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I Belong

Review: Masque of the Red Death by Bethany Griffin

Title: Masque of the Red Death

Author: Bethany Griffin

Genre: YA Science Fiction

Series: Masque of the Red Death (Book 1)

Publication Date: April 24, 2012

Format: Hardcover, 320 Pages

ISBN-10: 0062107798 (Harper Teen)

ISBN-13: 978-0062107794 (Harper Teen)

Reviewed by: Emmy


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.

Quick & Dirty: This brilliant debut mixes science fiction with steampunk and dystopian undertones to create a chilling world. The characters raise the stakes as the world changes everything Araby thought she believed in.

Opening Sentence: The charcoal sky spits cold rain as we rumble to a stop at a crossroad.

Excerpt: Yes

The Review:

Araby’s father is the scientist that gave the city back its hope when the plague hit. He invented masks that would filter the air against the illnesses, while Prince Prospero made it possible for them to be mass produced.  The catch, however, is that once you’ve worn the mask it will no longer work for anyone else. Araby learned that the hard way. It forms to your body chemistry, making them impossible to steal. The hope the masks gave is gone. Science has failed to find a cure and masks, while mass produced, are still too expensive for everyone.

Her twin, Finn, was Araby’s better half.  It’s no surprise she finds herself in the Debauchery Club every few days, searching out ways to forget her grief.  Her body may be coated in glitter and make up, but inside she’s still clinging to the promise she made at Finn’s graveside. So even though it may be safer to stay home and out of the unfiltered air, Araby finds herself drawn out with April, the prince’s niece.

Though the air is unsafe, the streets of the city are worse.  Prince Prospero owns almost everything in the city, controlling the population with an iron fist. He couldn’t care less how many in the lower-city die as long as he can still hold his masquerades at his castle. The people of the city are scared — both science and God have failed to give them a cure.  When April goes missing after a night at the Debauchery Club, her steam carriage found abandoned, Araby begins to worry about her.

Soon, Araby learns all about the prince and the games he plays with his family. Elliot, April’s ever mysterious older brother, is worried April might have been taken to the castle, as punishment for embarrassing the prince. Elliot has firsthand experience to the ways his uncle deals with embarrassment. Eager to bring his uncle down, and his vision of a better city bring Araby to his side. Exactly where he needs her.  Because to get the citizens on his side, to have even a chance against his uncle, Elliot needs masks.

And then there’s Will, the boy who tests Araby every time she enters Debauchery for a night of forgetting.  Sometimes, Araby thinks the only reason she comes is to learn that she’s clean.  But the handsome boy is far more than anyone thinks.  As Araby finds herself torn between both boys, neither being what they first seem, she begins to question her family and the role they play in this broken world.

I would probably classify Masque of the Red Death as diet-sci-fi with a dash of steampunk. It wasn’t complicated on the scientific level, and Griffin made everything about the world she built easy to follow. I absolutely adored this novel.  From the first page, Griffin’s word choice set the scene perfectly, drowning her readers in a world of unseeable danger and grief.  I love the tension, angst, and moral ambiguity of Araby’s whole situation.  Breaking the laws of this city is no small matter.  She’s committing treason and betraying some of the people she loves most to do it. Whose side should she really be on? Masque of the Red Death is definitely going on my list of favorite books.

Notable Scene:

“There’s a new illness. People are dying, lots of people,” April says, her voice serious.

“A new illness?” Will asks.  He sounds incredulous, but there’s an undercurrent of fear.  A plague robbed all of us of our childhoods.  All of us fear unchecked disease.

“Not another plague?” The words felt alien on my tongue. Impossible.

April puts a gloved hand to her mask.  IF she’s wearing gloves, she must really  be afraid.  “It kills instantly.  You fall down dead, bleeding from your eyes. They are calling it the Red Death.” She is both terrified and relishing the terror, like a child telling a ghost story.

The Masque of the Red Death Series:

1. Masque of the Red Death

FTC Advisory: Greenwillow Books/HarperCollins provided me with a copy of Masque of the Red Death.  No goody bags, sponsorships, “material connections,” or bribes were exchanged for my review.  In addition, I don’t receive affiliate fees for anything purchased via links from my site.

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