Sunday, April 1, 2012


Masque of the Red Death - Bethany Griffin
Genre: YA Horror/Paranormal/?
Publisher: Harper Collins
Recommended for: HS & Up
Source: ARC from Trade

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.

Pretty intriguing synopsis, huh? It's not what it seems! The synopsis makes it seem loads more interesting than it actually is - believe me.I tried so hard to like this book. And on the surface, there's nothing really wrong with it and nothing that would keep me from liking it. I want to point out that for a story that has a "Debauchery Club," it was pretty tame. Surprisingly tame. But Masque ended up thoroughly confusing me on many levels. I don't even know what to call this book: it's not a dystopian, it's not really a paranormal, and frankly, one airship and a bunch of corsets doesn't qualify as a steampunk in my eyes. So what is this, exactly? A neo-Gothic horror story? There wasn't enough 'horror,' though, because halfway through the novel the focus shifts away from decay and despair to seeds of revolution. To be honest, it read like a story with no clear direction, like it couldn't make up its mind if it was going to be character-driven, or plot driven. And so (for me), it basically failed at both. By contrast, one of the powerful elements of Poe's works is his dark and melancholy mood. Dark, but with just a hint of suspense, of something big that's about to happen. That mood did not carry over into Masque of the Red Death the way it did in Nevermore
But for me, the biggest "thing" about Masque was the characters' sheer lack of motivation and the way they related to each other. I actually get why Araby would want to waste away her days in the Debauchery Club. What I don't get is why she gets involved in a plot to overthrow the Prince, or why other characters did what they did, if that makes sense. The other big "thing" about this book was the stark contrast between character descriptions and character actions. None of the characters had any clearly-defined personalities and as a result, everybody seemed pretty schizophrenic. In one chapter, a girl would be a complete airhead and quintessential 'mean girl' - a few chapters later, the same girl would be giving orders and plotting to overthrow the Prince. And that would have been near genius (the whole 'appearance vs. reality' motif) if I got the feeling that the author did it on purpose. But I didn't get that feeling. The feeling I got is that Masque of the Red Death is populated by characters that lack any defining personalities or motivations. They just do and say whatever suits the current mood. The whole thing was rather bizarre. 
 And much like Daughter of Smoke and Bone, there was a twist at the end that I didn't see coming. Also like Daughter of Smoke and Bone, I did not care for the twist, and thought it was actually handled in a very sloppy manner. I genuinely believe that having a major twist at the end ONLY WORKS if it makes SENSE. Otherwise, it's just useless and confusing. And this twist, like I said, was one of the sloppiest-written twists I've ever read.

Overall, Masque of the Red Death didn't hold up for me. Like I said, I tried very hard to like this book (harder than I've tried for any other book in a long time) and I compliment Bethany Griffin on taking one of Edgar Allan Poe's best-known stories and giving it a unique spin. I know that there will be many who will love this book, and in this case, I would say judge it for yourself. For me, though, it takes a special book to hold up Poe's dynamic legacy, and this just wasn't it.
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