Sunday, March 13, 2016

Review: Masque of the Red Death by Bethany Griffin

Story Retellings
Author: Bethany Griffin
Series: Masque of the Red Death
Publisher: Greenwillow Books
Publication Date: April 24, 2012
Genre: YA Science Fiction
Pages: 319
Buy it on Amazon
Masque of the Red Death by Bethany Griffin is a retelling of Edgar Allen Poe's story of the same name. Only its steampunk, with a love triangle and a Debauchery Club. What else do you need? Griffin keeps the gothic nature of the original story and expands on the disease that is ravaging the land. I was actually quite intrigued with this rendition and I think Poe would have been pleased with this dark and creepy novel.

"I've perfected the art of the fake smile. It's not so difficult when you are completely numb."- Masque of the Red Death


Araby Worth, is your typical depressed, rich girl that likes to party to just "forget it all." Only she has good reason to be. There is a contagion that has ravaged the world killing millions of people. The worst part is the disease is airborne. Luckily, Araby's father created a mask (that looks like a porcelain doll face) that protects people from inhaling the germs, but not before Araby's twin, Finn, died. Only the prince has used this mask to make money rather than save people's lives, so only the rich can afford them, which has created a rebellion in the lower classes against the wealthy. But because Finn died, Araby has sworn off anything that would resemble happiness and love. That is until Will, a doorman at the Debauchery Club, saves her life, and Elliot, the prince's nephew, who needs her help rescuing his sister and saving the city.

"And I am falling in love with you," he whispers. "But I would throw you in the water and watch crocodiles tear you to bits, if I thought that doing so would accomplish my goals. Do. Not. Trust. Anyone. Especially me." -Masque of the Red Death


There are a lot of good things happening in this book. First of the world building is fantastic. It's creepy and disgusting and perfectly gothic with it's corsets, lace, and steam carriages. You learn just enough about the world and the disease to be afraid of it, but as the story goes on you realize the world is a lot more complex than it seems. There are politics involved, religion, capitalism, and human vices that at first, appear just as a plot device, until you learn that they are what created this devastatingly horrible world. But just as there are still parties, make-up, drugs, and children being born, there is still hope that this world can be healed. And Araby's realization of that fact is one of the greatest aspects of this book; that all is not lost. She pulls herself out of a great depression, removes the mask she's been hiding under, and understands that there are still things and people to live for.

The Hunger Games Quote
Via

Despite this being an extremely interesting and vivid book, I found a few problems with the writing style. This is probably the first YA book written in a First Person POV that I didn't not connect with. We see the story through Araby's eyes, but she is very disconnected from the reader. She doesn't express much emotion, even internally. The sentences are very short and straight to the point. But it's Araby's lack of connection to anything that makes it hard to connect with her. There are glimpses of what she could be here and there, like when she is bringing Finn's mask to Will's younger brother. Or when she sees her father after fearing him dead, but for the most part Araby doesn't feel much. The book is just a series of events. Araby knows what she is supposed to feel but it just doesn't come out as authentic in her voice. Maybe that was by design by Griffin, but I wouldn't let it stop you from reading this book. It's still very much worth the read.

All in all, this was a fantastic take on Masque of the Red Death by Edgar Allen Poe. Griffin really takes Poe's ideas and setting and expands it into this fantastically horrible world. The characters are unique and the love triangle adds to the story rather than just being there for drama. I am excited for the sequel novel, Dance of the Red Death, to see how Araby, Elliot and Will handle a new contagion and Prince Prospero's greed. I would recommend you read this book if you like steampunk, horror, science fiction, or post apocalyptic novels. And I would suggest it as a great pairing with the original source material for an English class. 4 Stars!


Reading Order: