Masque of the Red Death by Bethany Griffin
Release Date: April 24th, 2012
Greenwillow Books, 319 Pages
Sub-genre: Science Fiction? Steampunk?
Source: ARC from ALA Midwinter 2012
Age Group: Young Adult
Series: Masque of the Red Death #1
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.
All of the Poe fans out there can rest easy. Griffin has done a fantastic job of retelling the dark and foreboding tale [allegory] of The Masque of the Red Death. The imagery that was used created a gothic, macabre world where beautifully crafted, scarce, and essential porcelain masks are only for those that can afford them. Prospero (Poe’s original character’s name) is still as greedy, terrifying, ruthless, and in denial as ever, and all of the symbolism and allegory from the original are well represented.
The main characters, Araby, Will, Elliott, and April are all very well fleshed-out and I really appreciated the way that Griffin created her steampunk world in a way that made it uniquely hard to pin-down by time (year) and location. It honestly could have been anywhere and any-”when”. The vivid descriptions of the Debauchery Club, the dresses, patrons, and even the dragon-themed designs in every room had me riveted from the very beginning.
Taking on a work of Poe is truly ambitious, but I believe that Griffin did a fantastic job of keeping the original idea intact and creating her own interpretation of a classic. The tension of a love-triangle was present between Will, Araby, and Elliott while not sacrificing the integrity of the storyline with teenage angst. The threat of contracting the plague was an ever-present thought for all of the characters, and Griffin never let us forget the consequences of being careless with or unable to afford one’s own mask. I know I found myself holding my breath during quite a few scenes in the book because it was so easy to get caught-up in the drama and fear that the characters were experiencing. The plot was well-paced, wonderfully detailed, and ended in a way that left me desperately wanting a continuation of Araby’s journey.
I would highly recommend this book to anyone seeking a darker, gothic read, but all Poe fans should absolutely give this book a chance. I think this is a book that will be well-received, not only in the world of YA, but the world of literature, in general. It is definitely an homage to a literary master that is worthy of very high praise!