Who are you and how did you slip through the pub day cracks? Because you’re an exquisite book with lots of action/adventure, a little love story, and a ton of magic that somehow flew under the radar and needs way more love than it’s getting.
Isda does not exist. At least not beyond the opulent walls of the opera house.
Cast into a well at birth for being one of the magical few who can manipulate memories when people sing, she was saved by Cyril, the opera house’s owner. Since that day, he has given her sanctuary from the murderous world outside. All he asks in return is that she use her power to keep ticket sales high—and that she stay out of sight. For if anyone discovers she survived, Isda and Cyril would pay with their lives.
But Isda breaks Cyril’s cardinal rule when she meets Emeric Rodin, a charming boy who throws her quiet, solitary life out of balance. His voice is unlike any she’s ever heard, but the real shock comes when she finds in his memories hints of a way to finally break free of her gilded prison.
Haunted by this possibility, Isda spends more and more time with Emeric, searching for answers in his music and his past. But the price of freedom is steeper than Isda could ever know. For even as she struggles with her growing feelings for Emeric, she learns that in order to take charge of her own destiny, she must become the monster the world tried to drown in the first place.
This is a Phantom of the Opera retelling with a gender reversal, and a magical world that will sweep you off your feet. I was in love with the depictions of this old French city filled with beautiful costumes, masks, and a group of people who hold some very special powers. It really started off like a gender-swapped Phantom and that really set me forward for the rest of the book. I think that’s where the comparisons end. No, Isda doesn’t steal Emeric and force him to sing for her or any of the more morally grey features of Phantom from the actual novel. Instead, it all felt like a manipulation drawn in from one man and when you read the book, you’ll see right from the bat how that manipulation works. I don’t want to discuss it because it is a bit of a spoiler.
But this is also a story about a young woman who’s a bit morally grey and making some decisions for herself that kind of put the rest of the kingdom in danger. I loved that component the most from this novel; having the main character be a woman, but also be a bit dangerous. Whenever she mentions the pull of memory elixir in other people, you can tell she’s obsessed with it and needs it, but she was also able to hold herself back from bringing utter destruction. Honestly, I love morally grey characters, but I also really love female characters who need to do what’s necessary despite it going against their will.
And this whole novel is about that; women who are much stronger than their male counterparts and could easily be the villain in the story. It’s about the ability to choose; to focus your energy away from what feels too natural to be real. It’s the ability to discern for yourself rather than believe what you’ve been told and I think the biggest thing for Isda in this story was her drive to find out anything and everything about herself and the magic she possesses. If you’ve ever known what it’s like to be an outcast or shielded from truths that are beneficial to your survival, then you’ll really understand where Isda is coming from.
I also really loved the romantic elements between Isda and Emeric. Despite knowing each other for only a short amount of time, there was an affinity there that felt bigger than just a mutual arrangement. It felt almost fated for them especially when Isda looks at Emeric’s memories and finds out more about him and his past. And as the story unfolds and their relationship bonds even further, you realize that there’s more here than just a simple romance. Honestly, their relationship was what really drew me to this novel. I wouldn’t say that they’re making out or throwing heart eyes at each other the entire book, but their dynamic friendship and how they plan to work together was what kept me reading.
I will say, I wish there was more background story especially when it comes to being a gravoire. There were some subtle hints here and there about their history including Les Trois (three women who were gravoires in the past and brought death and destruction everywhere they went), but I wanted that sit down and hash out moment where the main characters discover more about themselves and what all this magic means.
Overall, this was such an entertaining story, fast paced, and quick to the action. I absolutely loved the way the story was told, the characters, and how complex Jessica S Olson wrote the story. I hope there’s a sequel in the future, but I’ll definitely be keeping an eye out for more of her work.
Thank you Inkyard Press for a gifted copy of this book. My opinions have not been influenced by the publisher or the author.