Book Reviews

[review] Masque of the Red Death – Bethany Griffin

Release Date: April 24, 2012
Publisher: Greenwillow Books (Harper Collins)
Age Group: Young Adult
Pages: 320
Format: Hardcover
Source: ARC received from publisher

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.

Tell Me More: “The Masque of the Red Death” was one of the first short stories I ever read, though it was probably too early for me to have consumed it, since I was seven years old. Edgar Allan Poe is my mother’s favourite writer, and when I grew curious about his work, she happily allowed me to read it with her. Over the years, I’ve returned again and again to his stories to educate myself about the written word. Hence, a retelling of one of his stories is something I approach with caution and a smidgen of reluctance. I can’t say that Masque of the Red Death does what it sets out to do, but neither can I dismiss it as a poor imitation.

The emotion that strikes first after reading this novel–having studied the story many times–is a sense of disappointment. Before you cross Masque off your shopping list, hear me out. The original short story is about a masquerade ball thrown by a prince who believes he has escaped the Red Death in his castle fortress. I won’t spoil the ending for those who haven’t read it, but I did expect to see, at the very least, the plans for this masquerade or a twist on it in play throughout the novel. I didn’t find out until the last ten pages that this was the first book in a series, and many readers won’t realize it until that point either. Do I feel a bit hoodwinked? Yes. Will that stop me from reading the next book and loving this one? No.

Greenwillow Books has a great record in my book when it comes to breathtaking prose and unique writing styles. Bethany Griffin does not disappoint, and if I’ve said it once, I’ll say it again: Martha Mihalick’s editing is something I admire greatly. While I was slightly confused by the start of the story, it became obvious as I read that Bethany was setting the stage for a razor-sharp narrative. She channels enough of Poe’s writing style that it can satisfy longtime readers like myself, but she is a powerful writer on her own as well.

Araby, while not my favourite heroine, had a distinct and honest voice, even as she made some selfish decisions. What I find interesting about heroines is society’s focus on what they do right, and not how they deal with their mistakes. For much of the novel, I wasn’t sure what to think about Araby–she seemed almost frigid, closed off to anything but her grief. It’s an understandable distance, however, and it was gratifying to find her maintaining her identity while discovering new parts of her soul. That journey is the reason why both love interests just aren’t fascinating to me–if anything, I believe that they blur the path she’s on. They need her more than she needs them, which reminds me a lot of Peeta/Katniss/Gale. I don’t necessarily mind if Araby decides to be with Will or Elliot, but at their relationships stand now, I don’t see either one working out in the end.

Maybe I walked backwards into my own tomb with the way I approached this novel and bricked myself up with my own expectations and investment. (You win a prize if you know what story I’m referencing. For real.) But despite my initial misgivings, Masque of the Red Death was a provoking and thoughtful read that has me waiting not-so-patiently for the second book in April 2013.

The Final Say: Pick up Masque of the Red Death for the cover and inspiration, stay for the words that will mark you forever.

About Bethany

Bethany Griffin is a high school English teacher and avid reader of teen fiction. She teaches and writes in Kentucky, where she lives with her two children and her husband.

Add Masque of the Red Death on Goodreads | Follow Bethany on Twitter @_bethanygriffin | Visit Bethany’s website | Order Masque of the Red Death from The Book Depository and Chapters

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5 replies »

  1. Great minds think alike today! I think I echoes a few of your sentiments in my own review. I liked your comparison of Araby/Elliot/Will to Katniss/Peeta/Gale. The only difference in my mind is there isn’t a clear choice for her to be and that may end up with her being with no one. Only time will tell.

  2. I agree with Christa I like your comparison in there, and the more I think about it, you’re right she may not end up with anyone, and I kind of like that idea. Happy to see more love for this book today!

  3. (Oh! Oh! Cask of Amontillado?)
    I’m a huge fan of Poe, so I was really excited for Masque of the Red Death as well. I agree that it wasn’t what I was expecting, but I was still pleased with what it was. The writing was so atmospheric…the book gives off a vibe that sets it apart from most YA. Thanks for the review, Angel! =)

  4. Wow, this book sounds really good, and the cover art is STUNNING! It would pull me in even if the book didn’t sound good!

    Also, is the story you’re referencing “The Cask of Amontillado?”

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