Phantom, by Susan Kay

parsleymusic's review

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This was good until the END I'M SO MAD

primore's review against another edition

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dark emotional mysterious medium-paced


This book has violently catapulted me back into my Phantom obsession (though, if I’m being honest, it never truly left, only lied temporarily dormant). 

Apologies if you encounter me anytime soon; Susan Kay is to blame 

You have been warned 

bookhero6's review against another edition

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Rereading after 18 years. The best parts of this are the ones leading up to the Opera. The backstory is rich and inspired and answers a lot of why questions. Denied love, who could help but be a monster?

Erik the child, Erik the young man, Erik the genius, is a likable character, despite everything. Kay creates a sympathetic character, by surrounding him with likable characters who display, sometimes, the better parts of human nature.

When I read this as a child, I strove for the love story, the so-called exciting part. As an adult, it is the origin story that most delights me, and where this book earns its 5 stars. It is such a setup for dismal depressingness that the happy ending comes as a surprise. Christine I found a little lacking but Erik and Raoul were fairly magnificent.

Even after all these years, I am still entranced by the Phantom of the Opera. Shh don't tell: I may have also listened to parts of the Lloyd Webber musical while reading this.

contralistation's review against another edition

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adventurous fast-paced
  • Plot- or character-driven? A mix
  • Strong character development? No
  • Loveable characters? No
  • Diverse cast of characters? It's complicated
  • Flaws of characters a main focus? Yes


bella1109's review

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This is one of the books that I would re-read once a year (sometimes more) since I discovered it almost 15 years ago at my school library. A must read for phantom of the opera lovers.

One of the most expensive book I've owned. It was really hard to track it down and I had to go to one of the big bookstores in the city center to order it, but this book is worth every cent. This book is centered around Erik's background since he was born up to the burning of the opera. If you ever wonder about Erik's background, wonder no more. This book is wonderful and I simply can't express my appreciation for it. Thank you, Ms. Kay for such a lovely book.

therearenobadbooks's review

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Such delight. We get to see different stages of Erik's life since his birth and learn what he has learned and done, and where he lived until he becomes the famous Opera Ghost. The book is divided into multiple parts with different POVs. It's never dull. The rhythm of the story is full of detail and emotion. It never disappoints.

Not many books make me cry. This was one of them. How I longed for a book like this for a long time. This one has taken the place that Wuthering Heights occupied for years. And Erik is right there besides Heathcliff. I love a villainous and dark main character.
The perfect book for Phantom of the Opera fans.

jacktaylor's review against another edition

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4.5 (should of ended 2 chapters before it did)

daisymayduck's review against another edition

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adventurous emotional mysterious tense slow-paced
  • Plot- or character-driven? A mix
  • Strong character development? Yes
  • Loveable characters? It's complicated
  • Diverse cast of characters? Yes
  • Flaws of characters a main focus? Yes


I picked this up because I love Phantom of the Opera and it did not disappoint!
I found it to be a little slow at times but in general it wasn't too bad. I love the extra depth it gives to Erik's character as we get to see his backstory and all the heartbreak he has experienced. The way we get to see some of the events of the original story from another characters perspective is brilliant too.
Spoiler One little touch that I absolutely adored was how Raoul and Christine's son (or should that be Erik and Christine?) was named Charles- a lovely way of bringing the story full-circle from Erik's father Charles at the beginning.
All in all, a wonderful book :) 

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capucinef's review

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Beyond words... I feel so lucky to have been able to read this book and experience the true magic of this masterpiece..

directorpurry's review

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Actual rating: 1.5 stars (but not malicious stars; I'm really sad to be writing this review, tbh!)
CW: child abuse, death of an animal, death of a child, racism/slurs (specifically against Romani people), attempted rape, drug abuse

I, unlike many, many people, had more than a couple of issues with this book. It shows its age, certainly, being read 30 years later, but it also attempts to cater to both fans of the original novel and fans of the musical at the same time - and, personally, I felt it did neither one justice. Simply because there are so many glowing reviews of this novel, I'm going to break this down into categories to be as thorough as possible, since clearly the average star rating can take it!

Adaptation: This book tries to include elements of both the staged musical and the original novel, [b:The Phantom of the Opera|480204|The Phantom of the Opera|Gaston Leroux||2259720] by Gaston Leroux, and does both rather poorly. There are elements not included in the musical, or elements only present in the musical but not the book, that were all included alongside each other. I expect those who only knew the musical coming in were surprised to meet the Persian or to learn about the torture chamber. I was really disappointed in the way the Rosy Hours of Mazanderan were presented; it didn't completely line up with the description in the original novel - rather than the "little sultana," we had a grown woman (Frequently attempting to seduce Erik for some reason?). Also, WHERE was the graveyard? Where was the resurrection of Lazarus scene?? That part is so poignant in the original novel and it was entirely cut without even a single mention in this book. It also failed spectacularly at creating the relationship between Raoul and Christine. Just... bad. In the original novel, she clearly has a preference for Raoul, while in the musical her love is more torn - but in Phantom, she's in love with Erik and seems only to use Raoul to make Erik jealous. She picks Raoul over Erik because he's the safe, less scary choice, not because she loves him.
I do have a sneaking suspicion the circus/cage scene included in part two inspired the circus present in the 2004 musical film, also based on the stage musical.
Not only were there scenes from the book that I expected but could not find, it also created a number of problems with the timeline...

Timeline: About halfway through the novel, Phantom meets up with the actual events of The Phantom of the Opera. But by trying to follow both diverging timelines of the novel and the musical, the story finds itself muddled up. Joseph Buquet dies too early, the chandelier falls too late. The manager's gala and the New Year's masquerade ball are entirely cut and Christine and Raoul's romance is completely sideways. Phantom fails to include a significant number of scenes from the original novel, and some of the scenes that were included rewrote the original dialogue for no good reason, making it read particularly stilted and not at all following the original pace and plot beats of the story.
There was also an abject failure to complete the Chekhov's Gun prerogative!
SpoilerErik obtains a large amount of gun powder from radicals during the days of the Paris commune. He briefly mentions that if the opera house is ever slated for demolition, he will use the gunpowder to destroy it himself. In the original novel, Erik asks Christine to marry him and if she refuses the engagement, he will blow up the entire opera house via a basement full of gunpowder - the obtaining of which was never explicitly explained. However, this is one of the scenes that suffered the cuts of Phantom. So, he has a basement full of gun powder which he never references again!

Narration: I think this novel made a misstep in having such a wide swath of narrators. While most of the novel was narrated by others, three sections were narrated by Erik. I think it would have been more successful if the entire book was narrated by Erik or it was completely narrated by others. In the original novel, Erik is, while not a minor character by any means, not on the page for more than a third of the book. He's built up as and then torn down from this mystical, powerful, mysterious creature. He's far more powerful as a character when so much is left to the imagination; in Phantom it's all laid bare.

Language and Vernacular: Multiple times during the story, I noticed inconsistent use of language. For example, Erik is French. He is very French. He was born in France and lived all over Europe - but never in England. Despite this, he frequently uses very British turns of phrase, like "bloody." Later in the book, Meg Giry calls her mother "Ma" rather than "Mama," which would be more appropriate for a French-speaking character to do.
Earlier in the story, while Erik was living in Italy, one of the Italian characters referenced a "siesta," which is Spanish, when he should have called it a "riposo" instead. Later in the story, Erik tells the Persian he has his "wires crossed," a phrase that wasn't in print until 1891, but this scene was set in 1880.

White Savior-ism and Euro-centrism: Erik is clearly placed above those in Mezanderan because he is "rational" or perhaps more "civilized," despite whatever problems he has in his past. His way of thinking is placed above Persian society without qualm. He refuses to engage in customs - good or bad - and is seen as superior because of his choices. He goes on to speak of the architecture as ugly because it is extremely different from European architecture, and then the Persian goes on to noncommittally agree with him - which is frankly absurd because look at how breathtakingly gorgeous these buildings are. I don't even need to go on, because that's the most blatant example of Euro-centrism and superiority that I have seen in my entire life.

Romanticization and Veneration: Erik is thoroughly romanticized through this book. The reader is told how smart and strong and talented... how everything but handsome Erik is, despite his frequent lapses in temper and his increasing willingness to kill over time. We're supposed to see Erik as a good guy just because he doesn't rape women when he has the chance to. Personally, I found the frequent reiteration of this concept to be a bit absurd, considering the bar is so low as to make it the baseline for not being a POS human being.
Characters are much more powerful, especially morally gray ones, when they're presented plainly to the reader, and the reader is then allowed to form their own opinions. Erik is compared to angelic and Jesus figures to excess throughout the story in direct opposition to the way his character is broken down from Angel of Music to human man by the end of the original novel. He never moves beyond this loving portrayal to the detriment of the reader's ability to interpret the story.

Treatment of Female Characters: There was really a very distasteful edge to the way women were talked about in this book. They were either to be looked down upon and had no agency of their own or were malicious characters. Only the male characters seemed to be able to move with purpose through the story - even Raoul, who's portrayed terribly, has more active choice than Christine. All that she does is in response to her dead father, to Raoul, or to Erik.

Final thoughts: I realized as I was nearing the end of this book that many of the pieces left purposefully vague and mysterious in the original Phantom of the Opera were done so with good reason. Erik's strange mystery is far more alluring than the full explanation could ever be. His mystery is the reason so much of pop culture - and I include myself in this - has turned to romanticizing this particularly flawed but talented individual.
Whatever answers I was hoping for, I did not find in this book. It contains dated language and lackluster characterization that relies far too heavily on the reader's prior inclination to love, or at least be deeply interested, in Erik. Instead of a few answers and some more mystery, it struggles to lay everything bare, to the detriment of writing and storyline. By trying to include elements of both the novel and the musical, it fails to include important scenes and do justice to either version.