Lightweight but amusing, the Unbound Trilogy’s conclusion takes on Gaston Leroux’s 1910 novel, The Phantom of the Opera, and its myriad variations.
Emma and Elise, now students at a Paris boarding school, dive into French culture with gusto while Gray, Emma’s longtime boyfriend, trains as a Coast Guard rescue swimmer stateside. When musical friends Owen and Flynn visit, the girls solicit their help writing an opera libretto based on Leroux’s tale. Meanwhile, Emma is drawn into another mysterious literary world whose characters may be iterations of those in Emma’s real life. Gray is presumed drowned during a valiant rescue, but a flickering candle in her room’s mirror leads Emma to Gray, now an embittered, wraithlike creature who insists his life depends on her allegiance. Is he really alive, and if so, is this what he’s become? The relationship between the school’s headmistress and its strange caretaker follows a parallel track. Emma’s Paris life and creepy adventures in the mirror are vivid and thrilling, but there’s not enough substance beneath the overwrought melodrama to support Emma’s sturdy coming-of-age complexity. The pivotal character is the phantom, not his protégée, Christine/Emma. His choices, his fate—not hers—matter most, so that tracking the original inevitably renders Emma a bystander in her own story.
Keep expectations in check, sit back and enjoy Paris (the most memorable character) vicariously. (author’s note) (Fantasy. 12 & up)