Series: Masque of the Red Death #1
Genre: YA Dystopia
Size: 336 pages
Availability: Hardback, Paperback, Ebook
Received free copy from Gollancz Geeks in exchange for an honest review. Thanks!
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.
The Masque of the Red Death had been on my radar for a long time. I couldn’t tell you if it was the idea of a Poe retelling, a Victoriana dystopian story, a few fantastic reviews or a combination of all three that initially drew me to it but needless to say, it was on my radar. And then Gollancz Geeks sent over a copy with the new UK cover for review! I almost immediately started it and more or less read the entire novel in one sitting.
The story focuses on Araby, daughter of the most important scientist in Masque‘s world. The man who created the livesaving porcelain masks people wear to ward off the Weeping Sickness. However, he’s kept on a tight leash by the mad Prince Prospero who monopolises the masks and thus only the very wealthy can afford to own them. The reason he can do this? Once a mask has been worn, only that person can use it. Araby spends her time seeking oblivion from a life she feels she doesn’t deserve until she meets Will who shows her there is more to life than the privilege of drink and drugs. And then Elliott who seeks to rebel against Prince Prospero, his uncle, to create a fairer society. She becomes swept up by events out of her control with one very sure realisation: she doesn’t want to die.
I wasn’t sure what I thought about Araby and her friend April at first. They’re clearly part of the privileged class, travelling to a night out through the poorer distract in April’s expensive, flashy steam carriage, while being held up by the body collectors and a young woman unwilling to part with her clearly dead child. It’s a tense and dark scene which shows us that Araby, at the very least, cares about other human beings.. but she’s quite whiny in the beginning. She seems to think she’s worthless and doesn’t deserve to be alive so she visits the Debauchery Club with April, drinking and taking drugs to make her forget who she is for a while.. so yes, there’s a bit of angst, but it goes away when we meet Will and Elliott because she finally finds something to fight for.
And from there I was lost to the world because of this beautifully gothic dystopian novel. I stopped comparing it to Poe’s short story of the same name because whilst I can see where Bethany got her inspiration, it really stops there. The two stories are separate entities. Bethany Griffin’s version has such a dark atmosphere and much foreboding that I often pictured night-time in a dark red haze with cloaked figures and leering old men looming around every corner. Everybody has their secrets and you do not know who you can trust. Even now I’m not entirely sure – bring on book two!
Not a fan of love triangles? Don’t worry. Me neither. This one didn’t bother me at all, in fact, I’m positive you’ll find yourself rooting for one or the other boy. Bored of YA dystopias? The Masque of the Red Death doesn’t feel like the rest. No, really. I promise you that if a girl who is more or less bored of YA finds this one so unputdownable, it’s definitely worth a read. The writing is so fantastic that regardless of whether you think the story is unique or not, you will absolutely love it. It is so easy to find yourself swept up in the narrative. Give The Masque of the Red Death a chance! Yes, this is one of those books I’ll be rereading and forcing on others.
Masque of the Red Death:
1. The Masque of the Red Death
2. Dance of the Red Death