Review: Masque of the Red Death by Bethany Griffin
Masque of the Red Death by Bethany Griffin.
Masque of the Red Death #1.
Page Count: 319.
Published: April 24, 2012.
Published by: Greenwillow Books.
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 around them.
So what does Araby Worth have to live for?
Nights in the Debauchery Club, beautiful dresses, glittery makeup . . . 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 is what he seems. Both have secrets. Everyone does.
And Araby may find not just something to live for, but something to fight for—no matter what it costs her.
I have mixed feelings on Griffin's Poe-inspired Masque of the Red Death. While there were some elements I really enjoyed, there were others that just fell a little flat for me.
This is a rather dark story and I loved that the atmosphere really reflected and enhanced that. Griffin sets the stage quite well with a crumbling, plague-ridden city. It is gloomy, it is full of pain, and it is very clearly somewhere you would never want to find yourself. She has created an interesting world, though there were times I did want to know more about how it came to be the way it is. I felt there wasn't enough history to the world for my taste, which I wanted because it is so different from ours. The alternate history idea is appealing to me but it needs to be expanded on more. I think the harsh, bleak setting was wonderfully displayed in its details and its atmosphere but not always in the overarching look and understanding of the whole place.
I was definitely intrigued by the storyline and I thought it was interesting, but I was held back from loving it because of the slow pacing of the majority of the story. It felt like there was not a lot happening for a while, which took away from the actual plot for me. When things did happen, though, I was impressed by the twists and reveals that happened. They were unexpected and brought in the excitement that I had been missing for much of the time. I think it was a well plotted book and the storyline itself was enjoyable, but the pacing could have used some work. It just wasn't "unputdownable."
As for the characters, I was interested in them but never fully invested. I liked some more than others, like Will more than Elliott, for example, but Will was the only one I really felt like I understood well. I liked how his family ties played such a large role in his actions and he felt like a very genuine character. Elliott, on the other hand, was very shady and his character remains quite unclear for much of the novel, which I didn't love. I understand that it made him mysterious, but I wanted to understand him better. I also don't think the fact that this was a love triangle was all that necessary for the plot. In my opinion, Will was the only and obvious romantic choice, while I would have been okay with Elliott serving his purpose without romantic motivation. I do appreciate that they were both humans with ulterior motives as opposed to love-struck puppies, which muddled things a bit in the right way and did increase conflict, but I still didn't personally see Elliott as a real contender. And as for Araby's friend April... well, she was gone for so long that I felt like I didn't know all that much about her, either.
The main character, Araby, was fairly complex and has a lot of personal history that has made her who she was. I definitely appreciate that history showing through because it made her a more believable character. She was very dark herself, and was self-deprecating because of how worthless she felt. Her escape from these feelings was where the club (and the drugs that come with it) fit in, which was a dark but understandable way for her to deal with her emotions. She definitely had some moments where she was a compelling character and her guilt and pain are so sad to read. However, she also had her moments where I was frustrated because she felt weak and unwilling to try for herself. I wanted to see more drive from her, and I have hope that after that ending and with her growth from this novel that's something that will be more prominent in the next book. She's certainly a character I felt for sometimes, just not one I always connected with.
Overall, I enjoyed it well enough because of the dark atmosphere and the interesting storyline, but there were small aspects of multiple areas that I didn't enjoy as much that held me back from really loving this story. Not a bad read, though, and I'll certainly give the sequel a try.
Make sure you hop over to The White Unicorn for Christianna's thoughts on Carrie Ryan's The Forest of Hands and Teeth!