I realize it’s a little out-of-order to post the review for Vol 2 before Vol 1, but I just re-read this one for Book Bingo, so what the hey.
Continue a journey through the catacombs of the opera house in the epic love story of The Phantom of the Opera. Published author Michelle Rodriguez brings you 10 more of her most loved stories, previously posted for the “phans”, and a few from her vaults. There is something for everyone on the pages of Manifestations of a Phantom’s Soul, volume 2 as a man seeks to prove he is more than the portrait of his face and that love can transform a soul.
MY RATING: 5 STARS
I can’t say anything about Michelle’s writing that I haven’t said before, and yet I can’t say enough in praise of it, either. She consistently remains among my favorite authors, and this collection is excellent proof why, with her best and most daring Phantom retellings to date. As with the original Manifestations, I’ll break this review down with a few comments on the highlights of the collection.
“Haunted” – a previously unpublished story that was definitely a surprise. Michelle crosses territory not usually covered and puts in it a bittersweet light. The outcome is bleak, but she rarely leaves off without some ray of hope, and this is no exception. I appreciated Erik’s view on how faithful music always is to him, and yet it’s still a cold comfort without Christine. This line in particular got me: “But he beckoned insanity and convinced it to possess him to every corner and fingertip. When she nodded and set her hand in his, it felt real, and he knew he was crazy and welcomed it.”
“Ordinary” – another unpublished one, another bittersweet one that ends with hope, and another of her famous filler fics. This one flip-flops the original obsession angle, putting Christine in Erik’s shoes and makes him her obsession, which intrigued me right away. The masquerade theme made this one, just as it made “Monsters and Masks” in the previous Manifestations, and Christine’s earthbound angel costume felt perfect in the light Michelle painted the story. I loved the imagery of an angel chasing Red Death across a crowded dance floor, and the story opens up some interesting questions about what it would truly mean for Erik to be ordinary. Exquisitely done!
“Captivated” – holy flying sheep in a ship wreck! This one is more territory that is very, very, VERY rarely covered, and I give Michelle a standing ovation for going there. Not many Phantom writers dare to, whether out of blind love for the characters or fear of backlash from readers, and it’s about time we took the blinkers off! There’s some intense moral complexity in this one…Erik’s actions as a captor are, on the surface, despicable, and yet his motivations are desperate enough to inspire pity. The decisions he makes are appalling, and yet there is always the chance of redemption in his love for Christine. And in the end, it’s love and nothing less that matters. Love through desire, and desire through love…yes, you can read between the lines and tell that this one definitely isn’t for the faint of heart. But if you like steamy, kinky stuff, forget Fifty Shades of Grey! Don’t even give it a thought! This is what you should be reading!
“Forget Me Not” – an amnesia story, as you might have guessed from the title, and one of the most haunting Michelle has ever written, in my opinion. A classic fanfiction twist, and I have to call this one my favorite rendition. If “Ordinary” and “Haunted” are bittersweet, then this one is doubly so. Again, Erik’s actions are deplorable, but his motives still drive it home. This is a man desperate for his beloved to love him in return, and it drives him to do desperate things. This one is probably the most tragic Michelle has ever written, because it might have ended happily! If not for another lie, it would have! I don’t really blame Christine for her reaction, but my heart still breaks!
“A Twist In My Story” – an oldie, but a goody. I love angry Christine! You never see enough of her in other retellings, as most authors opt for the bland, one-dimensional airhead (thanks a freaking lot, Webber). Christine as Leroux wrote her had backbone, and she was rightfully furious that Erik had deceived her by pretending to be the Angel of Music, and I’m so glad Michelle explored that aspect in greater detail. It hurts to see him trying so hard to make up for the lie and getting nowhere, but I’m 100% on her side in this one. It takes a monster to manipulate someone like that, and his further actions do nothing to atone for it. Under close examination and after deep thought, I’m going to call this one my favorite of the book. Nice psychological insight, and more of the music that binds these two together, no matter how irritated Christine is by that simple fact. Brava!
“Let It Bleed” – no, wait, this might also be a contender for the favorite…Too many people shy away from an Erik that’s this aggressive, but I love it! His duality is summed up perfectly here, with anger and rage followed by tenderness and repentance and topped off with a little of his trademark self-loathing. The aspect of the original story that always attracts me is the symbolism of mirrors, and Michelle uses it to good effect here. She brings her story full circle, from a monster reflected in a mirror to a man in need of forgiveness and understanding and back to his determination to be a monster if it means he can have the woman he loves. Christine’s line from the musical comes to mind: “It’s in your soul that the true distortion lies.” Erik in a nutshell!
So, bottom line; if you like The Phantom of the Opera and you want more, you need to give this one a shot. Everyone is guaranteed to find something to love here, and definitely something to think about. The face doesn’t make the man. It’s what’s in his heart and the choices he makes that reveals a flawed but beautiful human being. A worthy addition to any Phantom collection, and I’m already eager for a third volume!
In a little footnote, and only because I still can’t believe it actually happened, guess who was lucky enough to be asked to write the foreword? *cough* You’re looking at her, so to speak!