Rating: 4.5 stars out of 5
Teru came to Tokyo with dreams of making it big in the glam-metal visual kei scene, but three years later, all he has to show for it is a head of hot pink hair and some skill with an eyeliner pencil. He may look the part, but he doesn’t sound it, and constant bickering among his bandmates has him worried about his future. When he finds a mysterious business card in his bag, he’s willing to take any help he can get.Vi V
Help comes in the form of Rei, a crippled, disfigured composer whose own career was ended by an accident before it had really begun. With Teru’s voice and looks, and Rei’s money and songwriting skills, both of their dreams seem about to come true – but a forbidden kiss and a late-night confession threaten to tear it all apart. Now Teru, who has spent most of his life denying his attraction to men, and Rei, who vowed long ago never to love again, must reconcile their feelings with their careers – and with their carefully constructed ideas of themselves.
The Phantom of the Opera story is one of my favorites, tragic, dramatic, horrifying in some ways, and romantic. It’s been told and retold countless ways from the original novel by Gaston Leroux to movies, plays, and yes, more novels with multiple twists and turns to the original theme and storyline. I always wonder where the next author or songwriter or whoever will take it next. And what their spin will be.
Didn’t expect it to be Visual Kei and Japan. But it turned out to be an unexpected draw for me and a perfect fit for a M/M retelling of Phantom of the Opera. Visual Kei is a form of Japanese rock, think American Glam rock of the 80’s. It’s still popular today but it’s heyday was the 80’s and it’s stars (GACKT was/is one as was bands like Malice Mizer, Raphael, and Dir En Grey) were gods. They wore makeup, elaborate costumes, and often appeared gender fluid. It’s into this world that Estella Mirai takes us.
The author sets her story in Tokyo and a visual kei band, La Rose Verboten, already in turmoil. The self involved lead singer Bara is looking for an excuse to quit, the small time’s band’s popularity is dropping and the remaining members, Yasu, Minori, and the drummer Teru are trying desperately to hold on when Teru gets handed a card that states.
I can help you. Call me.
And with that a familiar story is launched, turned, and becomes one of pain, lost chances, a young man’s discovery of his sexuality, hurt/comfort, anguish, and finally redemption and great love. In Mirai’s hands the reader falls deeply not only under the spell of Japan and these young men but get’s pulled into the world of visual kei, it’s music and lyrics, the music industry itself, and the personal costs associated with stardom. That is quite the narrative load and the author manages to combine it all into one incredible romance.
I will admit that I stumbled a bit on the romance part at the beginning. As with every Phantom retelling, there’s a romance triangle to deal with. The mystery man behind the card is Rei, tortured, scarred and wounded, he wears a mask of silver. More of his background I won’t reveal but it is peeled back ever so slowly, each layer a revelation to Teru and to us the readers. The other? A young girl, Kiyomi, who went to school with Teru and is now his biggest fan. For Teru, each represents a different direction his life can take. With Kiyomi he can stay safe, pretend to be “het”, go home, and take up his old name. Or accept he’s gay, and his feelings for Rei as incredibly scary as they are, embrace the path he’s on and understand love in all its forms. And he can become not just a drummer but the singer he was always meant to be. And a star.
This is not an easy romance as one hopefully would expect. One person has been traumatized and has the personality that comes from living in constant pain and dealing with a haunted past. One is confused about his sexuality, his future, his gifts musically, he’s in the throws of his first real love and it’s with a person almost guaranteed to make a a road strewn with walls and boulders. Then there is a young girl who wants to make everything easy….
Those who hate cheating will have issues here but honestly this reads so real and human you understand the issues here and how messy the human heart can be.
But the best of the best? The final third of this story. The parts that break your heart and put them back together again. And oh that ending! As they say in the theatre, that’s worth the price of the ticket!
Estella Mirai has a marvelous story here, borrowed from Gaston Leroux, and given a Japanese rock twist. Her characters are beautifully layered, her story well written, and destined to stay with you long after the last bars of the song have been sung.
Yes it did.
Find out what that means by buying this incredible book. I highly recommend it. And don’t forget to read all about the real people chapter at the end.
Cover art: MiblArt. I loved the cover. Perfect for the characters, tone, and storyline.
Sales Links: Amazon
ebook, 1st edition, 309 pages
Expected publication: December 11th 2018
Edition Language English
THE STARS MAY RISE AND FALL is at the turn of the millennium. It comes with a healthy dose of angst and a dollop of nostalgia, as well as an age-difference romance, a physically disabled love interest, and memorable characters who will stay with you long after the pages are closed.