Book Review: Masque of the Red Death by Bethany Griffin

So this is the second post about a book in the past week. I’m partially surprised at myself and mostly not, since I read so much. I almost always find a book to shove into other people’s faces and say “YOU NEED TO READ THIS!” And depending on who they are, they usually do. Soo… Here goes!

You know when you find a book you really want to read, you start to read it, then you get so far into the book, you throw it against the wall because something about it just so desperately annoys you? And then, be it hours, days, weeks, or even months later, you pick it back up and find you absolutely love it? I know that feeling quite well: Masque of the Red Death is the third book I’ve done this to. The first two were Evermore by Alyson Noel and The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins (What? I hated the Hunger Games? What kind of terrible person am I?; Not that horrible. I couldn’t get past the train scene at the time, I was bored, and it had to go back to the library the next day.).

Once I got over my initial boredom with Masque, and the self-loathing Araby, once I got past that she and her best friend, April, are club-going, drug-ingesting young’uns (I believe they’re only sixteen, I’d have to check again), the story is good. As Griffin has stated, Masque is an extension of Edgar Allen Poe’s story of the same name. Whenever I think of Poe, it’s the seventh room that I’m reminded of:

…In the western or black chamber the effect of the fire-light that streamed upon the dark hangings through the blood-tinted panes, was ghastly in the extreme, and produced so wild a look upon the countenances of those who entered, that there were few of the company bold enough to set foot within its precincts at all.

In this reworked, and much longer version of Poe’s masterpiece, our main character is Araby Worth, a teenage girl living somewhere on earth. The only actual name and reference to an actual landmass to confirm that this crap filled era is on earth is ‘Scotland’. I’m, of course, completely curious where this could be. Probably in England, yet it could be anywhere.

Araby is the daughter of the scientist who created a preventive measure against the plague (I will call this one the Black Plague, since it’s pretty similar; pus, sores, and they die pretty quickly) that has decimated the city Araby lives in. She and April frequent a club called the “Debauchery Club” to forget the literal oozing hell outside. The ‘bouncer’ (he tests the blood of patrons to make sure they don’t carry the deadly disease and contaminate the club), Will, has caught Araby’s eye. We get the gist that he’s handsome, tattooed, and mysterious. Woo, more hot fictional characters. Who doesn’t love that?

So this goes on, the club going, the taking of drugs, the worrying about how her parents feel about her, fine, whatever. We also get the information that her twin brother, Finn, died from the plague, this is the reason that her parents seem to ignore her, and that April saved her from her suicidal tendencies only to get Araby in mind-numbing drugs. My favorite! Then we meet… Wait, no, Araby has to fall into a drug-induced blackout before we know who, exactly, we meet.

To which we read about her waking up in the bed of a male stranger. Oh, no, it’s just Will. Did they have sex? Thank god, no. This is one thing I appreciate about Araby: she’s chaste and won’t even hold hands, let alone kiss them in the very least. However, it’s not because just three or so years earlier, the era was similar to every era when marriage before sex was popular, it’s because Araby took a vow to never to do things that would potentially make her happy that Finn would never get to do.

Turns out, Will saved her because she almost died. And took her home. To meet his kids. Ha, did that surprise you? He takes care of his younger siblings, Elise and Henry. Araby is taken with the youngsters; she doesn’t seem horrified as many others would be. This gives her a better outlook on Will’s situation, and when she returns home, sends his family food, and attempts to secure a mask for Henry, so he, too, can go to school with Elise.

Araby then finds a note in a book of poems her father bought her, telling her to meet this mysterious note sender in a closed off garden at midnight. Of course she does this and this is when we meet (again) Elliott! April’s bi-polar elder brother. Araby doesn’t like him, but does find out Elliott is gearing up to lead a revolution against his uncle, Prince Prospero. And of course she does what he asks, which is betray her family. She then manages to get herself poisoned, betrayed, kidnapped, and bitten by something (as well as get a death warrant on her father’s head, and her mother kidnapped by the Prince) as well as having both Will and Elliott have feelings for her. In my opinion, Elliott is a bit too crazy for anyone, but whatever.

Towards the end, a new plague appears: the Red Death. This happy little virus kills almost instantly, causing its victims eyes to burst, I’m assuming, so that when one is overtaken by this horrible little sickness, blood runs down their face, like tears.

At the end, Araby, April (now infected with the Black plague, since her father is psycho), Elliott, Kent, (a burgeoning young scientist), Elise, Henry, Will the Betrayer,  Thom, an infected 12-year-old boy, and a random prisoner (you cannot leave without a hostage, that wouldn’t be dumb) are escaping the city via air: Kent has created a real, actual flying airship! Yay!

Dear lord, where’s the obvious sequel in this series?! I have to know what happens next! Do they rescue her mother? Attack Prince Prospero? Find Araby’s father? Will they find a cure for both plagues? Will the revolution bring forth some actual prosperity? And the biggest question of all: Who will Araby choose?! Non crazy Will, who takes care of his younger siblings and is by far the more mature of the two, or Elliott, a rebel leader who has some obvious frickin’ sanity issues? Will she forgive Will or will she fall madly in love with Elliott?

Once I got past the initial “oh, boo hoo, you want to be dead because of the lack of trauma you’ve gone through!” (Oh, hush, I realize witnessing her twin die is horrible and traumatic, but come on. That should give her reason to live: make sure no one else is killed, by the disease or for having the disease), about Araby and her drug addicted ways, Masque is actually pretty good. I mean, once Araby begins to grow up a little and decide to have an actual purpose other than moaning about what she moans about, being drug addled, and passing out a lot, she’s not that bad. I’ve noticed that Griffin highly enjoys writing her characters with issues and obsessions. Araby’s is that she’s suicidal and doesn’t want to be happy because Finn died. Until Will showed her that her thinking is flawed and that it isn’t the way to live in such a despair ridden world.

Although it sounds like I’m complaining and against this book, I’m not. I really liked the story and am eagerly anticipating the next book. I enjoy Griffin’s writing and look forward to reading more, not just in this particular series. She gets two thumbs up and a huge goofy smile from me.

Now… Onto the next book…


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