Tuesday, January 9, 2018

#BookReview: The Phantom's Apprentice by Heather Webb

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In this re-imagining of Phantom of the Opera, meet a Christine Daaé you’ve never seen before…

Christine faces an impossible choice: be a star at the Paris opera as Papa always wanted, or follow her dream—to become a master of illusions. First, she must steal the secrets of the enigmatic master who haunts her, survive a world of treachery and murder, and embrace the uncertain promise of love. To succeed, she will risk her life in the grandest illusion of all.

"Webb combines music and magic seamlessly in The Phantom's Apprentice, weaving glittering new threads into the fabric of a classic story. Romantic, suspenseful and inventive, this novel sweeps you along to its breathless conclusion." - Greer Macallister, USA Today bestselling author of The Magician's Lie

"In her captivating novel, Heather Webb casts an intriguing new light on a much-loved tale...Full of magic and atmosphere, lush historical detail and page-turning suspense, The Phantom's Apprentice is sure to enthrall, enchant and delight... Brava!!" - Hazel Gaynor, NYT bestselling author of The Cottingley Secret

"A performance worthy of the Paris Opera...Christine’s evolution from 'damsel in distress’ to self-reliant woman is masterfully done, hooking the reader from the first page. Webb's work is immersive, well-crafted, and beautifully paced. A must-read!" - Aimie K. Runyan, author of Daughters of the Night Sky 
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Rating: ★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆   |   Obtained from: Netgalley   |   Read: January 4, 2018
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Illustration by André Castaigne
I caught wind of Heather Webb’s The Phantom’s Apprentice at the 2017 Historical Novel Society Conference in Portland. A devout cover slut, I was immediately smitten with the jacket design, but I was equally intrigued by the premise of the narrative and couldn’t wait to get my hands on a copy of my own.

Did the novel live up to my expectations? That is an interesting question. The Phantom’s Apprentice exists within Leroux’s canonical universe, but it is independent of his voice which is a fact that initially frustrated me a great deal. When I sat down to collect my thoughts, however, I realized that while Webb’s interpretation of the source material differed dramatically from my own, I quite liked the creativity, ideas, and details of the narrative. For this reason, I encourage fellow readers to approach the novel with an open mind.

Christine is the focal point of the narrative, and I liked how Webb used the book as a platform to flesh out her character. Christine is a passive and easily manipulated individual under Leroux’s pen, but she becomes a far more assertive and astute personality under Webb’s. I didn’t always agree with this version of Christine, but I certainly appreciated the ideas that shaped her make-up and the contemporary relevance those themes afforded.

That said, I am a reader of historical fiction and admit the contextual details of the narrative held great appeal in my eyes. Leroux capitalized on contemporary interest in the spiritualist movement by creating the story around a man who taunts the cast and crew of the Palais Garnier in the guise of a ghost. Webb expands on this idea with further exploration of the emotional landscape of the spiritualist movement and the means by which those emotions were both flamed and exploited.

Webb’s foray into the world of illusion is also worthy of note. The novel takes place during a particularly exciting period where developing technologies allowed for great advances in the field of stage magic. Though the techniques illustrated over the course of the narrative are not refined by today’s standards, I found the descriptions of Erik’s illusionary innovations intensely entertaining and couldn’t help appreciating the effort Webb put into authentically presenting the magician’s craft.

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"Despite my understanding of illusions, doubt mingled with facsination. I wanted to believe, even if it wasn't real."
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Rodin's Lover
★ ★ ★ ★ ☆

Becoming Josephine
★ ★ ★ ★ ☆

Fall of Poppies
★ ★ ★ ★ ☆
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Carol said...

I was not a fan of The Phantom of the Opera when I listened to the audiobook version a couple years ago. I think I might actually enjoy this re-imagining more than the original.

Erin Davies said...

Oh I hope you enjoy it. It's such and unique take on the classic. :)