Wow what a great read! If you love The Phantom of the Opera as much as I do, then I strongly suggest you pick this one up!
In this Phantom-inspired tale, we meet Afsar, eldest daughter of the Shah of Iran, actually Persia at that time. It's around 1851 and Afsar is 10 years old when her father offers to bring the circus to their palace for her birthday. For within this traveling circus, there is talk of a conjurer with a face so ugly but with the voice of an angel, and the Shah decides that he simply must meet this man for himself, on the pretense of his daughter's birthday of course.
It is a year or so later when the circus finally arrives at the palace, and it seems that everything the trader has said is true. Afsar is quite taken with the conjurer—who is known by many names: the Comte de la Mort Rouge, Vachon, and eventually Eirik. Eirik makes a striking impression on both the Shah and his hauntingly beautiful daughter. As a man of many talents—quite useful, he claims, in overcoming the hideousness of his appearance—Eirik is charged with building a grand place for the Shah, opulent and lavish in design, yet full of secret rooms, passageways, and trap doors, and he also becomes the Shah's favored assassin. His extended presence at the palace allows Afsar to spend more time in Eirik's company, reveling in his darkness and trickery, all the while exploring and embracing her own dark side. For what she learns about herself and the world around her whilst in Eirik's presence is more valuable than any other life lessons she's learned at the palace thus far.
Though Afsar is only a young girl when this story begins, she grows to about 15 years old at the time of it's conclusion. Though that may seem young for everything she's experiencing, the time frame within which this novel occurs places her at a quite marriageable age, women of this time often marrying as young as twelve or thirteen years of age. And the future Opera Ghost, at only nineteen himself, is already quite cultured, having traveled extensively and this only adds to Afsar's wonderment of him.
The writing was superb, written a bit like prose, yet fully descriptive and engaging at the same time. I truly immersed myself in this book, forgetting where I was and feeling myself walking through the sumptuous palace, the streets of Sari, or wherever else the author happened to be describing. Though the the juicy bits didn't really start until about 1/4 of the way in, all the foreshadowing began much sooner, and once Eirik arrived with the traveling circus, you just knew things going to get sinister real soon. This book will definitely be classified as one of my favorite reads.
Since I'm going to see the stage production of The Phantom of the Opera in September, it was a perfect time for me to read this, and I'll probably reread The Phantom of the Opera book before then too. This will actually be my third time seeing the stage production, but I will never get tired of such a spectacular show... so beautiful and haunting! LOVE LOVE LOVE!!
Thank you to NetGalley and the publisher for providing me an advance copy of this e-book in exchange for an honest review.