Book Reviews

Review: “The Masque of the Red Death,” Bethany Griffin

August 1, 2012

I received this book for free from Hachette Australia in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

Review: “The Masque of the Red Death,” Bethany GriffinThe Masque of the Red Deathby Bethany Griffin
Published by Orion on August, 2012
Genres: Dystopian, Steampunk
Pages: 336
Source: Hachette Australia

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.

Although well-written (Bethany Griffin knows her stuff!), her YA debut, The Masque of the Red Death never managed to pull me in completely. Despite 300+ pages, I wasn’t able to connect with Araby, Will or Elliot and their story. Still, Bethany Griffin should get a round of applause for injecting new life into the original Edgar Allan Poe short story.

I had heard a lot of hype for The Masque of the Red Death before going in, but I kept my expectations low. It was never a book that was ‘high up there’ for me, but when I got a copy from Hachette I though I may as well give it a try! Upon reading the plotline and blurb again, I found myself deeply interested in just what would go down in Abery’s story; even if there was a hint of a love triangle.

I understand that this is loosely based on the premise of Edgar Allan Poe’s short story of the same name. About a quarter through the novel, I looked up the Poe story’s premise. I can safely say that Bethany Griffin has managed to integrate a lot of the main elements and characters from that story into her own YA novel; such as the prince and the ‘red death’ plague. For that, I was impressed!

However, I just couldn’t connect with Abery, our main character. From the get-go, I just didn’t feel comfortable with her. For the most part she is dismal and boring and I didn’t see her growing as an individual despite the twists and turns that happened along the way. I was slightly annoyed that it took the affection of two boys to get her to see that life was worth living after being such a sad-sack for the entirity of the novel.

Once again we had the love-triangle with Abery being smack-bang in the middle of it. One boy is poor and brunette (Will), the other is rich and blonde (Elliot). The two boys are opposites in every way – and typically, both are fighting over the central character for no apparant reason. I didn’t find any clues as to why both Will and Elliot fell for Abery so quickly; she wasn’t very affectionate towards them, had major trust issues and didn’t do anything particularly exciting to earn their attention other than overdosing in the Debauchery Club.

Small spoilers in the next paragraph concerning the romance…

And although I was beginning to lightly enjoy her relationship with Will (it pushed the story along a little faster and broke up Abery’s moping around the Akkadian Towers) all this seemed to be thrown away at a moment’s notice toward the end. Abery was suddenly handing Elliot her ‘most important person’ vial and smooching with him on the boat. I just didn’t understand! I don’t want to go into too much detail, but it was a complete 180 to where the story was going. Abery was clearly falling for Will for 3/4 of the book, and despite his actions towards the end, that shouldn’t have been thrown away so effortlessly by her. The relationship between she and Elliot seemed quite one-sided, as all her interest seemed to be focused on Will beforehand. Colour me confused!

End Spoilers

Bethany Griffin accomplished her goal of making Abery’s world as bleak and unforgiving as possible, but I also found it quite unexciting. It didn’t have the true rawness and believability of some other dystopians I’ve read and I was unable to get wholly sucked under by the atmosphere. As I mentioned, although Bethany Griffin has a great way of writing and clearly knows what she’s doing, I just wasn’t entertained as much as I should have been (to put it frankly). I noticed both elements from The Pledge by Kimberly Derting and Dearly, Departed by Lia Habel in this book – such as the steampunk and dystopian royalty – but I would recommend both of those books before recommending this one, and I wasn’t too impressed by The Pledge, either.

The ending left me very disappointed. I didn’t feel like I got ANY reward for finishing the book whatsoever; it simply ended mid-event. I was left with more questions than answers – and completely frustrated that any answers I wanted would have to be dug out from a second book. Reading the first, and ONLY the first, seems like a waste of time looking back.

Masque of the Red Death took me about a week to finish. I understand that there is another book coming along in the series, but I highly doubt I’ll be picking it up. I’m not trying to sound harsh at all in this review, just honest. With so many dystopians out there to read, I just don’t have time to invest in a series that doesn’t completely blow me away. I know a lot of people out there already love – and WILL love – this book, I’m just not one of them.

Bethany Griffin seems like a talented writer, but this book just wasn’t my cup of tea. Perhaps I’ll pick up another of her books once this series has finished.

Recommended to: If you’re interested in the synopsis, you can only give it a go! Everyone has a different opinion and this is simply mine. However, if you prefer a faster-paced dystopian with lots of action and less of the love triangle, you may want to skip this one.

About Bethany Griffin

Bethany Griffin is a high school English teacher who prides herself on attracting creative misfits to elective classes such as Young Adult Literature, Creative Writing, and Speculative Literature. She lives with her family in Kentucky.

1 Comment

  • Reply Frankie Holman July 14, 2013 at 3:50 pm

    As a Poe enthusiast, I was a bit diffident about reading “Masque of the Red Death”. After all, I had read “Nevermore” which proved to be sham of book, imo. Never the less that lovely cover called to me, and in spite of the fact that pretty covers have often proven to possess ugly innards, this book at least proved to be the exception to the rule.”Masque of the Red Death” tells the story of Araby Worth, who lives in a world plagued by contagion and death. Bodies fill the streets as cities slowly disintegrate along with humanity. Death is emanate, except for those lucky few who possess ceramic, air filtering masks. But even those who have been lucky enough to survive thus far have few things to live for. As a result, many individuals, including Araby Worth, spend their days seeking oblivion in night clubs, chasing highs to escape their lows. It is in such a club, known as Debauchery, that Araby meets two individuals who will change the course of her life.While I’m sure that the summary may sound trite, rest assured that “Masque of the Red Death” didn’t befall to the typical YA pitfalls. There is so much to soak in while reading this story. It is gloriously atmospheric. I was wholly entrenched in this plague ridden universe. I had a clear mental image of dress and those coveted, life saving ceramic masks. And there were many times I wanted to jump into the shower as I read of plague and puss. Moreover, I loved each of the characters. There were such a refreshing change of pace with their drug habits, manipulative cunning, and most importantly, desperation. Even the love triangle, which would typically create an impulse to bang my head against the wall, was exceptionally well done. It wasn’t forced, and made perfect since for each of the characters. My only regret is that I read this via an ARC. Now I have to wait even longer to begin the next installment.

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