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Masque of the Red Death by Bethany Griffin

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This was a huge hype book when it came out, so I was excited to (finally) pick up a copy and read it. I enjoy Edgar Allan Poe’s short story that this is loosely based upon and was interested to see what sort of world Griffin would create around that idea — especially one that would hold up for an entire novel and its sequel.

Masque of the Red Death is basically a post-apocalyptic dystopia rather loosely set in Victorian times, with some steampunk elements to it; for example, Araby and her friend April ride in steam-powered carriages, created because horses died from the plague that killed off most of the population in the city. While Poe’s short story focused on the Prince Prospero’s parties and how he locked everyone up to escape the plague, this story mostly focuses on outside Prince Prospero’s castle and what’s happening while he hides from the city’s problems. We get to briefly meet him and hear about him because April is his niece and Araby is the daughter of the scientist who invented a mask filtration system that allows the rich to go outside and survive.

Overall, I found this a quick, fun read. I was worried we were going to get into mushy romance territory at the beginning, but Araby’s romantic inclinations are actually well handled and further the tension and plot of the novel, which I very much appreciated. The characters are great — we get the superficial stuff at the beginning, but then things are revealed throughout the story to slowly reveal complex, interesting characters. Though this is kind of true for the main character, this is mostly true for the side characters and reflects Araby’s knowledge/impressions of them; for example, she thinks her mom is vapid and too nervous, but then we find out that there might be a good reason for that.

While this was a fast read for me, a lot of it didn’t feel particularly interesting. I think a bit too much time was set up on fleshing out just how depressing life and the city is post-plague, and while it’s important, I’m not sure that we needed to so much of the fluff and could have gone into more interesting developments. Although, I do understand that we learn along with Araby because she’s been fairly sheltered up to where we meet her in the book, I just felt like there wasn’t quite enough substance to hang onto, and what substance I was given was super interesting, so I wish there were more.

Again, I found this book fairly entertaining, but didn’t see much in it to be able to rave about it. It’s a solid story with fairly interesting characters, even if the main character is a bit too naive for my liking. It falls into the same basic tropes most young adult novels of this time did: love triangle, corrupt government, and rebelling factions. I’m still interested to see how the sequel brings some of the bits and pieces together, but this isn’t something I’m going to go out of my way to recommend to people. It’s fine if you like this sort of thing, and certainly enjoyable, but not a must-read.

Also posted on Purple People Readers. ( )
  sedelia | Mar 20, 2017 |
No matter what creatures people fear in the dead of night, in this city, violence is more likely to be carried out by men.
- Chapter 3

Violence is mindless. It doesn't listen to reason.
- Chapter 9

Everything is in ruins. A plague decimated the population. Those who are still alive, live in fear of catching the plague. Masks that protect people from catching it are terribly expensive and most people can't afford them. Whoever controls the masks, controls the city. Araby's father invented the masks, but now Prince Prospero controls their manufacture. There are forces in the city that want to change that. Araby goes from living her life trying to avoid reality and the pain of losing her brother to being involved with dangerous forces of rebellion. Araby doesn't know who to trust; even her father has not told her the whole truth. And now, there is a worse sickness, the Red Death.

This book is good, and I am reading the sequel now. I have to say that I think it should have been one book. The end of the first book didn't really solve anything at all. So, while I am counting these for my Halloween Bingo, I am waiting to finish the second book before I mark the square. ( )
  Jadedog13 | Sep 11, 2016 |
I'm unfamiliar with the steampunk genre. I hadn't heard of it prior to reading this novel. I'm disappointed in Araby. She seems too weak and unsure. I'm used to the protagonist strengthening throughout the story. Araby makes little improvements throughout this book.

I am intrigued by the spark of a relationship between her and Elliott. However, I'm a little bored with the love triangle in many series now, and this is leaning towards yet another one.

I liked this story, but I'm undecided on whether I will venture into the next novel. ( )
  Raeadav | Mar 25, 2016 |
3.5

It's been a long time since I've read Poe's version, but I enjoyed this retelling. It's every bit as gloomy and depressing as Poe's work.

The characters are great. There's so much more to them than meets the eye. Araby is full of grief, and refuses to allow herself any moments of happiness. Will is sweet despite his hard exterior as a bouncer. I wanted to dislike Elliott so bad. He comes off as a total d-bag, but he's a man of many layers.

Honestly, the first half of the book was lacking for me. Everything seems to be moving along very slowly, and there are parts that I felt are choppy. The world building is amazing. I felt as though I was in the plagued streets. The last quarter of the book was strong. There were moments of wtfery and shock.

I'm stoked for the sequel to come out. Thank goodness I don't have to wait long until the release date. ( )
  BookishThings | Mar 23, 2016 |
So far this is my surprise book of 2012. I loved the gothic, steampunk, alternate history setting. Araby is a beautiful, yet deeply disturbed girl living a life of wealth in a world of dispair. She goes out to the Debauchery Club and takes drugs to make her forget all the sad in her world, but does it really make her forget? Enter two good-looking and very different guys who each sweep her into reality in very different ways. I loved Will and I loved to hate Elliot. A recent standard in YA there is a pending rebellion, a struggle for power in a corrupt world, and there will be a sequel (one I will be anxious to read)! ( )
  clockwork_serenity | Jan 23, 2016 |
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In this twist on Edgar Allen Poe's gothic short story, a wealthy teenaged girl who can afford a special mask to protect her from the plague that decimated humanity in the mid-1800s, falls in love, becomes caught up in a conspiracy to overthrow an oppressive government, and faces the threat of a new plague.… (more)

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