Author: Marion Grace Woolley
Genre: historical fiction, retellings
Source: TLC Book Tours for review
A young woman confronts her own dark desires, and finds her match in a masked conjurer turned assassin.
Inspired by Gaston Leroux's The Phantom of the Opera, Marion Grace Woolley takes us on forbidden adventures through a time that has been written out of history books.
"Those days are buried beneath the mists of time. I was the first, you see. The very first daughter. There would be many like me to come. Svelte little figures, each with saffron skin and wide, dark eyes. Every one possessing a voice like honey, able to twist the santur strings of our father’s heart."
It begins with a rumour, an exciting whisper. Anything to break the tedium of the harem for the Shah’s eldest daughter. People speak of a man with a face so vile it would make a hangman faint, but a voice as sweet as an angel’s kiss. A master of illusion and stealth. A masked performer, known only as Vachon.
For once, the truth will outshine the tales.
On her birthday the Shah gifts his eldest daughter Afsar a circus. With it comes a man who will change everything.
A dark, odd little book Those Rosy Hours at Mazandaran is attention-grabbing from early on. The story of Afsar, a daugther of the Shah set in the 1850s in Iran, there's a lot to love about the novel. It's certainly atmospheric, creative, and distinct. The writing itself is lush and full of visuals and unique imagery. The courts at Sari and in Tehran pop from the page, as does Afsar and her counterpart, Le Comte de Mort Rouge. It's a darkly fascinating journey with two damaged people and Marion Grace Woolley is a skilled storyteller.
A retelling/reinterpretation of the famous Phantom of the Opera in a new locale is refreshing and fully allows Marion Grace Woolley put her own stamp on the famous and often-told tale. Vachon is recognizable from his earlier incarnations, but the author definitely molds him in a distinct manner. Afsar, who says she has "been written out of the history books" is the main character and narrator (I did some googling and am unsure if this would be the correct historical corollary for her character if not her characterization). She is a difficult character to both like or relate to. She's interesting, though, and her arrogance is both frustrating and a key plot point to her own downfall.
The writing itself is the highlight of reading the novel. The issues I had stemmed from the pace and the lack of any real plot to propel events toward anything meaningful. Throughout the book Afsar and Eirik give into their baser urges and desires, if not the in way anticipated, and compete as often as they cooperate. However, there's no overarching plot to guide their actions. They do as they want just because they want. And while they aren't the best of people (ask Sheyda or Ludovico) I needed more than "baser instincts" as a reason for the story.
An intrigui9ng mix of retelling and historical fiction, Those Rosy Hours at Mazandaran is disquieting but impossible to looka way from. As Afsar and Eirik encourage each other to new and more dangerous heights and depths, Mario Grace Woolley's story emerges as a adept and engaging novel. Fans of the original, or of darker historical fiction will find a lot to enjoy in this easily read and imaginative story.