Phantom by Susan Kay // When the Retelling is Better than the Original

Yes, I just said that.

And yes, I can see your gasp of horror here.



by Susan Kay

Paperback, 468 pages

Published March 15th 2006 by Aeon Publishing Inc.


This incredible portrait of Erik–the Phantom–recreates his entire life, from his survival as a child in a carnival freak show to his creative genius behind the Paris Opera House–and its labyrinthine world below–to his discovery of love.


The well-known classic Phantom of the Opera tells us the story of Erik and Christine Daae. In Phantom, Susan Kay tells us more about Erik, from his childhood to the events in Phantom of the Opera. It took me 4 months to finish this one, but don’t let the duration fool you. So far, this is the best book I’ve read this year, and yes, I do think it’s better than the original.

First, let’s talk about the characters. The story in this book is divided into few chapters from different time and point of view in Erik’s life. The first one is Madelaine, which is Erik’s mother and the beginning of Erik’s life. It’s heartbreaking to see his relationship with his mother, how he desired love and approval from his mother, received nothing but hatred in return. I get how Madelaine felt and in a way, her way of protecting Erik, which is why I feel sorry and sympathize with both of them. Then we move on to Erik himself, who told us his experience and abuse with the gypsy. I personally think this is the most horrifying part of the story. The treatment he got was inhumane, and he can’t do nothing but endure it.

The third one is Giovanni, an elderly master mason who had a very close relationship with Erik. In a way, I think this one is the most tragic. He was a father figure for Erik, when he needed it the most (he’s in his teenage years here, full of angst and FEELS), giving him shelter, trust and knowledge. The way it all ended hit me the hardest because of the injustice of its all.

At this point, enter our precious Persian, our Daroga, with the name Nadir. He himself has a lot of trouble and afraid with Erik when he first met him, but their relationship stayed until Erik’s end in Phantom of the Opera. This part of the story showed the human and morale side of Erik. He was the first who showed kindness and trust in Daroga, starting their uneasy friendship, and in the midst of killing-on-a-whims court of Persia, Erik who used to kill without hesistation were reluctant to kill.

The last part of this book is during the events of Phantom of the Opera. I really wish Kay ended things before this part and jump straight to the epilogue, which is from Raoul point of view. As much as I love Phantom of the Opera, I’m never fond of Christine Daae. She’s naive and foolish, a 20 year old trapped in an illusion and mind of 10 year old. She’s the ultimate definition of damsel in distress. Unfortunately, this trait of hers doesn’t change in this book, in fact they are more pronounced. This book also twisted the characters feelings around and it’s very uncomfortable to read.


I loved the story and details Kay created for Erik. We all think Erik is what he was because of the horrible treatment he got during his life. Kay showed us in many ways and occasion that there might be something sinister about Erik, something deeper which made him like that, horrible past aside. Throughout his life, Erik constantly struggling with the notion of God, whether he is dead or not, and the purpose of his place in this world. Often times, the lack of God caused him to be very arrogant and feel omnipotent. But there are characters like Giovanni and Nadir who became his voice of conscience, whether he liked it or not. The writing style is also very captivating. I can vividly imagined the small cottage of his childhood, the circus and villa of the mason, and the grand splendour of Persia and Paris Opera House.

Phantom gives a detailed account on important events in Erik lives. It explores them and the relationships Erik have with people in his life, which ultimately made him the complex character that he was. It explores his heights and his lows, his darkness and his light. It’s dark and seemed hopeless at times, but can also showed the kindness of human in uncanny times. If you just Phantom of the Opera, E/C shipper (I’m not in this group), or just plainly love Erik, you should give this a try.


7 thoughts on “Phantom by Susan Kay // When the Retelling is Better than the Original

  1. I’ve heard about Phantom of the Opera from loads of different people, but I literally know nothing about it. Shameful, I know. All I know is that there’s a white mask involved… and that’s it. So, I must read this immediately. Honestly, I need some more good retellings in my life, so thanks for the recommendation 🙂
    Simi ~


    1. Ahh you should read the original (or watch the movie?) and then read this! I totally think this is better than the original, but if you read this before the original you might feel biased so I still think you need to read the original first! 😀 I hope you’ll love them!

      Liked by 1 person

  2. I read this years ago and fell in love with it, though I agree with you about Christine. Erik, though–the Erik in this book made me reevaluate and reconsider everything I thought I thought about him before. It completely flip-flopped my opinions on him and his actions, and I adooooore it when books do that!

    Great review–thank you so much for sharing your thoughts with us! ❤


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