It's no secret to those who know me that I'm a huge Phantom of the Opera fan. The Andrew Lloyd Webber musical is my first love, but I have other POTO loves as well. One of these is Phantom, by Susan Kay.
Phantom is no stranger in the POTO fandom, regarded by many as one of the best POTO spinoff novels written. However, outside of this particular circle, it may be less known. I think it stands as a great story on its own, and deserves further recognition.
Phantom tells the story of Erik (the Phantom) from his birth to his death. The Erik created by Kay seems to be a solid blend of both the Erik from the original novel and Webber's Phantom, with a bit of Kay's own flair. For me, the driving force of this novel is Erik himself, as he is just such a fascinating character. Kay writes him masterfully. The story is told from different viewpoints, including Erik, Christine, and Raoul (among others). Each viewpoint offers a new and interesting perspective.
One thing I appreciated about Kay's telling of the story is that Raoul's character isn't completely butchered. I don't want to reveal too much about the ending; however, in many retellings of the story, Raoul is turned into a terrible person in order to justify Christine returning to the Phantom. This always bothered me, as Raoul is very sincere in his love for Christine in the original novel...a bit daft, but not a cruel person. I hate to see his character destroyed. Kay doesn't go this route.
If you like the story of POTO as strictly a horror/thriller type story, then this probably isn't the book for you. There is definitely a strong romance element--at least, in the second half of the book. I would say the first half is more action/drama and then shifts gears once Christine enters the picture. In my opinion, both are equally compelling.
If you love Phantom of the Opera, hurry up and read Phantom already! Even if you don't love Phantom of the Opera, pick this one up for a well-told story with a fascinating central character.