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Review: Masque of the Red Death by Bethany Griffin

Saturday, May 5, 2012
Masque of the Red Death (Masque of the Red Death #1)
by Bethany Griffin

5 stars: Recommended
Publication: April 24, 2012
Pages: 320
Author: Website | Twitter
Publisher: Greenwillow Books
Buy it: Amazon | KindleB&N | Book Depository

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 around them.

So what does Araby Worth have to live for?

Nights in the Debauchery Club, beautiful dresses, glittery makeup . . . 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 is what he seems. Both have secrets. Everyone does.

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

Masque of the Red Death is haunting and despairingly beautiful. From the first words, Griffin ensnared me in the waking dream that is Araby's life: nights in an exclusive club, a safe place to live, and a good friend. However, this lies in the midst of a decaying world. The first chapters are devoid of feeling. Araby loses herself in the debauchery that has overtaken the upperclass, as they seek to drown out the horrors of their dying civilization by clubbing every night. As the story progresses, Araby comes out of the coccoon where she has been silently grieving, and she grows into the role of the strong young woman that has been lying dormant within her.

The writing makes this novel the gem that it is. Without it, the characters wouldn't have as much personality, and the world building wouldn't have been as torn and beautiful as it is. Griffin's words capture the heartbreak that Araby goes through as she struggles with survivor's guilt over her twin brother's death and as Will and Elliott spin her around, shaking her heart, wondering who to trust. This is a love triangle without the, "I love this guy for this, but oh... that guy...." that a lot of girls go through in YA lit these days. It does not overtake the essence of the plot. Speaking of which, I would think that I had the plot figured out, but Griffin continued to surprise me with plot twists, leaving me as lost as Araby is at the end.

The world is broken, most notably with contrasting images of light and dark. Araby and Finn. Will and Elliott. Hope and despair. Debauchery and the slums. Masque of the Red Death is filled with grotesque images, but there is also beauty to be found in the dying world. The characters bewitched me with their scandalous actions that belie the purity and strength of their hearts. At the end, I couldn't believe that it was over already. Needless to say, I cannot wait for book two.

Disclaimer: I received an ARC of this book from the publisher. No payment was received in return for a review. The receipt of the book had no influence on the opinions expressed in my review.
4 comments on "Review: Masque of the Red Death by Bethany Griffin"
  1. Beautiful review! While I didn't love it as much as you obviously did, I definitely enjoyed it and cannot wait to find out how the story will continue. :)

    Fictional Distraction

  2. You really made me want to read this novel. I'm not a big YA or Dystopian reader, and survivors guilt is one of the things that will either make me love or hate a novel, which is why I actually shied away from it, but darn.. now I really want to pick it up instantly! >_<


  3. Like its title, Masque of the Red Death is dripping with dystopian gothic atmosphere. Bethany Griffin created a very stylized world that has steampunk Victorian yet futuristic elements. Those who can afford it wear porcelain masks that somehow protect them from the plague. The pampered rich drive around in steam-powered carriages because all the horses died. They also regularly go to the Debauchery Club where they can get drugged to help them forget the pain of living in a ruined society. It's a place that's tragically beautiful - as the women wear, for some reason, corsets and floor-length gowns - but ultimately empty. Masque of the Red Death is full of style, with little substance to bolster it.

    The world the novel inhabits seems to be set in the future yet for some reason people drive around in carriages and have reverted to Victorian modes of dress. Even the ships are steam-powered. Though Griffin's writing is descriptive and full of striking imagery, logic prevented me from fully believing in the setting. For example, the same Debauchery Club where the young party recklessly also houses a very important, secret book guarded by old, powerful men. It just didn't make sense to me.

  4. @Carina: Thanks. I hope you enjoy book two more.

    @Patricia: I do recommend this book. Hope you end up liking it if you do pick it up!


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