Release Date: April 24, 2012
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.
What would you do if you were surrounded by misery and decay on all sides? Try to make changes and improvements to the world around you? Take advantage of the misfortune of others? Or would you be like Araby and seek solace in the arms of oblivion?
Just a few pages into the novel and I could see why Araby threw herself into oblivion every chance she could! The author certainly did a good job creating a dreary, painful world! The world building is quite good for this novel and I think the author was trying to go for a steampunk setting but I don't think that was fully developed...one or two bits of technology in a world dominated by bodices and carriages isn't quite enough to sell it for me. Maybe an update on the demeanor of the citizens and possibly the infrastructure and running of the country and I would have accepted it as steampunk! Nonetheless, the world building is well done here and the depressing mood dominates the plague-ravaged country!
Masque of the Red Death is a re-imagining of sorts of Edgar Allan Poe's short story of the same name. While the dismal state the world is in is similar to Poe's story, an aspect that is markedly different is Prince Prospero. In Bethany Griffin's re-imagining, he is a manipulative, power-hungry psychopath whereas Poe's Prince Prospero seemed much more ignorant and preoccupied with frivolous things. Prospero's lack of conscience and remorse in Bethany's novel was frightening! Bethany does do a good job of capturing the same depressed feeling though!
There was definitely some great world building, but I have a bone to pick with some of the characters! April was rather inconsistent, or maybe she's just a fantastic actress. Her secrets were a bit hard to believe at first since she was an airhead with a taste for booze and drugs. Elliot...well, he's a bit of a jerk, and as Araby found his personality abrasive at the beginning, I really don't understand why she jumped to help him every time he asked--no, that's too nice, ordered--her to do something for him. He asked her to risk her life for him multiple times and she complied from the get-go and I couldn't see any clear motivation for her to help a virtual stranger--and a rude stranger at that!
There was a twist in the novel and I don't think I entirely buy it. Although you could argue that it wasn't entirely out of character, it certainly seemed highly unlikely, give the development of events in the novel leading up to that point! I'm sure this sounds rather vague so I apologize, but I don't want to give anything away and spoil the fun!
A minor point I felt like mentioning was the Debauchery Club; when I read the blurb I was expecting something wild and possibly even borderline obscene since it was the once place people could escape all the gloom around them. But instead, it seemed like a rather tame place that certainly didn't live up to its name!
The ending felt weak compared to the rest of the novel. While I get that continuing the adventure could require quite a number of pages more, the ending felt rushed, as if the author had to hurry and find a spot to cut off the story until the sequel(s).
While I can say that I enjoyed this novel and will most likely read the sequel, I have this odd feeling that there's something off about it. I'm not saying it's a bad novel, but to me it doesn't seem entirely put-together. It seemed like the author put too much effort into developing the characters at points and the plot ended up dragging a bit and being put second. At other points the plot was being rushed along and became the only focus. I guess that's the 'off feeling' I'm getting; the plot and character development in the novel wasn't balanced.
Despite any misgivings I may have, I am sure many readers will enjoy Masque of the Red Death! The world-building is excellent, the love-triangle will appeal to many, and the slightly steampunk setting was pretty cool!
Overall: 4 out of 5
Plot: 3.75 stars
Characters: 4 stars
Writing: 4 stars
Cover: 4.5 stars