Review: Masque: Choices by Caridad Martin

Masque:ChoicesBilled as a “fresh retelling” of the classic book The Phanton of the Opera by Gaston Leroux, Caridad Martin has tapped into the public domain treasure trove and settled on adding to the overflowing list of Phantom “adaptations” available online.

It’s a given that any  book that retells a classic story must be incredibly different from the original in order to be acceptable as a work of the author. With Masque:Choices, it’s hard to really say that this has been achieved with the overall plot as such, but certainly the style and writing itself is lively and entertaining, adding new twists and turns the original does not have.

Martin has researched detail to precision, and these added touches really do boost the work from what could have been yet another Phantom book in a already brimming niche genre, to something that stands out from the crowd. The style of the book is almost as if it has been written in French, and then translated, which adds to the appeal of the dramatic penmanship.

Despite the research and care with this project, the book often reads like fan fiction, with whole plot points quickly introduced in a couple of paragraphs, such as a house being built under the Paris Opera because of a whole situation that occured in Persia, told swiftly in a couple of paragraphs. It is pretty confusing if you have no knowledge of the original story, or maybe worse, when these are new plot points that have been written in for backstory, but not explored deeply enough. This is a shame given the great care taken with proofreading, formatting and the cover, making this book bound to catch the eye of any diehard “Opera” fan.

It’s a wonderful thing, however when a well-traveled and erudite writer pours their life into a story, and it’s very clear that Martin has tapped her own experience to give this book breath. What’s refreshing about the way Martin writes is her layering of scenes to build the story in a way that only Gothic romance fiction ever can; here we are steeped in late-Victorian images with echoes of cobbled streets, gaslit nights and the scurrying of petticoats: a little dash of Victor Hugo’s rainsoaked prose is to be felt seeping into Martin’s storytelling.  She obviously has a great passion for the original book, and I’d bet my hat she’s keen on Paris too. This shines out.

By making this book open in the depths of Erik’s torture of his love’s fiance Raoul, Martin has given the reader a more horror-based take of the original. Also, sexual desire and violence penetrate the story, which while it could be described as a romance of sorts, in the unrelenting twisted obssession of the Phantom with Christine, and in turn her love for Raoul, it is more to do with the way that Erik not only forces Christine to make decisions, but the way he tortures her with her choices, tortures Raoul to force her to choose, and moreover, the way he ends up torturing himself in the process. With this edge, Masque:Choices will be a winner with most romance fans, but also gothic horror fans will get a kick out of it too.

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