My review of fantasy romance Phantoms by Michael Leon
The legend lives on in Phantoms… as modern day Phantom of the Opera, Eric Destler, plots to take over and rule the Palais Garnier with La Divina, the world-famous soprano, Carlotta Caccini, as his queen. But at every turn he is thwarted by his nemesis, the original Phantom of the Opera, now the Opera Ghost. Phantoms is set in the dark underground of the famous Paris Opera House and the stage above, where Guiseppi Verdi’s famous opera, Macbeth is being rehearsed. It is about parallel worlds, where opera imitates life with potentially catastrophic results. This is a tale about many phantoms – the real, imagined and ethereal – that haunt us all. And about the phantoms who live in the darkest recesses of the mind, often lurking behind beautiful facades. A world where some masks can’t be seen.
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Excerpt from Phantoms
The water gently lapped on the man-made shore, dampening the mirror black of Erik’s infantry boots, the only flaw in his freshly pressed military outfit. Dressed in jet black formal uniform with only his cape of royal blue providing a splash of colour, he gazed out on to his private lake. He tenderly held a bouquet of fresh cardinal roses and studied his reflection. It took Erik back to a past life, so far removed from his present, that he wondered if it really had happened. He smiled cynically. It could have been his wedding day.
Rose’s enchanting smile haunted him. He turned to look behind, certain he saw her standing in the shadows of the gothic pillars that surrounded his subterranean water world. Rose faded from his mind, before he studied the bouquet he fastidiously prepared. Then he remembered there would be no wedding this day. Not any day. He dropped the bouquet on to the tightly bound woman he cradled in his left arm. She was peaceful now, free from the terror that had been inflicted on her.
“This is for Rose. You will not be forgotten, my love.”
Erik caressed the face of his victim before taking her rope-entwined torso in his powerful arms to stand up on the water’s edge. He peered out to the middle of the lake and watched the current of the man-made cistern suck the murky water to its centre. The current was at its most powerful as he tested its flow. The bouquet drifted quickly to the focal point before disappearing from Erik’s sight. Water was his world now. Strange that the creator of life could just as easily extinguish it.
My Review of Phantoms
Right away, I’d be remiss if I didn’t say this definitely has its roots in Phantom of the Opera. As a musical theater geek, as well as sci-fi/fantasy geek, the idea behind this story appealed to me at a very deep level. The only thing missing was actual music playing, but thankfully, my brain supplied the soundtrack. Dark and atmospheric with hints of humor and light, this is a reading experience worth having for Phantom fans and those unfamiliar with the show alike.
There was a bit of a juxtaposition with the story tone and setting. The story itself felt historical in ways. Maybe because opera is such a large part of it (even without the phantom), and opera kind of automatically sends my brain back in time. So the hints at advanced technology occasionally caught me off guard, but the mix of opera and advanced tech is an interesting combination. I very much enjoyed the dynamics between the characters. All of the rivalry I’ve heard that goes on backstage (and remember from my days in the drama club—such an accurate name) was present and realistic. The setting, too, felt real, so much so that I felt like I could walk into the descriptions and find myself at the opera house.
All in all, this is a compelling story. There is some darkness but nothing over-the-top—just a general feeling of something hovering over the proverbial light. Definitely recommend to fans of Phantom, of musicals, and of sci-fi/fantasy—or fans of any combination of these things.
About Michael Leon
Michael Leon is an explorer, writer and author of the new novel, Sentient. Professionally trained in international trade, Michael has spent the last decade reading and writing SFF novels about new worlds to be explored in the future. His latest work, Sentient, imagines Earth in the year 2120. Michael has travelled extensively around Europe, walking the paths of his characters, from the famous European opera houses in Phantoms to the mountain tops of Switzerland in Emissary. For more information, go to his web site: www.michaelleon.com.au
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