Series: Masque of the Red Death #1
Published by Green Willow on April 24th 2012
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.
MASQUE OF THE RED DEATH was always going to have a steep climb – basing itself on an Edgar Allen Poe work meant expectations were high and unfortunately in my case failed to deliver. While an engaging read I was ultimately left feeling dissatisfied. Perhaps another victim of the wretched hype machine, the book had its faults but I can’t deny there was also a lot right with it.
The world Araby our MC lives in is terrifying. A plague has torn through the frailties of humanity and in its place left a world devoid of love, honour and strength. There are those who are wealthy enough to possess the masks that ensure disease does not claim them and then there are the rest – struggling to survive, never knowing what day will be their last.
MASQUE is full of vivid and stark imagery that is truly terrifying. It reminded me of a “Gotham” style setting – behind every corner is stuff that nightmares are made of, shadows promising the darkest and forbidding parts of humanity. There is an almost beauty in the terror. The women in flowing, seductive costumes, the masks creating an almost courtesan exterior for the women to seduce and adding a mystique to the men they engage with. All the while a sinister threat is ever present like the cold fingers of death waiting to press its unmistakeable strength around the throats of its victims and squeeze the life from their bodies as the corpse collectors trundle up and down the streets scooping up the wretched and forgotten.
Araby is one of the “fortunate”. Numb to the suffering of those around her she spends her nights in the Debauchery Club, wiling away the hours, in a drug induced haze with friends April and Elliot. When she is jolted into reality by a connection with club employee Will, Araby begins to question the dynamics of her world and realises her detachment is not so wonderful after all.
There is an eeriness to the world Griffin has created and there is unquestionably a compulsion to keep reading however there is a strange disconnect with the characters and the book overall. As I read I felt myself disengaged which mirrors the way the characters live their lives. There’s a strong atmosphere of the ephemeral – fleeting sparks of emotion and feeling but not enough to make me care. Despite not being drawn in there is enough to hook you but it irked at times and made me feel I was wasting my time. Araby is not the warmest or most likeable character and it was disconcerting to not root for her or more importantly to not care about the fact that I didn’t care for her.
Strained is the word I would use to describe my relationship with this book and fittingly it describes the characters interactions with each other. The love triangle romance never made my stomach dip or my heart flutter. The most compelling character was the anti-hero Elliot – at times insipid and horrid yet had a loving side to him which was jarring but also welcome. Will was the typical nice guy who still managed to be unlikable. There was an almost comic book feel to the story which is fitting for the Gotham setting I mentioned above – the characters were almost like caricatures, villains who stroke their goatees and laugh maniacally while the beautiful heroine flees and dabs her forehead with a lace handkerchief.
Ultimately while MASQUE was an easy read that did engage me enough to finish, in the end I just didn’t care. Whether DANCE OF THE RED DEATH will change my opinion, only time will tell, however I really don’t like the feeling that upon finishing a book if all the characters died, I’d simply shrug and forget their names. The potential for greatness was there, unfortunately it just didn’t deliver.