Monday, May 21, 2012

Review: Masque of the Red Death by Bethany Griffin

From the Back Cover:

Everything is in ruins.

A devastating plague has decimated the population. And those who are left live in fear of catching it as the city crumbles to pieces around them.

So what does Araby Worth have to live for?

Nights in the Debauchery Club, beautiful dresses, glittery make-up . . . and tantalizing ways to forget it all.

But in the depths of the club—in the depths of her own despair—Araby will find more than oblivion. She will find Will, the terribly handsome proprietor of the club. And Elliott, the wickedly smart aristocrat. Neither boy is what he seems. Both have secrets. Everyone does.

And Araby may find something not just to live for, but to fight for—no matter what it costs her.

My Thoughts:

I'm a big Edgar Allen Poe fan, and The Masque of the Red Death has always captivated me, and this dystopian young adult version with a pinch of steampunk went on my wishlist the moment I saw it was coming out. It did not disappoint! The first theme of Poe's masterpiece is evident right away. Araby Worth lives in a city decimated by plague. A plague that still exists and kills more people every day. The remnants of society have been forced under the control of the megalomaniac Prince Prospero. The poor people eke out an existence in the rubble that remains of the city, bound in on all sides by man-eating gator-filled swamps and the sea, while the Prince and his courtiers host grand balls and lavish entertainments in his isolated castle.

But Araby is one of the lucky ones. She's wealthy, and therefore able to afford one of the masks that guarantees she won't get the plague. She lives in an affluent neighborhood, guarded against plague carriers. Her father, the scientist who invented the plague mask, is one of the most important men in Prince Prospero's kingdom, and as such is afforded bodyguards and luxuries other people can only dream of. But he's under a lot of pressure from the Prince, and spends most of his time locked away in his laboratory. Araby can't bear to be stuck at home with her mother, who wants to pretend that she didn't disappear from their lives when Araby and her father needed her most, while they were grieving the death of her brother, Finn. Araby is lonely. And borderline suicidal. She's desperate to be rid of the guilt and grief she suffers over her brother's death, yet she can't even begin to let go of it. She spends her evenings donning her mask, dressing up in corseted gowns, and gliding through the dark rooms of the Debauchery Club in a drug-induced haze.

     "What do you want?" he asks in an amused voice.
     "Oblivion." It is what I am always looking for.
     "What's a pretty girl like you trying to forget?"
     A pretty girl like me with my clean fingernails and my unblemished bill of health.
     He doesn't know anything about me.

The one bright spot in her existence is Will, the quiet and serious bouncer at Debauchery, and the five-minutes she gets to spend with him each time he tests her to make sure she's plague-free before letting her into the club. When Araby wakes up one morning at Will's house after a night she can't remember, she begins a friendship that teaches her how to open her heart, and shows her the reality of life for the less fortunate, and the restlessness that's brewing in the city. Araby also meets Elliott at Debauchery. If Will is safe and solid, Elliott is all that is dangerous, and though she feels she ought to stay away from him, when he asks her to pull off a task central to his underground rebellion against his twisted uncle, Prince Prospero, Araby can't refuse. She soon finds herself caught in the middle of a war brewing between science and religion that will test her in ways she never imagined, and she finds her allegiances questioned, her family pulled apart, and her heart torn between Will and Elliott.

I thought this was a great read. Could not put it down. Very well-written, great characterizations, and a plot that kept me guessing till the very last page. The only thing that bothered me as I was reading was Araby's persistence in clinging to the guilt she carried over the death of her brother. You know, you've seen the storyline before: character has survivor's guilt and denies herself happiness, then character's love interest comes along and helps her let it go, so I was thinking Araby's story would run along the same lines, and it seemed to be headed in that direction when suddenly--Oh, snap! Wait a minute, maybe she has serious cause to feel so guilty...

Take that revelation, along with two huge game-changing plot twists that caught me completely off-guard, a terrific love triangle that had me begging for more, the originality of the story and the quality of the writing, and add it all up for one of my favorite YA reads of the year. I'm anxiously awaiting the sequel to see how Poe's story continues to play out in the eerie and startling world Ms. Griffin has created.

My Rating:  5 Stars out of 5

*Please Note: This review references an advance copy received from the publisher through the Amazon Vine program. These are my unbiased opinions and I was not compensated in any other way for reviewing this book.


  1. I love Poe, I love the cover, I haven't yet read anything steampunk, so this is going on my to-read list. Great review!

    1. It only has a smidge of steampunk, so you can't use this book as an example of the genre, but it is a fantastic story world. Hope you love it as much as I did!

  2. Great review! i love the cover
    i freaking want to read this1 soon

  3. I'm so glad it didn't disappoint, Jenny! I'm on the fence about this book because of so many contradicting reviews, but I'll think I'll still keep it on my wishlist until I'm able to get it from the library :)

    1. I know some people didn't like it, but I really did. Then again, I haven't liked some of the others that are so popular, so my taste doesn't always jive with the majority.

  4. It does sound really cool! Sure I have seen some negative reviews too but I'd like to give it a go


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