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Phantom

by Susan Kay
468 pages, Romance
Reviewed by Kristi

Great retelling of a classic story, but contains violence and sexual content

Plot

A baby, Erik, is born with a horribly disfigured face. Unwanted by his mother, he runs away only to find himself exhibited as a freak in a gypsy carnival. Escaping, he makes his way through a difficult life, as a stonemason's apprentice in Rome, a magician in Russia, an executioner in the dangerous Persian court, and finally on to Paris, to become the mastermind behind the construction of the Paris Opera House.

Determined to hide away from humanity, he fashions an underground house for himself below the building. Then, one day, he hears the exquisite Christine sing for the first time, and will risk everything in his obsession to make her love him in return.

This is a retelling of the story of the Phantom of the Opera, beginning before his birth, and carrying us through his childhood, youth, and adulthood.

Morality

Erik doesn't have much morality. While he first kills in self-defense, he later learns to enjoy it. He controls his friends and others using his nearly-hypnotic voice. In Persia, under the direction of the shah and his sadistic mother, he performs many executions and 'amusing deaths', as well as planning and attempting at least one assassination against a rival.

Spiritual Content

Erik is raised Catholic and struggles throughout his life with whether there is a God, and if so, whether that God would hear him. One of his early mentors tries to gently lead him to the faith. Late in the story, Erik decides to follow the promptings of the devil, though it's not stated quite that bluntly. At the end though, he recognizes the devil as a liar. The suggestion is made that romantic love transcends death.

Violence

Erik is a murderer, and in Persia his job is to invent 'amusing deaths' for the shah's mother to observe. Expect some pretty dark stuff.

Drug and Alcohol Content

Erik uses opium and morphine liberally.

Sexual Content

SOME SPOILERS: Young Erik is attacked by a child predator. Later, in Persia he is offered a 15 year old girl from the harem to be his wife, though he declines. Later Erik wonders how much he would have to pay a woman of the night for an evening, but he never attempts this for fear of rejection. Some of Raoul's friends try to get him to go with them to a brothel. Christine has a very erotic response to some of Erik's music. Near the end a plainly sexual scene takes place behind closed doors.

Crude or Profane Language or Content

F**k. D**n

Conclusion

This is a well-fleshed out retelling of the story of the Phantom of the Opera, and in that sense is apt to please fans. There's a lot of content to watch out for however. One of the tortures Erik invents in Persia is particularly disturbing, and while there aren't any "sex scenes", per se, inappropriate intimacy runs throughout the story.

Fun Score: 5
Values Score: 2.5
Written for Age: adult

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