Written by Susan Kay

Delacorte Press, Bantam Doubleday Dell Publishing Inc, 1991

He puzzled and worried me with his sad, wary dignity and his whiplash reaction to threat. I wanted to know who he was, where he came from, and why he combined the manners of a young gentleman with all the instincts of an experienced street killer.


In stark contrast to the warm opulence of his surroundings, he was dressed from head to foot in black, and his face was entirely concealed behind a white mask. The effect suggested power, a cold and thrilling majesty; it was as though I had stumbled upon one of the ancient gods of mythology.

~daroga (Nadir)

A Bittersweet Romance
While Leroux's novel is primarily a mystery novel with elements of horror and romance, Kay's novel focuses on the elements of romantic tragedy. Because of this, I think it is worthwhile reading even for people who are not avid Phantom Phans. It is definitely a must-have for Erik phans.

Because Kay was inspired to write this novel after watching the musical by Andrew Lloyd Webber - she was fortunate to witness the talented Michael Crawford himself play the role of The Phantom - it is understandable that the story of Erik's life as the famous Opera Ghost would drift from Leroux in some key areas. In most cases, however, she skillfully fills in the gaps that Leroux had left. With some rare exceptions, she remains remarkably loyal to the plot outlined by Leroux while still maintaining an incredibly sympathetic, romantic portrayal of The Phantom.

This beautiful re-telling of Leroux's original story chronicles Erik's entire life from cradle to grave. It is told as a narration from the perspectives of several main characters, including none other than Erik himself. Kay did her research for this novel, on topics including but not limited to the brief summary of Erik's life (as defined by Leroux in the epilogue of his novel), 19th century Persian history, European gypsy culture, architecture, herbal medication, and hatred. Her explanations of Erik's behavior are so remarkable that, I must say, I'm quite jealous.

While I do have my disagreements about this story (such as Erik's drug addiction), overall this novel sweeps me off my feet. Erik's horrifying years with the chorody and his degrading life with the sideshow is sad and depressing. His difficult years in Persia nearly made me cry. His friendship with Giovanni, then Nadir (yes, The Persian aka the daroga has a name now), followed by his loving if sometimes turbulent friendship with Christine are all simply splendid. I especially love not only Erik's remarkable genius but also his dry, witty sense of humor, which comes out at some of the most unexpected moments. While I have my disagreements about the "happy ending" for the poor unhappy Erik, I do indeed get a guilty pleasure out of reading it.

For those who have not yet read this novel, this "happy ending" I mention - while tactfully and tastefully described - still manages to draw mixed emotions among some young readers. Some scenes during Erik's childhood and his years in Persia also contain adult situations that may either confuse or offend the younger readers.

I say just read it. This one is worth the time and the money even if you are not the broad-minded Erik-Addict like me.

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