I've met my match. I have never ever ever come across a book, barring this one, that I just couldn't handle reading for extended periods of time. Not because it was bad, but because it was just so darn sad!
I'm a huge fan of Leroux's original novel and I'm always nervous about reading anything to do with Phantom of the Opera (I'm still recovering from The Phantom of Manhattan), but there really wasn't anything to worry about with this one. Susan Kay did a remarkable job of fleshing out Erik's previously shadowy past. Her original characters were well-drawn; I still have mixed feelings about Madeleine and I liked Giovanni almost as much as Nadir. The part that concerned me the most turned out to be the part that most blew me away: Erik's characterization. It wasn't overdone or understated, it was just right. The pain, the passion, the madness...it was all so Erik I can't find the words to do it justice. It turned me into a sniffling, sobbing wreck!
I do have just one little problem with it, though. From Erik's birth to his taking up residence in the Opera House was told in such detail that when Christine finally arrived on the scene, it seemed to fly by too fast by comparison. I understand that the Erik/Christine/Raoul triangle was covered good and plenty by Leroux so there's no need to go all-out when the book had already gone on so long, but I thought a little more time might have been spent on it. It was the most pivotal, important relationship of Erik's tormented life, and as such it should have been treated with more thought.
And yet I have to hand it to Ms. Kay. She worked me over so well with the last scene at the house on the lake I wanted to tear my hair out in anguish. It was so intense and so electrically charged I couldn't sleep after reading it (which was pretty rough, as I couldn't stop thinking about it, thus furthering the torment). And the last bits from Raoul's perspective were rather touching, which came as a surprise since he seemed like such a minor character up until then.
All in all, a must-read for phans and heck, anyone who needs a good cry. Take the advice I didn't, and keep the tissues handy!