Monday, June 1, 2015

Book Review: Phantom's Dance, by Lesa Howard

Phantom's Dance


Lesa Howard


Christine Dadey’s family uprooted their lives and moved to Houston for her to attend the prestigious Rousseau Academy of Dance. Now, two years later, Christine struggles to compete among the Academy’s finest dancers, her parents are on the brink of divorce, and she’s told no one about her debilitating performance anxiety and what she’s willing to do to cope with it. Erik was a ballet prodigy, a savant, destined to be a star on the world’s stage, but a suspicious fire left Erik’s face horribly disfigured. Now, a lonely phantom forced to keep his scars hidden, he spends his nights haunting the theater halls, mourning all he’s lost. Then, from behind the curtain he sees the lovely Christine. The moldable, malleable Christine. Drawn in by Erik’s unwavering confidence, Christine allows herself to believe Erik’s declarations that he can transform her into the dancer she longs to be. But Christine’s hope of achieving her dreams may be her undoing when she learns Erik is not everything he claims. And before long, Erik’s shadowy past jeopardizes Christine’s unstable present as his obsession with her becomes hopelessly entangled with his plans for revenge.


I bought this ebook after I saw it pop up several times in the blogsphere. It had great reviews and I hadn't read a ballet book in awhile, so I thought I'd give it a chance. Check out my interview with Lesa Howard I posted last month. 

The last ballet book I read was a bestseller, but the writing and plot left me disappointed and bored. I didn't even finish it. Which is a shame, since dance was huge part of my childhood and young adult life. Unlike that book, the voice of Phantom's Dance was personal, lively, and brought the pages to life. Christine was not your average stiff bunhead who was only concerned with pointe shoes and the modern day prince charming.  Every teen can relate to many of the main character's challenges and insecurities. Howard brilliantly illustrates the day to day stress of a young adult's life; from school, to peer pressure, family drama, dating, and crucial decisions that will effect the rest of their lives. At times I felt overwhelmed for Christine - something I can't say for a lot of protagonists. Phantom's Dance is far from the stereotypical teen ballet read.

With everything going on in Christine's life, the plot moves swiftly along. I never found a lull in the story or a time when I didn't want to immediately go on to the next chapter. I'm almost ashamed to admit there were times when the 17 year old girl in me squealed with delight. I was very impressed with the author's ability to use ballet terminology and portray the struggles of a dancer, not having much prior knowledge herself.

Each character is well designed and carefully planned with their own distinct personalities and back stories. At first, I was afraid Christine's mother would be a typical stage mom, but even her character had conflicts and struggles to overcome. One of the highlights I found in this book is the differences in character dialogue. It's incredibly easy to tell who is speaking in a group without the "Soandso said" tag. I haven't found many authors that can pull that off.

There is, however, one aspect of the book readers may not appreciate. If you haven't guessed already, Phantom's Dance is a modern retelling of "Phantom of the Opera", a musical by Andrew Lloyd Webber. Although the author uses the traditional names and key plot points, Lesa Howard takes creative license and changes some circumstances and character flaws. One scene is particularly dark, although the author doesn't go into details. The changes do not bother me, as I am not a diehard POTO fan. I appreciated the twists and quirks and I believe there are lessons to be learned in Lesa Howard's retelling.

I thoroughly enjoyed Christine's story. I especially recommend it to any young person who enjoys dance, theater, and a suspenseful read. 

5 Stars
* * * * *


1 comment:

  1. Thanks so much for the awesome review. I'm truly flattered and happy that you liked it. And it's a huge relief to hear a dancer say I didn't totally screw up that aspect of the story.

    Lesa Howard