Book Cover
Title Phantom
Series ---
Author Susan Kay
Cover Art ---
Publisher Llumina Stars - 2006
First Printing 1990
Category Horror
Warnings None

Main Characters

Erik, Christine Daaé, Vicomte Raoul Chagny, Nadir

Main Elements Ghosts

A disturbingly gifted child, horribly disfigured from birth, flees into a cruel world where he will learn to survive at any cost.

Torn between good and evil, driven to seek power as a substitute for the love he fears he can never know, Erik begins a dark journey that will take him across the face of Europe, from a gypsy cage to the treacherous court of Persia, and ultimately to the cellars of the Paris Opera House, where he must finally learn the true meaning of love.

I'd heard good things about this book, and there is definitely a risk in reading a book for which one has high expectations, it can rarely meet them. As I started reading I was worried. While Erik would of course have been an exceptionally gifted child, the things Kay described were a bit of a stretch to believe, even down to his musical crying that Madeleine just couldn't resist (though she could throw him to the ground the moment he was quiet). I mean after all, he was still just human!

But as he got older the gifts seem more believable, and that's when I really started getting drawn into the story, to the point where I dismayed when I realized it was going to end!

Kay presented us with a Phantom whose motivations were vile but understandable. I mean at what point does one sympathize, and want to comfort, a murdering drug addicted madman? I recall thinking about the same dilema when one considers Lestat from Anne Rice's Vampire Chronicles. They have such damage souls and they want to do good, but ultimately the world drives them one way or another to do bad. You feel that murder is justified (and a couple cases were self-defence) but ultimately, most of the time he killed because he liked it, or at the very least because he was pissed off. And yet, the reader says to themselves, "Well the world was cruel to him, isn't he justified in a little revenge?". In the end the world moulded Erik into the very monster they believed him to be.

The story is told from multiple point of views, Erik's mother, the Persian (who so often is left out of movies and other retellings), Giovanni, Christine, Raoul, and of course, Erik himself. I really enjoyed this format, being at times inside the head of the Phantom, knowing exactly what he was thinking, but at others, only being able to puzzle him out through the eyes of another. The section from the Persian's POV was perhaps the most interesting, as he got the see Erik at his worst, but also his best and ultimately befriended him. As Kay herself wondered, so little is known about the motivations of the Persian in the original book, that he wouldn't be so loyal to the Phantom simply because "of a favour once done for him". It had to be something more...

Kay managed to truly bring the Phantom alive, to flesh out the man behind the mask, and I can see why it received such high praise. Definitely needs to be on the reading list of any Phantom fan!

Posted: December 2014


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