#SaturdaysAreBookish | feat. @SatBookChat’s 12th January guest author Estella Mirai | Book Review of “The Stars May Rise and Fall” (a re-telling of “Phantom of the Opera” from an m/m romantic POV)

Posted Saturday, 12 January, 2019 by jorielov , , , 0 Comments

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After launching this lovely new feature of mine during [Autumn, 2018] it is a pleasure of joy to continue to bring #SaturdaysAreBookish as a compliment focus of my Twitter chat @SatBookChat. If you see the chat icon at the top of my blog (header bar) you can click over to visit with us. The complimentary showcases on my blog will reflect the diversity of stories, authors and publishers I would be featuring on the chat itself. As at the root and heart of the chat are the stories I am reading which compliment the conversations.

#SaturdaysAreBookish throughout [2019] will be featuring the Romance & Women’s Fiction authors I am discovering to read across genre and point of interest. Every Saturday will feature a different author who writes either Romance or Women’s Fiction – the stories I am reading might simply inspire the topics in the forthcoming chats or they might be directly connected to the current guest author.

I am excited about where new guests and new stories will lay down the foundation of inspiring the topics, the conversations and the bookish recommendations towards promoting Romance & Women’s Fiction. Here’s a lovely New Year full of new authors and their stories to celebrate!

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Acquired Book By: I’ve been blessed by meeting authors via #bookishTwitter for five years now. I love the #writingcommunity in the twitterverse as the writers who are publishing and/or of whom like me are still on their publishing journey are approachable, relatable and keenly conversational which is wicked brill. When my path crossed with this lovely author what truly humbled my heart and gave me such a lift of joy is the fact she was able to send me an ARC of her novel in printed form. She understood why I couldn’t read an ecopy of the novel and I am the proud owner of a spiral bound ARC!

I received a complimentary spiral bound ARC copy of “The Stars May Rise and Fall” direct from the author Estella Mirai in exchange for an honest review. I did not receive compensation for my opinions or thoughts shared herein.

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Why I was keenly excited about reading this re-telling of ‘Phantom of the Opera’:

You might remember, last year I read “The Phantom’s Apprentice” by Heather Webb which was her self-published re-telling of the same story. She was also who chose to self-publish her novel in lieu of seeking (or being able to seek) traditional publication for her story. It is rather unique I think, a year later I am celebrating the discovery of a second novel based on this Classical story which had to take an Indie route to reach reader’s hands!

I’ve truly have had a love affair with the music of ‘Phantom’ ever since I was a young girl – I grew up with an appreciation of the arts at a very young age. My parents encouraged me to seek out theatre, symphonies and listen to orchestrations via vinyl records at home. I also was actively engaged with programming on PBS as much as I loved the local arts community in my metropolis – not just limited to musical routes of enjoyment but also fine art and other exhibits or old world arts & crafts fairs/festivals. In essence, I was surrounded by the arts across mediums of influence whilst I was musically introduced to such a hearty variety of sounds & soundscapes, it turnt me into a lifelong appreciator of musical compositions.

I loved Classical compositions as much as Contemporary – however, I had a special place in my heart for sound for motion picture and the Broadway Musical scores and soundtracks. There was something rather intimate about Original Cast Recordings when it comes to a Musical – you can feel the intensity of the performance and you can paint the scenes alive in your mind as soon as you hear the music begin. Which is what I was trying to capture last year when I mentioned this ahead of sharing my review of “The Phantom’s Apprentice”:

The music of Phantom – irregardless of which incantation of performance and artistic vision are the songs which lift my soul. The sound of Phantom is individually distinctive and the story within it’s heart is one of gutting emotions surrounding the suspense of what is truly happening to Christine and of what motivates the Phantom himself to pursue her to such an extent of invested interest. It is also part cautionary tale about obsession and misguided love.

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I also went on to mention how long I’ve been connected to ‘Phantom’:

I’ve been a girl whose appreciated Broadway and Musicals since I was old enough to listen to original soundtracks on cassette tape. I used to go to sleep with a tape of Annie – not the stage play version but the original motion picture soundtrack. From there, I graduated into more familiar Musicals – including listening to the Michael Crawford soundtrack for Phantom until it etched itself into my blood.

I continued to follow Phantom – from watching the PBS broadcast of the anniversary production from London to celebrating the motion picture adaptation starring Emmy Rossum. Whilst I was writing my ruminative thoughts on behalf of this novel, I was playing the motion picture soundtrack channel for Phantom via Pandora Radio which showcased all versions of the play and musical.

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In effect, this is a story which is simply a ‘part of me’ and it was an honour to have the chance to see this story & its characters re-imagined into an m/m romantic arc set in Tokyo, Japan. For those who read and visit my blog regularly, you already know of my admiration on behalf of Susan Spann’s Hiro Hattori novels – though set in 16th Century Japan, the point here is the fact I love visiting the country in fiction. In the past, I had several friends who lived in different parts of Japan inasmuch of the fact one of my favourite Winter Olympics were the Nagano Games. My grandparents helped encourage my fascination & love of Japan as they themselves loves the country, through their art (sculpture) and musicians especially.

In essence, it feels like ‘coming home’ whenever I consider reading a story set in Japan – it is a beautifully lovely country full of Mystic roots, humbling traditions and a wonderful cultural heritage.

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#SaturdaysAreBookish | feat. @SatBookChat’s 12th January guest author Estella Mirai | Book Review of “The Stars May Rise and Fall” (a re-telling of “Phantom of the Opera” from an m/m romantic POV)The Stars May Rise and Fall
by Estella Mirai
Source: Direct from Author

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.

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 STARS MAY RISE AND FALL is an M/M retelling of Phantom of the Opera, set in Tokyo 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.

Genres: After Canons, Contemporary (Modern) Fiction (post 1945), Japanese Fiction, LGBTQIA Fiction, Re-telling &/or Sequel, Romance Fiction

Places to find the book:

Add to LibraryThing

ISBN: 9781684547715

Setting: Toyko, Japan

Published by Self Published

on 11th December, 2018

Format: Spiral Bound ARC

Pages: 309

Self Published Author

This is a Digital First Release – other formats will be forthcoming such as print

Converse via: #PhantomOfTheOpera retell, #LGBTQ, #Contemporary Romance

About Estella Mirai

Estella Mirai lives just outside of Tokyo with her human family and a very spoiled lap cat. When she isn’t reading or writing, she works in editing and translation—which means that 99% percent of her day is usually words. In her minimal free time, she enjoys watching musicals, cooking (badly), and slaughtering power ballads at karaoke.

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my review of the stars may rise & fall:

As my journey into the canon of Phantom of the Opera has been limited to the stage musicals and the film adaptations, I wasn’t expecting this re-telling to begin where it had nor had I realised it would begin with an intensity of focus on characterisation of the principal leads. Mostly as I was half-expecting this to begin with a bit more distance from the ‘Phantom’ – once I found myself adjusting into the pacing Mirai had created, I appreciated the direction the story’s arc was taking. As it is told through first-hand experiences of Teru, his band-mates and the life of Rei (the Phantom) where their lives start to intersect with each other. We’re privy to their conversations as they start to brainstorm the future of the band and which songs they feel would be an elevation of sound for their version of visual kei. This in of itself was as new kind of musical sound for me – which is why I sought it out via Spotify to listen in conjunction with the music of the musical this was based upon.

We begin the story by entering into the thoughts of Teru as he’s contemplating his life as an artist – he attempts this whilst its late at night after the final set was performed and the audience had gone home. He’s feeling misplaced – between the desire to do more with his artistry and the voice inside his heart which defers to giving him mixed signals about his confidence in obtaining his dream to take the stage as a singer. He’s part of a glam-goth band as the drummer (with pink hair) who moonlights as a singer back-stage. His only audience (supposedly til the phone call from Rei, the Phantom in this variant) were the papered walls of his dressing room – no eyes to judge, no ears to cringe if he fell onto the wrong key. He was comfortable performing in the dark – where no one could know of his talent (or lack thereof) until the moment he realised his singing hadn’t gone unnoticed; there was someone reaching out to him. Yet would he be brave enough to embrace the connection?

Behind the make-up and the costumes, we find Teru is still coming into his own skin – he has questions about his place in the world inasmuch as he is questioning who he is himself. There are subtle references to another band-mates confident ownership of his (Seika) sexuality which makes you consider Teru is not as keenly confident in his own. He’s has a natural instinct for self-deprecation and self-criticisms that seek to destroy the fragile hold he has on owning his right to sing.

As we move forward into the story-line, we are following in the footsteps of his band’s journey towards recognition and authenticity. There isn’t a lot of back-story revealled in these earlier chapters of the novel, as we are stepping into their shoes during their living hours – seeing them reveal themselves in the moments their living in the here and now. I wouldn’t have minded a bit more back-story about how the band originally drew together or even who the boys were before they became known as this incantation of the band. We are given glimmers of who they are as Bara (their original lead singer), Minori (the band’s leader), Yasu and Seika interact with Teru at their practices, meet-ups and the nights their on stage. It provides an interesting segue into the background of how Teru is struggling with his place in this world they’ve started to create for themselves.

Very early-on we meet the ‘Phantom’ of this story, whose known as Rei – a composer and singer-songwriter who prefers to wear long blue hair and covers his face with the traditional ‘mask’ of the ‘Phantom’ but one that has been altered for a modern telling of the tale. His face and part of his body have become ‘altered’ through a twist in fate which pushed him into the shadows – a place he can hide in plain sight, allowing him to work on his music despite the fact he’s self-dissolving into a darker place of depression. His music was his lifeblood – he loved the music as it was a part of himself which was needed in which he could thrive. To abandon such a strong component of his life wasn’t taken likely and this is where his life and Teru start to co-merge.

At the same time, Teru is reaching out to his band-mates to gather a better sense of what he is feeling internally towards Rei – continuing the underline thread of Teru being a character whose questioning his sense of self and his own sexuality. He doesn’t want to give into the feelings he’s naturally akin to feeling as he was raised with a certain perception about where his life should dictate towards and his feelings are living in contrast to those initial beliefs. It is almost like he wants to find a way to talk himself out of feeling a more intimate connection to Rei.

On the opposite end of the ledger, he is also pursuing Kiyomi – his high school friend, who isn’t aware of the conflict within his soul but is picking up on the subtle ways in which he is repelling away from drawing closer to her – at least, in their first meetings where he wants to feel a certain way towards her but in reality, he is struggling to take his heart off of Rei.

This is a uniquely told story – almost as if it were part of an autobiographical sketch of the band – as we tuck so close to their journey of seeking venues, finding confidence in the song choices they want to have produce to an album release and dramatic ways in which a band must adapt to the changes that arise in their lives. This leads to Teru putting more trust into Rei’s choices for the band than allowing the band to organically come to the realisation they need to make changes in order to grow and develop into a band who could become commercially respected.

What complicates things though is how closely entwined Rei and Teru become – they started this journey as a mentor and a student, but in the middle of the story, there is a shift in how they are relating to each other. In some ways, I saw this foreshadowed in early chapters but part of me wondered if this was a step outside the original canon? I can’t say for sure as I hadn’t realised how much the musicals differed from the novel and thereby it is hard to comment now if the Phantom and Christine shared a similar close connection. The reason it worked in this adaptation though is because it was showing how dangerous you can walk a line between self-discovery and the obsessive temptations of the heart.

At the core of this story is the music itself – how it lingers in the souls of the musicians who are at the heart of this story and how the music takes on its own kind of character. It is as immortal as time itself and gives way to the impressions of how life as it is being lived is one emotional rollercoaster. The music serves an important line of centre for these characters – they are all interconnected by the music and they each in turn live for the music to the point of forsaking all else. They want to endeavour to create music that fulfills their destinies but also, to hone in on the music itself which renews their own spirit as it captures the emotions they wish to express in their original sound.

What moves you the most though is how heart-wrecking the central theme of the plot becomes as it has its own crescendo to where you can feel their angst and their anguish in not knowing how to reach into the future from where they are in the present. The journey of Teru and Rei becomes a symphony of seeking the greater truth about themselves and of their own natures. The band serves as a catalyst of self-renewing artistry whereas the setting rounds out the immediacy of how so many lives can become intertwined all at once.

This story deviates from the original canon to tell its own story in the end. This variant has the emotional layers of the original with the intuitive touches of a modern romance rooted in the intimacies of platonic friendship which spark into a romantic interlude. For those who are familiar with the musicals, you will see the details woven into the background which pay homage to Phantom whilst the rest of the story has its own unique voice of presence to carry forward the vision the author endeared to give us for her characters.

Where the symbolism’s represent the canon and how they fused into this Contemporary:

Rei is cleverly masked not just as you’d expect he would be but also in person. The mask he’s wearing is also hinting at the symbolism the mask foretold in the musical version of the story. Rei is an excellent Phantom; instead of hiding his presence as Christine had been from the original Phantom, Mirai allowed him to come forward into scene sooner than expected. I felt this might have been a ploy to disarm the concern Teru might have had in trusting him early-on to where his defences might have been down – showing Teru’s own vulnerability and Rei’s ability to dictate the control he wanted to have over Teru. As this story does develop that critical piece of connection to the canon where the mentor and the singer have to realise the delicate balance they are walking before everything shatters away from them both.

Mirai also kept the horror of what is behind the mask intact for readers who are seeking to have a retold tale which honours the Phantom by the horrors of his physical appearance which is center-most to his personal identity and the root cause of his angst  in life. Despite this, the re-telling doesn’t go fully into that vein of Gothic representation nor does it hold onto the truisms of the Phantom we once knew as this is a variant which builds off the original and then deviates into its own version.

Fly in the Ointment:

There are certain language choices which surprised me as the overall tone of the story flows beautifully without the stronger expletive arriving a bit out of the blue but within the context of  what is being shared. One instance felt like something a bloke might have said in an offhanded way about a particular moment in his life but for me it just seemed to cheapen his memory rather than highlight the height of youth. Although, I suppose that might be the way a bloke would feel about a throwaway memory from the past.

As the strong language increased, I preferred it less and less, as it was distracting from the core of the narrative which was strong enough without the pepperings of explicit words running through the dialogue passages. At one point, I wasn’t sure why we had so much vulgarity in the novel as it just wasn’t warranted half the time it appeared.

on the contemporary romantic styling & classical re-telling sensibility of ms mirai:

Anchouring us directly into the performance side of Teru’s life, I felt was the best place to begin the opening chapter as we start to evolve inside the novel. The best part of ‘Phantom’ is how a performer has to take the journey to the back of beyond to understand who they are and why they were in need of such a journey in the first place. It is not a journey for the faint of heart or mind, for you have to trust your instincts and then, even if you falter within your own confidence, you have to embrace whatever comes next and own the outcome(s). Giving us a strong representation of who Teru is through the observations of his life backstage, we start to see the underscore of how this narrative is LGBTQ+ with a keen empathsis on those seeking and questioning their identity, sexuality and purpose in life.

You can in-tune this purpose in the narrative straight out of the first chapter as it is how Mirai approached developing the image for Teru which gives us the insight needed to carry forward. Little disclosures here and there about his person offer us a small glimmer of a glimpse into his personal life – for you can tell he’s a private individual who doesn’t want to oust himself in public. Similar to Rei, whose the ‘Phantom’ in the story-line – both men are more comfortable in keeping their private lives private. Where the spotlight is not shining on them directly.

Mirai adds in little nudges of awareness about Tokyo itself – to root us into the setting and to the visual kei underground of where this unique styling of music has become popular with listeners. She does such a good job at revealling this aspect of the story-line, you feel as if you could find those clubs yourself if you travelled to Tokyo to seek them out.

What really impressed me is that the story I knew was a rock opera whereas this is a new style of music pushing through the canon’s arc whilst delivering a very modern adaptation where the emotional heart of the story remains intact. It also explores the central theme of a love triangle though re-imagined to be a walk of discovery for Teru who was questioning his sexuality thereby the triangle in this story moves from how he feels about men to how he feels about women.

On this novel being #Equalityinlit for showing representation for LGBTQ+ characters:

Mirai takes careful consideration of showing the journey of her characters without attempting to force their story-lines to conform to a singular ending of how their sexuality is embraced or labelled. Meaning, you as a reader are aligning into their story where you would find them if they were alive. Teru has the most issues with embracing his sexuality and his own self-identity – even as a glam-goth rocker as he has a consistency in self-criticism where he overthinks his choices in fashion and hairstyles (including the colour of his hair which is predominately pink throughout the story’s arc).

Meanwhile, there is an openly gay bandmate and in regards to Rei, his identity is elusively not confirmed as he is going through enough demons which have overtaken his mind after the tragedy which left him feeling ‘less than’ himself.

The undertone of the novel is a journey of identity and how identity can become difficult to pin down. This is an open dialogue about #LGBTQ lifestyles and the journey of seeking out the ‘self’ when a person isn’t fully aware of their own self-identity which I loved seeing developed.

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It wouldn’t have been proper to read this novel without listening to soundtracks for ‘Phantom’ – especially the musical scores (in piano) in which atmospherically gave me a lovely backdrop and musical overture to the evolving story as it was written to be found. I am so very thankful to Spotify to have more than one listening option,…

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Reading this novel counted for a few of
my New Year Reading Challenges & Focuses:

#ContemporaryJanuary | #PopSugarChallenge (a re-telling of a Classic)

Beat the Backlist banner created by Austine at A Novel Knight and is used with permission.

This review is cross-posted to LibraryThing.

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{SOURCES: Book cover for “The Stars May Rise and Fall” as well as the author biography were provided by and are used with permission of the author Estella Mirai. Post dividers by Fun Stuff for Your Blog via Pure Imagination. Tweets were embedded due to codes provided by Twitter. Beat the Backlist banner provided by novelknight.com and is being used with permission. Blog graphics created by Jorie via Canva: Saturdays are Bookish banner and the Comment Box Banner.}

Copyright © Jorie Loves A Story, 2019.

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About jorielov

I am self-educated through local libraries and alternative education opportunities. I am a writer by trade and I cured a ten-year writer’s block by the discovery of Nanowrimo in November 2008. The event changed my life by re-establishing my muse and solidifying my path. Five years later whilst exploring the bookish blogosphere I decided to become a book blogger. I am a champion of wordsmiths who evoke a visceral experience in narrative. I write comprehensive book showcases electing to get into the heart of my reading observations. I dance through genres seeking literary enlightenment and enchantment. Starting in Autumn 2013 I became a blog book tour hostess featuring books and authors. I joined The Classics Club in January 2014 to seek out appreciators of the timeless works of literature whose breadth of scope and voice resonate with us all.

"I write my heart out and own my writing after it has spilt out of the pen." - self quote (Jorie of Jorie Loves A Story)

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Posted Saturday, 12 January, 2019 by jorielov in #SaturdaysAreBookish, 21st Century, Bits & Bobbles of Jorie, Blog Tour Host, Compassion & Acceptance of Differences, Composer, Creative Arts, Debut Author, Debut Novel, Equality In Literature, Grief & Anguish of Guilt, Horror-Lite, Inspired By Author OR Book, Inspired by Stories, Japan, Jorie Loves A Story Features, LGBTTQPlus Fiction | Non-Fiction, Mental Health, Modern Day, PTSD, Re-Told Tales, Realistic Fiction, Romance Fiction

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