance WHATSOEVER to Angel of the Opera and I suspect that Siciliano only put this in because it happens to be his own personal belief. The third change that Siciliano makes is that Sherlock now has material greed. He demands an enormous amount of money from the managers for his services. Yet again this was a really annoying change because it makes Sherlock seem greedy and selfish. Sherlock Holmes doesn't solve crimes for money in the Conan Doyle stories! He solves crimes simply because he loves solving crimes! Siciliano then attempts to justify his decision to have Sherlock demand such an outrageous sum of money by claiming that the only reason why Sherlock is asking for such a huge amount of cash is because he's never had a client as wealthy and illustrious as the Opera Garnier before. What?! What a load of rubbish!!! Anyone who's read the story A Scandal in Bohemia will know that's not true! You don't get much more wealthy and illustrious than ROYALTY do you?! I was not happy with the changes that Siciliano made to Sherlock Holmes's character! Siciliano also makes Sherlock Holmes sickly-sweet and touch-feely in this story. He's always banging on and on about his feelings and his emotions. This got old very quickly!
Yet another issue that I had with this book was with Siciliano's narrator. You'd hope that if an author is going to assassinate a character as well-beloved as Dr John Watson that the author would then provide a likeable narrator in his place. But Henry Vernier is not a likeable narrator. At all. In fact he's extremely irritating. He badmouths Watson. He's extremely biased and declares his opinions on practically every single character in the story whether we want to know what he thinks or not. Believe me, I didn't! It really has you longing for Watson's more subtle narration. Vernier also keeps banging on and on about some woman called Michelle who he's in love with back in Britain. I did not care about this Michelle chick! Stop going off-topic! Vernier also comes across as a complete Gary-Stu which didn't exactly improve my opinion of him.
Up until now I've only mentioned how Siciliano ruins Watson and Sherlock's characters but if you think the characters from Leroux's book fare any better then think again. Philippe is sleazy, arrogant and callous. Raoul is turned into a whiny, snivelling, cowardly villain. In fact Siciliano even invents a completely new character just so he can have Raoul kill him and make him look like even more of a villain! Siciliano also depicts Christine as being a shallow, pouting Barbie doll who rejects Erik solely because of his looks. This isn't true! In Leroux's book Christine was afraid of the Phantom from the moment she actually met him face-to-face. She went through the mirror of her dressing room expecting to find her Angel of Music only to find a lonely, older, slightly creepy, mask-wearing MAN. Rejecting Erik doesn't make her shallow! I'd be put off by him too! Another character who is changed is The Persian. In Leroux's book - and even in Susan Kay's novel - the Persian is depicted as a noble, decent, dignified sort of bloke. He's horrified by Erik's murders and his kidnapping of Christine and is determined to stop him. But at the same time he has genuine pity for Erik and he doesn't want to kill him unless he has too. The final scene between them in the book is really moving. But in this book he's depicted as an evil, lecherous dude who leers at the ballerina girls and wants Erik dead! Siciliano also misspells Erik's name as "Eric" a couple of times and gets the Grasshopper and the Scorpion mixed up in the torture chamber scenes. Again, he messes so much stuff up!
Now it's my understanding that some Sherlock Holmes/Phantom of the Opera fans have been able to forgive Siciliano's book for its MANY faults simply because they found the conversations between Sherlock and Erik entertaining. Well, I can't. Erik and Sherlock's conversations and interactions were too contrived to be entertaining. Basically Sherlock takes an immediate liking to Erik simply because he's so impressed with how he plays the violin. He then completely ignores the fact that Erik is mentally ill, the fact that Erik is a murderer, the fact that he's terrorising and extorting an opera house, even the fact that he's deformed. Yeah! When Sherlock and Vernier see Erik's face they don't seem all that affected by Erik's deformity. Vernier even thinks to himself that Erik's face isn't too bad and that he's seen worse. No, no, no! Erik's face isn't tolerable, Erik's face isn't slightly ugly. Erik's face is terrible to look at, he is REPULSIVE, he is HIDEOUS. He even smells like death. If Erik's face isn't too bad then why has be been forced to hide himself away from the world? If his face isn't too bad then what's the entire point of his character? And the ending of this book, my word, the ending! I won't give it away but it's completely stupid because it gives Erik a happy ending. Oh my word, I hated this book so much! ...more
**spoiler alert** I can see that I'm very much in the minority here. This book did nothing for me, and even though I wasn't expecting to enjoy it all**spoiler alert** I can see that I'm very much in the minority here. This book did nothing for me, and even though I wasn't expecting to enjoy it all that much I still feel pretty disappointed with it. Susan Kay's 'Phantom' is a spin-off of Gaston Leroux's 'The Phantom of the Opera' (although Andrew Lloyd Webber's musical was obviously an influence on it as well). It retells the life of Erik a.k.a. the Phantom from his birth right up to his death. I first heard about 'Phantom' a couple of years ago but I was extremely sceptical about it and it turns out I was right. In fairness I wouldn't say that this book is TERRIBLE. At least not all of it is. The first half of 'Phantom' is actually quite decent. OK, it is a bit contrived and sensationalistic in places but these are only minor flaws. I will give Kay some credit here. She does a good job of fleshing out the details of Erik's backstory that are only hinted at in Leroux's novel. I have to admit that I found the Rome and Persia sections of this book pretty interesting and I was impressed by the sheer amount of research that Kay must have done. In fact, if Kay had ended her novel right where Leroux's book and the Andrew Lloyd Webber musical start off then I think she would have had a decent prequel to POTO on her hands. Unfortunetly, Kay doesn't choose to end her novel at this point and I carried on reading it.
The second half of 'Phantom' is a total let-down - and to be perfectly frank I think most of it really sucks. First of all, we find out that Christine Daae bears an uncanny resemblance to Madeleine, Erik's mother. Now surely I can't be the only person who finds this a bit creepy and Freudian?! And besides, Madeleine hated Erik and vice versa so wouldn't Christine's physical resemblance to his mother be off-putting to him? Another thing that I found extremely irritating about this book are the bizarre alterations from Leroux's original story that occur. It's really strange because Kay has obviously made an effort, in the first half of this book at least, to keep Erik's physical appearance and backstory accurate to Leroux's descriptions - but when she actually comes to the story that we all know and love she makes weird changes. I'm sure that Kay probably wanted to put her own twist on things and to make the story her own but the way that she did this was just too fanfiction-y and off-canon for my tastes.
There are so many scenes in this book that supposedly take place in Leroux's novel but are in reality nothing like those scenes at all. For example: Leroux's novel has Carlotta croak like a toad on the same night that the chandelier falls, but in Kay's 'Phantom' the chandelier falls on a different night much later on. The unmasking scene here is nothing like the unmasking scene in Leroux's novel. By far the most cringeworthy scene in this book has to be the one where Christine hears Erik's music for Don Juan Triumphant. The music is described as being like a sob in Leroux's novel, as the ultimate expression of grief and rage. Christine is frightened and disturbed. Here though, the music is so incredibly sexy and arousing that Christine *ahem* ends up getting herself off to it. Okaaay then...The book then proceeds to delve even further into the realms of bad fanfiction. I get the strong impression that Kay didn't like how Leroux's novel ended and decided to twist and distort the characters and events of that novel to suit her own purposes like a lot of bad fanfiction writers do.
I love the Phantom in Leroux's novel and Andrew Lloyd Webber's musical. I think he's a fantastic character and very sympathetic. In Kay's novel, I felt barely any sympathy for him at all. Also, I can't say that I was ever a massive fan of Christine in Leroux's novel (because I never really found her all that interesting) but reading Kay's novel actually made me appreciate her a whole lot more. OK, Christine does come across as being a bit helpless in Leroux's novel but at least she had some backbone. She was in love with Raoul and was determined to save him. In Kay's novel, Christine is completely incapable of making decisions by herself and seems incredibly childish and bratty. I know that Christine is supposed to be naive and a very young and innocent girl from reading Leroux's novel - childlike as opposed to childish - but Kay seems to take this to mean that 'Christine is stupid and mentally challenged'. Er, no she isn't! Kay strips Christine of every ounce of intelligence and integrity that she has in Leroux's novel and what we have instead is an incredibly annoying character. She also has an aggravating habit of always saying exactly the wrong thing to Erik and she uses Raoul horribly. Basically, she only runs off to Raoul in this book whenever Erik has done something to upset her: whether it's because he shouted at her or because she's jealous of his cat. Raoul is just some tool for Christine to punish Erik with. I felt really sorry for Raoul in this book and he must surely deserve some sort of medal for the crap that he has to put up with! Christine ends up sleeping with Erik right before their wedding - hmm, what recent musical does this remind me of?! - and forces him to accept this. She then takes Erik's cat to live with them and has a son that turns out to be Erik's! Poor Raoul has to put up with the fact that his wife, his son and even his pet are all Erik's! How harsh is that?
To sum up: if you're an E/C shipper who hates Raoul, loves the Phantom unconditionally, and always thought that Christine should have chosen Erik and was in love with him all along then 'Phantom' is a must-read and you will love it. And if you're not, don't bother. Give me the Leroux novel and the ALW musical anyday!...more