Friday, June 8, 2012

Review >> Masque of the Red Death (Masque of the Red Death #1)

Masque of the Red Death (Masque of the Red Death #1) by Bethany Griffin
Read the chapter excerpt!
Masque of the Red Death (Masque of the Red Death #1) by Bethany Griffin -- April 24, 2012 -- Hardcover, 319 pages, Harper Teen (Greenwillow Books) (9780062107794)

"The charcoal sky spits cold rain as we rumble to a stop at a crossroad. A black cart blocks the road, and even in an armored carriage we know better than to force our way past."

Araby Worth is not just watching her own life crumble around her after the death of her twin brother, she is also living in a city infested with plague and falling into despair. She opts to forget her troubles by spending her nights in the Debauchery Club, an aristocratic hangout where anything and everything is available for your pleasure. She unknowingly stumbles upon a rebellious plot brewing in the halls of the club, and everyone seems to be holding secrets, including the handsome club worker, Will, and the devilishly sneaky aristocrat Elliott. Araby finds herself thrust into a life of rebellion, giving her hope in a seemingly hopeless world.

Tom Banwell Designs

Bethany Griffin paints a grim portrait of Neo-Victorian life in this retelling of the Edgar Allen Poe story of the same name. Araby Worth's world is both intensely scary and equally intriguing, this is not the sort of book you want to pick up for a light read. It's macabre, vividly detailed, and leaves you feeling like all hope is lost for humanity- so naturally it's my kind of book! I should mention that Araby may not be the typical YA heroine. She's brooding, negligent, selfish, privileged, suicidal, and completely shut off from any external sensory interactions. I can see how she might be a difficult person for readers to relate to, and the reasoning behind her behavior comes significantly late in the novel, almost too late to solidly sympathize with her. Alas, there are other aspects to cling to.


Grim, gritty, festering, and all around hazardous to your health best describes the city poor Araby currently resides in. Of course, she stems from a wealthy family, and therefore provided masks to wear to fend off infection, unlike the poor slobs who inhabit the lower class area of the city. Speaking of the city, I would have liked to see a bit more world-building within the story. Don't get me wrong, Bethany Griffin did a fantastic job of describing the locations of the story, from the glitzy halls of the club, to the alligator infested mote surrounding the Prince's castle, all the way to the plague ridden decaying streets of the slums. However, the name of the city is never revealed to us, nor is any true description of where it exists in the world or even of the outside world itself. It seems likely that these elements of the story will be revealed in the subsequent novels, but I still feel like something should have been explained in this, the foundation for the rest of the series. In addition to this, it appears the author attempted to set this world within a steampunk setting due to some of the technological and fashion descriptions provided in the story, but it plays a practically nonexistent role.

"'No one can save the world. Not when it doesn't want to be saved.'"

Amidst the crumbling ruins of humanity lies few saving graces. Strange banners displaying a black scythe have begun appearing in doorways and pamphlets decreeing how humanity is being punished litter the streets, and Araby may have the key to unlocking these mysteries- for a price. Of course, she may be a bit preoccupied with the arrival of wealthy Elliot, her best friend's scheming brother, and working-stiff Will, the club's plague tester. Araby finds herself falling for each boy for different reasons, and yet she seems to know something is a bit off about each of them. Her only consistent saving grace is the mind-numbing respite of the Debauchery Club, although this too may be holding secrets within its dark interior. You better watch yourself, Araby!

"'He believes that the masks are making us inhuman because we don't see people's faces.'"

Masque of the Red Death has a lot to offer the YA genre, particularly in regards to the social commentary surrounding upper class versus lower class and religion versus science. It is a fairly heavy read with an abundance of Gothic undertones, and presents a solid horror story. On a final note, I want to point out how frustrating the ending was, or lack thereof. This doesn't really leave on a cliffhanger so much as it seems to have elected to spontaneously abort itself to save room for the next book. Don't expect to be too terribly satisfied with the conclusion, although I am absolutely going to check out the next installment of the series upon its release. Masque of the Red Death is one big setup for the bigger story ahead, and although the ending left much to be desired, it is a world you will feel oddly connected to, like a poor bedraggled puppy left on the side of the road. A strong start to what I hope will be a phenomenal series. So slip your gas mask over your face, lower the lights, and lock your doors. The Masque of the Red Death has arrived, and no one is immune.

"When I close my eyes, everything is dark and silent."

If you liked Masque of the Red Death (Masque of the Red Death #1), you might also like:

Something Strange and Deadly (Something Strange and Deadly #1) by Susan Dennard
For Darkness Shows the Stars by Diana Peterfreund
Cross My Heart by Sasha Gould

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