Friday, March 2, 2012

Review: Masque of the Red Death by Bethany Griffin

By: Bethany Griffin
Publisher: Harper Collins
Release Date: April 24, 2012
Genre/Age: YA Steampunk Dystopian Historical Paranormal Fantasy (some blend of those!)
Pages: 320
Source: ARC from Around the World ARC Tours

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 it costs her.

Masque of the Red Death is a hard book for me to review. Maybe I was expecting too much, but overall it wasn’t as amazing as I was hoping it would be. There were definitely things I liked though, and I enjoyed it enough that I’m planning to read the sequel (and there IS going to be one, guys, this is the beginning of a trilogy).

Bethany Griffin’s world building is pretty fantastic. The whole novel has a very dark, kind of sexy, gothic feel to it, which I really liked. She did a great job in setting a tone that is very fitting for a retelling of Edgar Allen Poe. I do feel like The Debauchery Club itself could have been more intense (especially given its name), but the world outside the club was fabulously described. Corpses in the streets, body collectors rattling along with their carts, the terror of being caught outside without a mask, airborne contagion, a city in ruins… I could see and feel it all. And the masks. I LOVE the idea of the masks. Who doesn’t love a masquerade? Now just imagine a masquerade ball, but it happens every time you go outside. (And, you know, without all the dancing and frivolity.)

I have to admit, I haven’t actually read Poe’s Masque of the Red Death (and I love Poe, so I don’t know what’s wrong with me), so I don’t know how many of the plot elements came from Poe and how many were original ideas, but as someone going into this book as a blank slate, I thought there was a great blend of elements of young adult fiction along with a Poe-esque setting and atmosphere to the story.

The thing was, I had a lot of trouble connecting with any of the characters, which is the main reason that I didn’t fall in love with this book the way I had hoped I would. I didn’t understand the motivation behind a lot of their decisions, and there also wasn’t a lot of consistent character development throughout the novel. This unfortunately affected my investment in the various relationships, so I was pretty ambivalent toward almost everybody (I did really enjoy Will, although some of his actions still confused me). I would have loved more fleshed-out characters, and I’m hoping to see more of that in the next books.

Overall, Masque of the Red Death has a fantastically creepy gothic setting, with an enjoyable storyline despite a disconnect with most of the characters. The last few chapters in particular race along and the end of the book will surely leave you eager to read more.


  1. Fantastic review!! Your review is the first one I've read for this book, and now I'm even more excited to read it. The Masque of the Red Death is my all-time favorite Poe story, and I think you'd really like it as well! It sucks that you couldn't connect with any of the characters--this kind of thing is a huge issue for me as well. But hopefully they'll redeem themselves in the next book.

    Thanks for sharing, this made me giddy! =D

  2. Wonderful review. I'm so glad to see you liked it so much. I've had my eye on this one since I first heard about it. I haven't read Poe's story either but it's free for Kindle so I think I'll read it before this. :)


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