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Friday, December 7, 2012

MICHELLE'S REVIEW: Masque of the Red Death by Bethany Griffin

Title: Masque of the Red Death
Author: Bethany Griffin
Format Acquired: Hardcover 
Publication Date: April 24, 2012
Publishing House: Greenwillow Books
ISBN: 9780062107794
Source of Copy: Purchased from Fully Booked


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 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 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.

          (Image and information courtesy of Goodreads; Summary lifted from actual book) 


Writing a review for this one is tough. I feel like I've been thrown in for a real loop the loop, and I honestly don't know what I should have expected from this one. I purchased this one along with my other books during my finals week - there is no other way to spend a study break like dropping by a favorite bookstore and making grabby hands at what they've reserved for you - and have started reading bits and pieces during that time to possibly save me from my then-pending insanity. Initially, I thought that it was my fault for finding the few pages of the book uninteresting because I was reading what seemed like heavy material during a week where I'm supposed to be concentrating on written and oral exams. Now that I've fully committed myself to finish reading this book, I now know where my problem with it lies.

Meet our protagonist, Araby, who can only possibly be one of the most banal characters I have ever met. What's ironic about Araby is that she unknowingly seems to want to be in pursuit of some semblance of feeling, yet finds solace in taking drugs that would inevitably cloud her being. I don't think I've ever liked Araby in the entirety of the book. She was too quick to believe pretty and ambitious words and actually just relied on these to do what she wanted, even if it meant endangering the lives of her loved ones. Elliott, on the other hand, was an enigma. His brand of optimism is desolate at best (I know how contradictory that sounds, but there are really no words to describe Elliott. He both is, and isn't.) and he isn't afraid to use Araby to make her bend to his whims of revolution against his uncle, the Prince, and because of this, Elliott struck me as both annoying, and amusing with his almost megalomaniac tendencies. As for his sister and Araby's supposedly best friend, April, I found her a bit too shallow, and not much to speak of as a character. And Will. I think it is entirely impossible not to fall for sweet Will. But just as Araby has given her entire trust - and life - in these newfound friends, one will prove that he is worthy of her trust, and the other will prove to be a knave, only using our gullible heroine as a pawn. It is in this elitist city that people go about wearing masks to keep them from contracting the plague. And who else could afford these masks but only the rich? Griffin's Masque of the Red Death reminds us often of how fascinating money, all throughout the ages, has managed to determine which of the species survive. Following that train of thought, it is truly amazing how humans have evolved from mere fruit-gathering primates, to creatures who can determine one's will to live by the amount of money he/she can manage to amass. Wrought in a time where the gravity of the plague is forced upon society, Araby then finds herself in a revolution that's bigger than what her then-little world can ever know, and finds herself feeling things she has never felt for a long, long time.

What I like about this book is how Griffin manages to write a story with truly messed-up and predictable characters, but manages to pull it off because of the sheer intensity of the last chapters of the book. If Griffin had kept the book pace as well as the latter part of the book, I would undoubtedly give this book four stars, as I cannot help but be truly horrified and intrigued by the idea of humanity Griffin shoves under my nose and forces me to take a deep, slow whiff of. While it was pretty hard to sympathize with a dull protagonist as Araby, the force is pretty much compelling me to get the second book of the series.

If you're trying out steampunk and historical fiction for the first time, Masque of the Read Death is a satisfactory read. If you liked this one, or are not completely sold on this book, then I must recommend that you give Susan Dennard's Something Strange and Deadly a go.


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