It’s no secret that I’ve always loved the Phantom of the Opera. I adore tragic love stories and gothic vibes. So really, this review shouldn’t surprise anyone as “Phantom Song” was inspired by the original Phantom of the Opera, and the author does some truly marvelous magic weaving in the original with the far-future world she’s built with the Toccata System. How the original phantom of the opera house is brought back with the ghost, and the Phantom Angel guarding over the city (which, honestly reminded me a bit of Batman but I kind of loved that, too) while also being the masked opera star of Landry City… This story was a perfect homage to a classic while braving its own unique path. I loved getting to know Claire, and seeing her beautiful relationship with Iz, as well as having Henry and Astra return. Plus, this book has creepy AI, murderous cyborgs, and themes of prejudice that apply to many groups and peoples today. Really, what's not to love?
I think I liked this book better than the first in the trilogy mainly because of my love of its source material, so I’ll try to separate that as much as I can in case you haven’t read Phantom of the Opera. But really, you can 1000% enjoy this book without knowing anything about the classic, or any of its on stage and silver screen adaptations. Swed does call backs to the original with some of the characters names, and the scenarios are very similar in where the Phantom dwells but with enough twists that it feels distinctly new, maintains that gothic vibe I love, and also fits in perfectly with a science fiction world with advanced technologies. Outside of the cyborgs, though, a lot of the advanced technology and even the AI systems themselves are not as present in this novella as they were in the first book, but Claire’s cybernetics, her abilities, and how she uses her technology to help people and those she cares about makes up for it, in my opinion.
Speaking of cyborgs, I LOVE how Swed treated cyborgs in her book. The fear and animosity unenhanced people treat them with and why, how unfounded it could be, but also the flip side of that coin. Like any tool, the cyborgs could use their parts for good or evil, but it depends on the person and it’s unfair to stereotype an entire population because of what they COULD do, what they MIGHT be capable of. Sound familiar? It should, these topics are everywhere in our society today, and I loved how Swed brought the themes forward without making me feel like it was 1. Taking away from the bigger plot of what Claire’s foe was doing, why, and his connection to Edward Keyes, or 2. Like I was being preached at/to. It was very well done, and I applaud the author for that!
Also, let’s take a minute to admire the contrast between all the characters, especially between Iz’s positivity and how, while she can’t disable a person as effortlessly as Claire or Astra, is still just as strong in other ways. I enjoyed Claire’s sass, especially when it was up against Astra’s cold exterior. I enjoyed how Henry was always there to help, pointing out flaws, sure, but never telling these powerful ladies what they could, or couldn’t, do. I also loved Sam’s softness and how in over his head he is 90% of the time. This was an easy story, and world, to devour and I can’t wait to see what the final installment has in store for our original cast, as well as the new characters who will be going up against the AI mastermind that is Edward Keyes; 5 stars! All the stars!
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