Wendy Darling's Reviews > Masque of the Red Death

Masque of the Red Death by Bethany Griffin
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Ah, steampunk libertines! Who'd have thought they'd be so appealing?

Books that are heavily influenced by classic stories are always tricky, particularly when it's as ambitious an undertaking as a story inspired by the Edgar Allan Poe classic. I loved the lavish setting and moodiness of the original story, so I had my doubts that anything could come close to capturing its crazy vibe. But somehow Bethany Griffin has managed to create a very similarly dark, extravagant feeling in her gothic adaptation, which is a surprisingly compelling read.

Seventeen-year-old Araby Worth lives in a world devastated by plague. Haunted by the death of her twin brother Finn, she and her friend April spend their nights attending opulent club parties, trying to lose themselves in pleasure so they can forget the what's going on around them. In this atmosphere of dissipation and discontent, she meets the reckless Elliott, the nephew of the mad Prince Prospero who controls the city, and Will, a boy who works at the Debauchery Club who is desperately trying to take care of his little brother and sister. Through her association with them, she is shaken out of her numb acceptance of the world she lives in, and learns that she just might hold the key to saving countless lives.

I fully admit that my overall liking for the book is fairly reliant upon the extravagant world that the author created, but that's not necessarily a bad thing when it's such an important part of adapting Poe. I was mesmerized by: the visuals of porcelain masks that protect the wealthy from the contamination which were invented by Araby's scientist father; disease-carrying bats; zeppelins in the sky; nights of debauchery; tattered velvet dresses; the threat of death by crocodile. I also liked the central story line involving a plan to steal blueprints for the masks so they might be distributed to the poor, and the romance had enough substance to keep me interested, too.

Things that should have driven me crazy but didn't: first person, present tense; a love triangle, mostly because it keeps you guessing for the most part and doesn't always go the expected route; recreational drug use, because it fits in with the story; modern slang mixed in with a historical-ish style; the vow Araby takes to avoid all pleasures that Finn will never get to experience. I do wish that we'd gotten a little further along in the central plot to undermine Prince Prospero, however, as well as in Araby's relationships with...well, everyone, since it seems as though there is a lot of buildup, and then the book ends just as things are really starting to get interesting. And I wish that the choice Araby makes towards the end was a little more meaningful (view spoiler). I think she's a girl who is just discovering who she is for the first time, however, so I don't mind that we don't really know her all that well yet. She shows the promise of being a strong, take-action sort of heroine, and I'm hoping that we'll see her character, as well as everyone else's, further developed in the sequel.

I really liked Masque of the Red Death (much more than I enjoyed Nevermore, by the way) and I'm dying to see what happens next. Readers who don't mind a slower, more literary style will like this book, and I think most Poe fans will be happy with it, too. The story pays homage to the original story but doesn't adhere to it too slavishly, instead expanding on the world and imagining what would happen if it were a teenage girl that was caught up in the baroque madness. This strange mix of dystopian-steampunk-gothic-romance works really well here, in no small part because the author does such a beautiful job in creating a decadent, imaginative world for the characters--and us--to lose ourselves in.

This review also appears in The Midnight Garden. An advance copy was provided by the publisher.

Inspiration Behind the Story

If you aren't familiar with Edgar Allan Poe's The Masque of the Red Death, by the way, it's a masterpiece in drama, tension, and symbolism. Read the story online and compare it to this one--I think it actually makes you appreciate what Bethany Griffin did even more.
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Reading Progress

02/22/2012 page 68
21.0% "Debauchery. Rebellion. Porcelein masks. Bat attacks. Pretty in love with this world already." 21 comments
02/23/2012 page 175
55.0% ""Don't look down," he hisses. "The water is swarming with crocodiles...They don't just eat the dead, Araby. There's a place, just around the bend, where there was a cage. People put human sacrifices out for the beasts. They've taken to worshipping them. I witnessed it myself. Human beings chained a girl there and left her to die. That is what my uncle has done to us, to our city."" 8 comments
02/24/2012 page 243
76.0% ""Don't take off your mask, not for any reason." He hands me a vial filled with clear liquid. "If you get into trouble, drink half of this and give the rest to the person you love most." ---> Uh oh."

Comments (showing 151-198 of 198) (198 new)

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Wendy Darling Well, I guess it's more helpful to link your Facebook page if you have a dedicated one for a blog. But certainly if you have a lot of personal friends and you also post your reviews to your wall, it probably doesn't hurt to mention it, although a link isn't necessary in that case.


message 152: by Blythe (new) - rated it 5 stars

Blythe Oh, I am an admin for a page dedicated to readers and books and it has over 4000 likes. Do you think it'd help if I add that, too?


Wendy Darling Oh YES! Definitely add that, Blythe. The fact that you can reach that many people will definitely help you with approvals.


message 154: by Blythe (last edited Mar 30, 2012 01:48PM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Blythe Perfect! Thank you so much, hopefully now I'll get approved more often!


Wendy Darling Hopefully. :) Good luck, Blythe! And hope you get a chance to read this one soon.


message 156: by Blythe (new) - rated it 5 stars

Blythe Thanks, I'm dying to read it! I'm currently stalking my email, hoping to get approved.


message 157: by Soumi (new) - rated it 4 stars

Soumi Wendy , (view spoiler)


message 158: by Tiffany (new) - added it

Tiffany love LOVE the review. I'm dying to read this book :) it sounds like steampunk w/o all the machinery


Wendy Darling Oh, thank you Tiffany! Just a few more weeks to wait for this one. :) It's more steampunky in mood/flair than anything else; one of my friends said it's really more gothic, and I would agree with that. The mood and setting are great.


message 160: by Preeti Joan (new) - added it

Preeti Joan your review makes me want to read this book ASAP! :D does this book have a sequel?


message 161: by Tiffany (new) - added it

Tiffany I just love it when authors create ah-mazing backdrops :D


Wendy Darling Yes, it's a two-part series Preeti Joan. This book is out on April 24, so mark your calendar! :)

The backdrop is such an important part of a book like this, Tiffany. It almost makes it or breaks it.


Ruby Slippers ✨ You know, the blurb for this book did nothing for me, but your review makes it sound so much more engaging and atmospheric. I'm really looking forward to it now thanks to your fabulous review!


Wendy Darling Aw, thanks Ruby Slippers! I hope you enjoy it when you get around to it. It's definitely not for everyone, but I'm glad I've persuaded you to give it a chance sometime.


message 165: by Mariana (new) - added it

Mariana Graça i really want to read this one!


message 166: by Blythe (new) - rated it 5 stars

Blythe YES!! I was approved for this!


message 167: by Blythe (new) - rated it 5 stars

Blythe And Unraveling!


Neyra ♦ I'm really looking forward to this book. I'll admit, I haven't read much of Edgar Allen Poe, but if his story is an integral part of this book, I'm looking forward to reading the original first :)


Wendy Darling I hope you get a chance to read it soon, Mariana! Not too much longer to wait.

That's awesome, Blythe, I'm so glad! Happy reading to you, can't wait to see what you think of them both. :)

This original Poe story is great, Neyra; I'm glad I reread it before I read this book, because I think it made me appreciate what the author did a little more. Hope you enjoy it when you read it!


G.C. Nash I just saw a trailer for a Poe movie that reminds me of this and Nevermore.


Neyra ♦ Thank you :) And I'll keep that in mind so I wont purchase Bethany's book before I read Poe's Lol


Wendy Darling Which Poe movie, GC? I haven't seen anything, but I'm pretty out of it these days!

Well, it probably doesn't really matter which you read first, Neyra. :) But since the Poe is readily available (and a very quick read), it might be fun to tackle that one first.


message 173: by [deleted user] (new)

There's a John Cusack movie coming out. He's playing Poe. I think it's called The Raven?


Wendy Darling Really. o_O


message 175: by [deleted user] (new)

LOL, yes.


Neyra ♦ True, lol. It would be interesting though :)


G.C. Nash Kara wrote: "There's a John Cusack movie coming out. He's playing Poe. I think it's called The Raven?"

Yes! That's the one.


Amber at Fall Into Books I loved this book as well. Again, I wasn't sure I would. A lot of the dystopian novels leave me feeling kind of depressed. Apparently my moods are easily influenced by books, but I really liked this one. I didn't feel like the world sucked and there was no hope at the end of it, haha.


Wendy Darling I was very wary of this book too, Amber. :) Somehow this book just worked for me, though, even though it's clearly more of a gothic dystopian romance than a regular old dystopian book. I think sometimes people spend so much time pushing the bleak, hopeless world that the other stuff falls by the wayside.


Amber at Fall Into Books Wendy Darling wrote: "I was very wary of this book too, Amber. :) Somehow this book just worked for me, though, even though it's clearly more of a gothic dystopian romance than a regular old dystopian book. I think some..."

I agree! I like a message of hope in my books... at least at the end, haha.


Wendy Darling I checked your shelves, Amber, and I see you haven't read Delirium yet. I'm curious what you'd think of that one--a lot of people seemed to be really angry about "underdeveloped" worldbuilding for that dytopian world. I actually liked it though, because just like MASQUE, it was more of a romance with a dystopian setting, and the writing was really beautiful.


Amber at Fall Into Books Wendy Darling wrote: "I checked your shelves, Amber, and I see you haven't read Delirium yet. I'm curious what you'd think of that one--a lot of people seemed to be really angry about "underdeveloped" worldbuilding for ..."

Ooo I should check that one out then. I may like it quite a bit! :D Thanks for the recommendation!


Wendy Darling Well, don't get me wrong--it's not perfect by any means! But I thought it was compelling, and I think if you like this one, you may like that. :) I keep trying to find time to read the sequel, I've (shamefully) had it for several months now. :( There are just too many great books out this year. Which, admittedly, is a good problem to have, hah.


Amber at Fall Into Books Wendy Darling wrote: "Well, don't get me wrong--it's not perfect by any means! But I thought it was compelling, and I think if you like this one, you may like that. :) I keep trying to find time to read the sequel, I've..."

Haha, I'm having the same problem with my TBR list. I check out books I've been dying to read from the library, but I have so many ARCs I've been dying for as well that need to be reviewed before the release date that I have to return the books before reading them.


message 185: by Ceitidh (new) - added it

Ceitidh Oh Wendy!! is writen in first person present?? NOOOOOOOO!! I hate that!!! Oh shoot =(


Wendy Darling It is first person, present tense, Natalia! Sorry. :( I normally hate that too, but sometimes it doesn't bother me when the author's writing is otherwise engaging. And I thought the writing here was really good.


message 187: by Ceitidh (new) - added it

Ceitidh ooh phew! as long as is not like Lisa Mcmann's Wake series then Im okay! That writing style felt robotic >_<
I hope I enjoy this book regardless the writing style. I wish there was an expert somewhere =( sniff!! I cant find any -_-...

thnx for your help Wendy =)


Wendy Darling Oh man--I totally agree with you on WAKE! Not my cup of tea at all. So maybe you'll be okay with the writing here, too. ;)


message 189: by Ceitidh (new) - added it

Ceitidh I can't believe I read the whole trilogy... dude... I had so much time back then!(I took a semester off) so much time that I was even able to read books I wasn't even enjoying...what the hell @_@


Wendy Darling Oh, yikes. I actually did skim through some of the second book to see if I was just my mood when I read the first book, but nope--I couldn't finish it. I know what you mean, though, sometimes you read entire series of books and then afterwards you wonder what the hell you were thinking. *cough* House of Night *cough*


message 191: by Ceitidh (new) - added it

Ceitidh hahahhahhhhahah!!! u r so funny XDD it seems that we all have our shameful reads under the bookshelf XDD LOL


message 192: by Lynn ಠ_ಠ (last edited Apr 22, 2012 07:06AM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Lynn ಠ_ಠ It's almost here! Just received an email from BookDepository *excited*...now I'll only have to wait at least 2 weeks for it to be dispatched and shipped here, LOL.


G.C. Nash Natalia Belikov wrote: "hahahhahhhhahah!!! u r so funny XDD it seems that we all have our shameful reads under the bookshelf XDD LOL"

We absolutely all have our "shameful reads." I think part of the problem being a reviewer is that it can be a double-edged sword; feel shame for finishing something you hate, feel shame for not finishing a book, because how can you possibly know if you really hate something until you read every. single. page?


Neyra ♦ Finally bought it x] Lol. I hope to start it this week :D


Jessica I just got this book and I can't wait to read it, super excited :D


message 196: by C (new) - added it

C Hellisen Heya, Wendy. I don't know if you remember but we once talked about another Bethany project that I was excited about but she hadn't yet sold? Well, yay good news - https://www.facebook.com/bethanygriff...


message 197: by Soumi (new) - rated it 4 stars

Soumi Cat wrote: "Heya, Wendy. I don't know if you remember but we once talked about another Bethany project that I was excited about but she hadn't yet sold? Well, yay good news - https://www.facebook.com/bethanygr..."
Oh, my my...this is so exciting.
YAY


message 198: by Shelby (new) - rated it 1 star

Shelby To be honest I couldn't even get to page 50. I couldn't stand it. I dunno why.


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