|Masque of the Red Death
by Bethany Griffin
Published by HarperCollins
Publish Date: April 24, 2012
My Source: Borrowed
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. -(summary from Goodreads.com)
Masque of the Red Death
by Bethany Griffin
My Thoughts: Masque of the Red Death sounds like a great premise for a book, right? Based on an Edgar Allen Poe story about a rampant contagion, I thought I’d give this one a try. I did, I tore through it in basically one sitting, and I have thoughts. Humor me – let me share them, will you?
Let’s talk about Masque of the Red Death:
1. The Characters: There are several characters that stand out to me for a few reasons and I want to tell you about them:
- Araby. A beautiful girl, twin of the deceased Finn. Araby spends nearly all of her time guilt-ridden and grieving the loss of her brother. She feels responsible and it is apparent on almost all of the pages and in almost every scene. It clouds almost every decision she makes and everything she does. Daughter of a scientist – the one who invented the life-saving masks – she spends a great deal of time with her BFF April at the Debauchery Club.
- April. Young and rich, shallow and very into fashion. April turns up missing early in the book and a great deal of the plot is spent trying to find her, among other things. Did she die? Has she been kidnapped? Who knows, really…but Araby is grieved to have lost another person she loves and so is…
- Elliott. April’s older brother and the genius behind the Debauchery Club. Elliott has a plan to turn things around in the city by making the outlandishly expensive life-saving masks available to everyone, including the poor. To do this, he needs information that he can only gain through Araby – so they strike a deal. Elliott and Araby begin to work together, not only to try and help the have-nots of the city, but to find April. Elliott falls in love with Araby…or does he? Even so, Araby’s heart belongs to…
- Will. Oh Will, my Will! Will works at the Debauchery Club and is the quiet, mysterious one. So handsome and elusive to Araby, he comes from the “other” side of town – meaning, Will is poor. So really, Araby shouldn’t have feelings for him. But when she finds out about his hidden life, the one he keeps secret from those at the Debauchery Club, she just can’t help but fall hard for this boy. NEITHER CAN I, you guys. Neither can I. Love him.
- Prince Prospero. Mean mean mean, evil evil evil. I’m not sure why he thinks he is a Prince. Maybe he really is and I just missed that bit of information. But somehow he dismantled a European castle and brought it over to America and plopped it down in the New Orleans-ish area. Weird, right? AND PRETENTIOUS. Prospero has purposefully made masks available only to the exceedingly rich. He kidnaps people. He manipulates people. He has people murdered and tortured. What an awful, bad, incredibly wonderful villain. The only problem I have with him is that he is not present enough in the book to get a good sense of what his maximum potential as a villain could be. See, there is an uprising on the horizon, and I’m not talking about the one Elliott thinks he is starting…stuff is going down, and it would be great to know a little more about the awful Prince Prospero before/while it happens.
These characters, honestly, are not fully developed in a way that I would like for them to be. I am a HUGE fan of the well-fleshed character, and while I enjoyed them ALL – I truly, honestly did – I just didn’t really build a connection with anyone other than Will. This is okay, however, because where the character development was not my favorite part of the book…there were a ton of other parts that I loved.
2. World-building. Excellent. If I’m not mistaken, I think I read that the feel of this book was supposed to remind me of a New-Orleans/Paris type setting. I definitely felt a bayou, New Orleans vibe. I’m not sure I picked up on the European setting, but I loved the New Orleans feel, particularly with the element of the steampunk thrown in (more on that later). Guys, this book is DARK and what better place to set a dark book than New Orleans?
Masque of the Red Death talks of the dead lying in the streets, floating in the waters, being carried away by carts. People are walking around day and night with masks on their faces and wearing fashions with their arms exposed to prove that they aren’t infected with lesions associated with the contagion. The city is in ruins; destruction abounds at every corner. What was once a progressive city is now at a standstill due to the spread of the contagion and the massive decrease in population. There is a definitive separation of classes in this story, and I love that it is easily felt by the creation of this world. Good, great, awesome world-building by Bethany Griffin.
ALSO, I love the world inside of the Debauchery Club. More on that later…
3. The Masks. The masks completely creeped me out, which added to the DARK-factor of the story. The masks were created by Araby’s father in an attempt to keep everyone safe from the contagion. When he shared his invention and plans with Prince Prospero, somehow the Prince made it virtually impossible for these masks to be accessible to everyone – he drove prices up, I think, and now only the very wealthy can afford them easily. Araby herself has several masks, including several decorative ones to match varying outfits. The less-fortunate of the city have to save wages for a long time just to buy one. To this end, the children are the ones without the masks, and therefore they are the ones who often lose their lives in large numbers. This is in part because 1) they outgrow their masks frequently and 2) while the parents have to have masks to venture out of doors to work, they cannot afford the luxury of masks for their children after the costs of living (food, clothing, etc.). The end result is that many of the bodies on the carts and in the streets are the bodies of children. THIS is one of the catalysts behind Elliott’s plan to make masks available to everyone. And I loved it. And I loved him for trying to do it.
4. Genre. Steampunk, you guys! There’s also romance and some apocalyptic/dystopian. And there could maybe be some historical fiction to it as well. I was a little bit confused as to the time period – past, present, or future? Not sure, but it didn’t affect my love for the story one bit.
It’s this “steampunk apocalyptic/dystopian” thing that has me intrigued. It reminds me a little bit of Dearly, Departed (by Lia Habel) but TOTALLY without the zombies. This mash-up is new to me but I love it, you guys. I love it SO HARD. It’s new and odd and completely exciting. A world gone wrong with steam carriages and corsets and complete debauchery. Love this.
5. The Plot. GREAT. The plot flowed so well, so easily. My little fingers turned the pages fast to find out what on earth was coming up next. SO…even though I didn’t feel a total connection to most of the characters, I did feel a connection to the story as a whole and the world that it was built in. I was invested, you guys, and that is what is important. (**Also, I completely think that this will work as a guy/gal crossover in this genre.)
6. The Debauchery Club. LOVE LOVE LOVE this place. This place was almost like a character for me, and I do love settings-as-character. SO MUCH. I wish it would have been explored a little bit more, but really the only way for this to have happened would be for the book to be expanded or for it to have been made more of an adult/YA crossover. Because you guys, the Debauchery Club is DARK. There are things that happen in that place: sex, drugs, craziness. The very fact that I loved it so much would drive my Grandmother crazy because it is a little bit unladylike, to be honest. (IF there is another book…IF this is a series and not a standalone…can we please have more of this place??? PLEASE.)
7. Betrayal. OH IT STINGS. It happens a time or two, you guys. And it hurts. So much. Every time. But you know, we all love to read about it. There’s just something that feels so good about hurting so bad.
About the cover…y’all know that I am a cover girl…I will often pick out a book based on a cover alone. This time I did not. (It was the summary that reeled me in this time.) I’m not sure what it is about this cover, but it is creepy. Since I did mention that I think guys will like this story – I have it on excellent authority from a trusted dude that this cover would possibly be an issue for a guy because it looks a little bit romance-y and not very contagion-y. What do you guys think about the cover?
By the way, does anyone know if this book is a series or a standalone? Because I don’t. And if there is a book two, I definitely want to read it. I enjoyed this book very much….enough to sit down and read it at one time. Contagions, steampunk, mean villains, debauchery…it just had plenty of things that make me want to read more.
I recommend this book to YA readers across all ages, but I have to warn you that it is DARK. There are references to drugs and things going on in the club. If you can handle that kind of stuff, then you will be okay with this book. It’s a fun one if you like the dark stuff, and I do every now and then.
Masque of the Red Death will appeal to fans of:
Steampunk & Romance with Dystopian thrown in.
Romance with a potential love triangle
Series? Standalone? I have no idea this time. Help!
Retellings based on classic stories: this time
Masque of the Red Death by Edgar Allen Poe
Masque of the Red Death by Bethany Griffin
will be published on April 24, 2012.
*I borrowed this book as part of Around The World Book Tours in exchange for my honest thoughts and opinions. I received no compensation for my review.