Masque of the Red Death by Bethany Griffin
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 makeup . . . 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.
I was really excited to read this book and was so pleased that HarperTeen allowed me access to an ARC of via Edelweiss. I literally devoured this book over the course of 12 hours, staying up until nearly 2am last night and then stealing free moments throughout the day today to finish it up. Seriously, this book was so good I hardly have the words to describe my feelings, but I’m going to do my best to try in this post.
Before I start my review, let me first direct you to an online copy of Edgar Allan Poe’s Masque of the Red Death, which was the inspiration for this book. I had never read it, but it definitely adds a bit more to this book. Find the online version HERE.
In a fictional land very reminiscent of New Orleans or Paris, set in a time period somewhere between Victorian and Edwardian Age, the plague has wiped out most of the population. Araby Worth spends all of her nights at the Debauchery Club, trying to forget the desperation and fear that surrounds her every day, and also tries to forget her guilt and loss over the death of her twin brother, Finn. While searching for Oblivion, she meets Will and Elliot, one a handsome aristocrat and the other a working-class club employee, both of whom make her feel things she swore she’d never feel. Caught up in a revolution, Araby finds herself torn between the two, while the world spins further and further out of control.
And with that summary, you’re probably thinking this is a typical YA paranormal romance, right? What with the love triangle, and the boys who make the girl feel something she’s never felt before, yes? But this totally isn’t your typical anything. First off, let me just say that the setting of this book is very dark. Imagine a world where humanity lives in constant fear of death by plague, where they wear masks to help keep out the contagion, where the Prince who rules over the city cares nothing for the people and isn’t doing anything to make anyone’s lives better. Araby is suffering horribly over the death of her brother, who died in her arms, and has sworn a vow to not experience anything Finn would miss out on. As such, she drowns her nights with Oblivion, a drug similar to heroin which is injected into the body. Make no mistake: this book is dark. There is drug use, implied sex, and minions of the Reverend Malcontent running amok killing and causing general mayhem. And there is that overwhelming despair that comes with the plague seeping through pretty much every sentence. As such, I would definitely recommend this book for older YAs rather than younger.
But I really REALLY enjoyed this book. It sort of makes you think, and I found myself completely immersed in the story and setting. I wanted to know how things could possibly become better. I wanted to know how the characters would change and come together. And overall I just had trouble putting this book down. While the subject matter is dark, I was compelled by the characters and their stories. Araby was a wonderful narrator; her grief and guilt is palpable in places, and I just wanted so desperately for her to realize that she didn’t need to punish herself for something that was NOT her fault. Elliot is arrogant but vulnerable at the same time, and really started to grow on me as the book went along. The character I felt the most compassion for, and enjoyed the most, however, was Will; I was really moved by the fact that he was trying to be the sole parent to his younger siblings, and desperately trying to do his best for them. Even with the twist at the end regarding him, my feelings didn’t change, because I can’t say that I wouldn’t have done the same thing. (As of right now, I am definitely leaning more toward “Team Will”, although it seems trivial to say that when thinking about what else is going on in this book. But, yeah. Will! <3)
Be forewarned, however, that this book very clearly sets itself up for the sequel. There are secrets revealed about several of the characters in this first book, but nothing is resolved in the general overarching plot of the plague and the new illness, aptly named the Red Death, or the fact that the evil Prince Prospero continues to rule over the city. I am definitely looking forward to the second book in this series, which is of course ironic, since this one hasn’t even been released yet.
An ARC of this title was provided by the publisher via Edelweiss in exchange for an honest review.